Manufacturing Problem Solving: Efficiency & Waste

At Moffitt, we don’t see our team members as assembly people, we see them as Process Engineers. We take this view because we challenge our crew members to look at manufacturing problem solving. We want them to always ask “how do I make this process faster?” Or “How do I make my jobs safer?” Or even, “How do I make this task simpler?” By having our crew ask these questions, and by empowering them to find the answers, we can ultimately improve efficiency and reduce waste to pass savings along to our customers.

Problem Solving Techniques in Manufacturing through value-added process diagramIn the manufacturing process inefficiency and waste lead to lost time, and time is money. When we are comfortable with waste, then that means money is just waltzing out the door. When the money goes, it takes potential growth with it, and then the livelihood of the company as well. Soon after that, jobs start to waltz out the door too. You can prevent this by first reducing waste and then improving efficiency. You may wish to improve your workplace by using software that can promote efficiency and help reduce miscommunication issues. Going to websites such as can help give you more information on this subject.

Reduce Waste

In the manufacturing process waste is everything that goes on in the factory that doesn’t add value to the process. This waste fits into 8 categories. Our ventilation equipment manufacturing team has adapted these wastes to fit our process;

  1. Transportation – Moving things, tools, materials, parts, etc. from one location to another. It is important to transport stuff quickly, safely, and efficiently. Not having the right equipment, or having to wait for the right equipment, will of course lead to delays.
  2. Inventory – Making more than customer demand or sold leads to unnecessary stock. These products get in the way of other processes and run the risk of being obsolete and unsellable. Reduce excess inventory by only producing what is ordered.
  3. Motion – Walking, bending, etc. when items should be at point of use. Keeping tools and other equipment where it should be can cut down on unneeded movement. Not only does this speed up the process, it also reduces exhaustion.
  4. Waiting – Delays between processes, machines, etc. Idling the next stage by a delay in your stage slows down the whole process.
  5. Over processing – Duplicate processing, redundant operations, “we always do it this way”. Think about what is actually needed for the process and how you can do the processes better
  6. Over production – Making too much, completing a task before it’s needed, or making a product before it’s ordered. There is a fine line between being prepared and being wasteful.
  7. Defects – Rework, scrap, customer quality complaints. This one is literal waste. If the finish product is junk it has to be thrown away. Reducing defects is one of the key components of reducing waste.
  8. Skills – Underutilized skills and capabilities, not listening, not changing. A Process Engineer always looks to see how they can improve the job. Fostering employee growth, taking feedback, and assuming new responsibilities will reduce waste. An employee may be great at one process but even better at another with a little training. It could be hard to lose him or her, but it would be wasteful not to utilize them to their full potential.

Improve Efficiency

Now that we’ve isolated potential wastes the next step is to see how we can prevent them. The best way to do this is to look at the 3S method. This is

  1. Sort
  2. Set in Order
  3. Shine

This is a productivity tool to help everyone eliminate clutter so we can focus on value added activities and improve work flow. By splitting things like tools into groups (sort), putting them in their proper places (set in order), and keeping them in proper working condition (shine) we can improve the entire process.

The goal is to organize the workspace in a way that allows work to flow without extra effort. Work does not flow smoothly when you have to stop and search for parts or when you have debris in the way. It also doesn’t flow smoothly when there are obstacles in the way such as your own body. For example, don’t put a tool that you use with your right hand on the left side. It may seem like a small thing, but those small inefficiencies add up.

Not only do these inefficiencies slow you down, they also disrupt your mental focus. This is what helps us sustain the process over time.

Engineering the Process

By focusing on inefficiencies and reducing waste we established an engineered, repeatable process. Analyzing the situation makes abnormalities visible and helps streamline the process. This is done through big actions like evaluating personnel to small actions like promoting cleanliness. This is all part of problem solving in the manufacturing environment.

The main Moffitt factory, Moffitt West, implements these manufacturing problem solving practices on a daily basis. This factory has been in operation for decades by principles such as these into practice. That is what makes Moffitt the Natural Solution for ventilation.