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Boosting productivity: Moving matters

26 July 2017

Many businesses find that moving products through the supply chain creates a lot of non-productive time. Here, Andy Owen, managing director of electric tug specialist MasterMover, suggests how businesses can improve efficiency and productivity.

A survey conducted by Salary.com in 2014 found that 89% of employees waste at least some time at work, 20% more than the previous year. In particular, 94% of engineering, manufacturing and construction professionals admitted to wasting time. 

When you look at these figures against the backdrop of the productivity crisis that many countries are reported to be facing, it paints a worrying picture. As production levels drop and wasted time increases, businesses must do everything they can to improve productivity. 

However, it's not just intentionally wasted time that's the culprit. A lot of wasted time occurs as part of the warehousing and manufacturing process itself. The first step is to determine where efficiency can be improved. 

This waste can come from overproduction, transportation, over-processing, waiting, inventory, defects, motion or creativity. This causes employees to spend time and exert effort on tasks that are not essential to production so it is vital that companies eliminate these. 

Plant managers must assess the main causes of non-value added time (NVAT) in their supply chain. This is a common problem in the aerospace industry. Engineers need a large industrial load-carrier to move large and valuable parts such as wings across the plant as part of a staged production process. Due to the size and value of the part, the carriers often need to be operated by a specially trained member of staff and may take hours to suitably strap the part up before it can be safely moved. 

Although not all industries work on the same scale as an aerospace factory and an engineer might only spend five minutes waiting for a part each time, this will accumulate and account for significantly more over the course of a working week.

Reducing NVAT

Any plant manager that sees the benefits of reducing non-value added time would want to implement the policy to increase cost savings and production but may not know how to begin. By going on to the factory floor, or speaking to employees, plant managers will discover ways to reduce non-value added time. Employees may complain of having to bend down to pick up a part or walk a distance to find a component, which will have an impact on their overall productivity. 

Businesses could act on examples of NVAT in several ways. A cost-effective example of this is for plant managers to invest in powerful electric tugs for large or heavy-duty loads. These pedestrian operated tugs allow a single engineer to safely transport heavy parts across plants with ease, reducing NVAT by eliminating the need for waiting or specialist assistance.

Of course, this is only one way businesses can reduce NVAT. In order to truly maximise efficiency, businesses must adopt a lean manufacturing approach and slowly introduce changes. Each incremental improvement, such as saving five minutes wastage per day in assembly, is one step closer to creating a company culture of efficiency. 

Plant managers can take action to ensure that work time is spent productively; this means more time working and less time waiting, decreasing costs and improving output.