5 Challenges to Overcome to Increase Manufacturing Productivity


Deb Geiger, Vice President, Global Marketing, Aegis Software

man standing on boulder trying figure out how to get other boulder with flag

Overcoming the Top 5 Manufacturing Productivity Pain Points

Wondering how to increase how to increase productivity and production in a factory? For manufacturers, productivity is paramount. The rate of global manufacturing growth has slowed, according to the International Yearbook of Industrial Statistics 2019 published by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).[1] The slowdown in production in 2018 was observed in industrialized economies as well as developing and emerging industrial economies.[2] In order to improve productivity growth, it is critical that manufacturers strategically adopt factory-wide technology that actively promotes workforce efficiency. But which technology is worth the investment for production problems and solutions? To find out, let’s examine the top productivity pain points and common problems in the manufacturing industry that manufacturers are experiencing today.

Today’s Top Productivity Manufacturing Pain Points

1 | Information Challenges

When it comes to enhancing manufacturing efficiency and productivity, ensuring that manufacturing workforces have the information they need to be successful is crucial. This pain point comes in many different forms. It may be that employees are missing work instructions for the task at hand, have collected an abundance of data that cannot easily be interpreted and used, or are simply not able to trust the quality of information due to a profusion of versions. Whatever the root of the issue, when the workforce lacks the information it needs to produce high-quality output in an efficient manner, productivity suffers.

Related Productivity-Enabling Technologies: Technologies that enable data connectivity, convergence, and real-time correction are needed to overcome information challenges. From the ubiquitous sensing technology that gathers information to analytics & cloud computing that help disseminate it, these technologies empower the workforce to better access and act on the data it requires.

2 | Equipment Maintenance and Upkeep

Unexpected repairs that result in unplanned downtime are major drains on manufacturing productivity. With production depending on sensitive and widespread machinery, one malfunction can slow down an entire production flow in just minutes. Part of the issue is that many manufacturers are relying on reactive rather than proactive management, resulting in difficulties diagnosing problems, rising maintenance costs, and lower productivity.

Related Productivity-Enabling Technologies: Edge connectivity and computing allow data to be gathered and processed right where it is generated by a machine. When combined with cognitive technology models like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, edge computing rapidly enables the predictive, proactive analytics and alerts necessary to keep production rolling smoothly.

3 | Workforce Shortage Challenges

The complexity of manufacturing continues to increase, yet the availability of skilled workers entering the industry is declining. We are witnessing a downward trend that could directly impact wage inflation and a talent war that could negatively affect overall productivity and profitability. Now is the time companies need to build a culture of learning, mentoring and knowledge retention and implement digital technologies to attract the digitally-adept new workforce.

Related Productivity-Enabling Technologies: Dynamic and visual work instructions and augmented reality provide powerful tools to ensure first-time-right processes and on the job training. To ensure first-time-right processes the real power of visual work instruction technology is when with a single scan, shop floor operators can have all the information they could possibly need to do their job effectively and efficiently. One scan and the operator is presented with a configured user interface that’s laid out in a manner that's appropriate to them – it can be as simple or as rich as the manufacturing engineers feel is appropriate. Providing rich and visually appealing guided instructions can also be a great tool when it comes to training employees, without needing a “training buddy” and provides an avenue in which they can learn new skills. The benefit is a reduction in the costs of new hire training, but also in cross-training and training for new product introductions that can ultimately boost overall job satisfaction.

4 | Safety Hazards

In an industrial manufacturing environment, ensuring workforce safety must always be a check to pursuing increasingly ambitious productivity goals. From the air quality of the manufacturing environment, to exposure to extreme temperatures, noise levels, and a number of ergonomic issues—such as manually lifting heavy objects—all of these are critical safety considerations that will negatively affect productivity if not properly managed.

Related Productivity-Enabling Technologies: Wearable computing devices, powered by a manufacturing ecosystem that supports edge computing, can provide real-time updates on the status of each member of the workforce to proactively prevent injury. Visual work instructions and Augmented Reality (AR) training also ensure that workers are properly and safely trained before undertaking manufacturing tasks.

5 | Ill-Fit Equipment

The right manufacturing equipment is integral to successfully empowering the workforce. Often, however, this equipment is complex and creates major complications during common employee changeovers. The age of the equipment can also inhibit its ability to promote productivity. Occasionally, equipment is even routinely used for a task separate from its intended purpose, slowing down production with every use.

Related Productivity-Enabling Technologies: Equipment that is modern enough to enable manufacturing automation with streamlined, simplified interfaces is ideal for increasing productivity. Employees must be properly trained to operate the equipment on which they work, using interactive digital interfaces to ensure optimal performance and productivity. Additionally, leveraging solutions that validate that the right person is using the right equipment for the intended use can dramatically improve productivity in manufacturing, safety and compliance.

The Power of MES for Proven Productivity Improvement and Gains

When it comes to powering superior productivity, Manufacturing Execution Systems are uniquely capable of managing the entire manufacturing lifecycle—from product launch, to material logistics, manufacturing execution and quality management, and advanced analytics and real-time dashboards. In fact, by gathering data from machines, devices, ERP systems, and the workforce, MES solutions form the foundation of connectivity on which the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0—and all of the subsequent enabling technology mentioned above—rest. As far as technology investments go, MES is unsurpassed in its ability to empower the workforce to drive tangible benefits for manufacturing enterprises while also increasing employee job satisfaction.

Looking for more on how to improve efficiency in production? Download our engaging infographic, webinar, and insightful whitepaper to discover more about how MES and other technology innovations are boosting manufacturing productivity and learn why Aegis’ FactoryLogix® MES is the holistic and modular MES platform manufacturers need to drive productivity, factory-wide.

  • International Yearbook of Industrial Statistics 2019 published by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization

Sign up for our blog

Stay up-to-date on the latest in manufacturing trends, insights and best practices.