How well do you think you’re optimizing your manufacturing process? Obviously suboptimal processes are not ideal, and most manufacturers are working on getting the most out of their current workflow. But what exactly is optimization?

“Optimization in manufacturing is the discipline of finding the best alternative among a set, under a specific criterion in the manufacturing environment,” according to an article from The International Academy for Production Engineering.

This sounds clear enough. And it may come naturally when making decisions at your organization. But how do go about implementing this idea and ensuring you truly are operating at the highest levels—this is the ever-present struggle for manufacturers. After all, continuous improvement doesn’t involve laurels or rest. Furthermore, the world has a tendency to change. This has been all too apparent in the spring and summer of 2020, and smart manufacturers know that they must continually strive to adapt and improve.

Let’s take a closer look at how to do this. According to Mark Humphlett’s article in Industry Week, there are five steps to manufacturing optimization:

  1. Taking advantage of revenue opportunities
  2. Tuning up operations and processes optimizing
  3. Utilizing ERP across the enterprise
  4. Finding harmony among diverse applications
  5. Coming to grips with this complexity.

First off, taking advantage of revenue opportunities could mean investing in innovation in order to develop new products or services. Identifying new markets or revenue streams is another way to go about this. Carefully tracking inventory can also help, the author notes.

Now let’s look at the second step. According to Humphlett, “As manufacturers deal with the growing complexity of supply chains and distribution channels, the ability to tailor reporting systems and metrics is increasingly important so that they are able to spot potential issues as soon as possible and adjust processes before they turn into real problems.” This rings true today seemingly more than ever, with the pandemic disrupting supply chains around the globe.

The third step involves software. Having the right ERP solution can offer numerous advantages, from greater visibility into operations to better finance and accounting. In 2020, it’s clear that nothing gets done without the right software in place. Having a good solution for your manufacturing processes can make all the difference, either speeding up work and saving time or slowly down critical operations and creating bottlenecks.

Next up is harmonizing diverse applications in place, perhaps a legacy system from a previous acquisition. But of course, keeping data in separate systems is no way to optimize your business. Linking all of the information will help the decision-making process and streamline operations as a whole.

Finally, he writes, the complexity of the business must be understood and appreciated. Again, the software solution in places plays an outsize role in this undertaking. Even the most productive and experienced operators will be limited if they have inadequate tools. But with the right solutions in place, continuous improvement opportunities are suddenly available and possible.

No doubt your company is faithfully tracking a lot of data in order to get the best results. However, the age-old question is what you are doing with that data. As Adam Turvo writes, “Like any business, a manufacturing organization has limited resources with which to work, and when it comes to metrics, companies need to make sure that resources are being pooled into tracking and measuring the metrics that are giving them the most bang for their buck and the ability to optimize manufacturing operations,” he writes. “However, effectively measuring, analyzing, and improving upon those manufacturing metrics is more complicated than it may seem.”

While it is complicated, it’s not impossible. Optimizing your manufacturing process is something worth striving for and if done well, it can make a difference in your organization. A few key areas to examine are quality and delivery performance. If you make changes at the company that do not affect the top metrics, these are negligible in the overall scheme of things. The customer experience of quality should be the highest ranking consideration, rather than numbers that may not align with the perceptions in the market.

Optimization takes work. It may take a few tries to see results. But if the right team is in place, with the right tools, including the right software, great gains in efficiency are possible. Taking your organization to the next level of productivity can be accomplished. Now, more than ever, manufacturers must make sure they are getting the most out of the resources available, whether in terms of time or investment.

Process optimization has been around for a long time, but chances are they are still plenty of areas that could use a closer look. InfinityQS offers a list of suggestions on how to optimize your manufacturing process, such as capture quality data from across the enterprise, accelerate data analysis and unify quality data access. In addition, they also advise modernizing your tracking and reporting. How many of these are you currently doing? It might be time to look at the possibilities.

Whether you are an essential business or one that was just cleared to re-open, today’s manufacturing environment is no place for sub-optimal work.