Manufacturing Processes: How to Truly Take Control of Factory Floor Operations

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manufacturing processes

Nobody expected a world-changing pandemic to happen in 2020. 

If we did, we would have prepared better. Especially those of us who play a fundamental part in supply chains — like the manufacturers, whose essential items and products need to keep being made, and whose teams were unable to pivot to working from home as most white-collar workers could.

We didn’t have the luxury of foresight, though.

And as state lockdowns started to happen, we had to adapt as best we could. Research conducted in March by the National Association of Manufacturers found that 35% of manufacturers already faced disruptions due to COVID-19’s impact, and 53% anticipated a significant shift in operations.

This significant shift in internal operations, of course, happened.

It included social distancing and healthcare measures so workers on the factory floor could remain as safe as possible.

It also included changes in how employees go about their recurring tasks and processes. And by prioritizing effectiveness, efficiency, and safety in our new normal, many operations and processes were actually made better.

But what, exactly, are the recurring manufacturing processes in question? What do they look like? What do they involve? How can you make sure that your team is always equipped with stellar manufacturing processes that can be easily followed, in both normal and unusual situations alike?

Make your way through the following sections to find out:

•           What are Manufacturing Processes?
•           The Different Types of Manufacturing Processes
•           How to Ensure Your Manufacturing Processes Don’t Go into Meltdown
•           Use FAT FINGER to Establish and Follow Pro Manufacturing Processes!

If you only wanted to get your hands on a free manufacturing operations audit checklist, then click here.

Adding the checklist as a FAT FINGER app from our library is simple; click the link, copy and paste the steps into a new, aptly-named app, and hey presto! You’ve got a new, successful FAT FINGER checklist you and your team can immediately use. 

For those wanting to read the post in full (which is definitely recommended), let’s jump right in.

What are Manufacturing Processes?

what are manufacturing processes
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Manufacturing processes are a series of tasks and activities that need to be undertaken to produce products. Usually, these tasks and activities will utilize human labor, tools, machines, and formulation.

Now, what manufacturing processes will be required depends on manufacturing team size, how many products must be made regularly, what the end product actually is, and what the end product is made out of — i.e., raw materials versus already-created components. 

That’s why a manufacturer for TVs — like Siemens (you may even be reading this on one of their computer screens!) — uses manufacturing processes that are starkly different from a software manufacturer that operates on a make-to-order (MTO) basis.

What isn’t so up in the air, though, is when manufacturing takes place in the product life cycle.

The act of manufacturing and producing a product is always preceded by another crucial stage. Be it the extraction of raw materials that are then delivered to the factory, or the agreement between a client and the manufacturer on what will be made. 

Similarly, manufacturing always happens before the product is packaged and transported to whoever is selling the product to consumers, or before the product is handed directly to the consumer themselves.

To put it simply, while manufacturing processes are completed every day to facilitate the successful production of products, manufacturing is the middle stage in the grand scheme of things. And without documenting, following, and optimizing manufacturing processes, there are a million and one issues that could stop products from reaching the next stage in their life cycle, let alone being made.

But before I take you through why outdated and outright bad manufacturing processes can have disastrous consequences, let’s take a look at the different types of manufacturing processes.

The Different Types of Manufacturing Processes

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There are 5 main types of manufacturing processes: Repetitive manufacturing, discrete manufacturing, job shop manufacturing, continuous process manufacturing, and batch process manufacturing.

Manufacturing processes #1: Repetitive manufacturing

Repetitive manufacturing is a process that has — you guessed it — repetition at the heart of it. If a company needs to make the same item(s) over and over again, then manufacturing companies will default to using repetitive manufacturing.

Think about gaming consoles.

Every couple of years — around 4 or 5 — a new Xbox or PlayStation console is released. But between releases, Microsoft and Sony need to produce an awesome number of consoles year-round. (Sony wanted to manufacture around 15 million consoles for the PS5’s release, but rumors suggest they made a couple of million fewer due to the impact of COVID-19. Sony denies these rumors.)

This is where repetitive manufacturing shines, as there are dedicated production lines to ensure there’s enough stock to go around when operating on a make-to-stock model. And due to its repetitive nature, automation is usually involved.

Manufacturing processes #2: Discrete manufacturing

Next up is discrete manufacturing. 

Discrete manufacturing is another process that focuses on mass production, and has an emphasis on producing finished products that are made of various distinct items.

Examples of goods that are created with discrete manufacturing are primarily touched and seen by the consumer and/or user — products like cars and airplanes, all the way to military defense systems.

Technically, if a discrete product reaches the end of its life, it can be completely taken apart and have all its basic components fit another purpose. Like with a car, for example. If it conks out due to one core component no longer working, whatever else is under the hood — along with the wheels, the exterior metal, the interior furnishings, even the glass — can be reused and recycled. 

Discrete manufacturing can be good for manufacturers who are operating on make-to-stock, make-to-order, and assembly-to-order models.

Manufacturing processes #3: Job shop manufacturing

The job shop manufacturing process is used when teams want to create small batches of custom products.

This means that, instead of assembly lines, there are production areas, and general-purpose equipment is used as opposed to specific, niche items and tools. 

The job shop manufacturing process is the complete opposite of the repetitive manufacturing process. That’s why many teams undergoing the job shop manufacturing process operate on make-to-order models. 

Due to the nature of job shops and how they prioritize product customization over product volume, they’re often used as a manufacturer for other businesses, so they can operate successfully themselves. From gear manufacturing for local industrial machinery to commercial printing, there are many types of job shops out there that’ll be using the job shop manufacturing process.

Manufacturing processes #4: Continuous process manufacturing

For producing large quantities of liquids from consumable beverages to refined oil — on top of products like food, gasoline, and chemicals — there’s the process of continuous process manufacturing. 

Continuous process manufacturing uses formulas and recipes to ensure that the end product is properly made. It also mixes raw materials — ingredients, if you will — to make the end product. 

It differs from the discrete manufacturing process in particular as, once the products have been made — let’s say a soft drink, like Coca Cola — it can’t be deconstructed, and its parts can’t be repurposed. 

And it’s not like the job shop process either, as the products being created via the process of continuous process manufacturing aren’t customized or individually tailored. They’re large batch products instead.

Speaking of ‘batch’…

Manufacturing processes #5: Batch process manufacturing

Sometimes known as just “batch production”, the process of batch process manufacturing is all about producing products in specific batches within a certain time frame.

It can essentially be thought of as a scaled-back version of repetitive manufacturing, but instead of it operating on a daily, continuous basis, only a specified number of products are produced.

To exemplify when the process of batch process manufacturing is used, let’s say there’s a new(ish) pharmaceutical company.

They’re past the startup stage and seem promising, and need to produce a larger amount of pharmaceuticals — but not on a massive, industrial-scale — so that they can meet mid-sized customer demand. That’s when they’d turn to a company that knows and uses the process of batch process manufacturing.

That’s the fifth and final manufacturing process covered.

Before moving on, though, what’s important to note is that the above processes are substantial in length. 

That’s why many manufacturers break these ‘master’ processes, if you will, down into more manageable, separate processes — like die casting, molding, shearing, milling, and joining. This helps employers to keep tabs on what’s happening more easily, and allows staff not to get overwhelmed. 

When all the separate processes do get finished, they contribute to the successful completion of whatever umbrella manufacturing process (be it repetitive, discrete, or any other) is being used by the manufacturing company.

How to Ensure Your Manufacturing Processes Don’t Go into Meltdown

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Or, in this case, the elephant on the factory floor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6esoWXxP0n0

Machinery going haywire. Raw materials spilling into areas where employees work. People losing life and limb. 

Not having solid manufacturing processes — and not having employees follow them, either — can have pretty stark consequences.

While, yes, these are pretty dramatic to watch — especially the hot steel launching across a factory like a piece of rope blown by the wind — many other negative consequences can happen under the radar. Like losing money, not getting products manufactured on time, and having defects in the products that are produced. Additionally, COVID-19’s lockdowns showed that the manufacturing processes used by many companies simply weren’t built to consider sudden changes.

That’s why you need to get and keep your manufacturing processes in check. No matter if your team will be using manufacturing processes for the first time, or if they’ve been using them for years, you need to make sure you’re doing the right things to avoid a complete and utter meltdown in your manufacturing factory.

Manufacturing processes tip #1: Utilize BPM software 

Business process management (BPM) software is a digital tool that helps you document, optimize, follow, and share your team’s internal processes. It’s used by a wide array of organizations, ranging from educational institutions to software startups, property management firms to construction companies. 

Why?

Because it enables teams, no matter their industry or team size, to have complete control over their recurring tasks.

Instead of going about processes in the wrong way and fumbling them in the process, team members can follow a defined process that has been agreed upon as the best way to do things. Teams can then save time, reduce errors, and even stop the normalization of deviance in its tracks.

Just as manufacturers need the right people, tools, and machines to get manufacturing jobs done right, they also need the right software for their processes. While there are many BPM tools out there, FAT FINGER has been specifically built for hard-working blue-collar teams!

Manufacturing processes tip #2: Document your processes

Once you’ve tried a free trial or two and you’ve settled on a particular piece of BPM software, the next important step is to document the processes you and your team will be using.

This includes all the manufacturing processes, the manufacturing audit processes, even the payments processes so that paying team members for their hard work is done in an efficient, effective way. Everything relevant that you can think of, basically.

Seem daunting?

It needn’t be. You don’t need to do this on your own — get all the people at the helm of these activities to help document and define them, too.

Also, don’t worry about having these processes perfect from the get-go. In the beginning, they just need to be documented. They can grow into better, bolder processes as time goes on.

Manufacturing processes tip #3: Get team-wide usage

The thing with processes is that they’re useless if they’re not used by everyone in your team.

Even if 90% of folks follow documented processes diligently, the 10% who don’t will be the ones who cause one of the aforementioned negative consequences to happen.

Simply put, there needs to be team-wide usage of your BPM software, both when it’s initially implemented and further down the line, too. 

For those working in manufacturing factories and shops, there’s good news. State-of-the-art software like FAT FINGER can be used on every device imaginable, from smartphones to tablets, laptops to desktops. This means it’s far easier for all team members to follow process protocols. All they need is to have a usable device on or near them.

Simple.

Manufacturing processes tip #4: Optimize your processes

A few sentences back, I said that once processes have been documented, “they can grow into better, bolder processes as time goes on”. So, once a few months have passed and your team has repeatedly used the documented processes, return to those processes to see if they can be optimized.

This is known as ‘continuous improvement’, and it’s what many manufacturing companies were forced to do as lockdowns changed how supply chains operated.

While there are specific methods for optimizing processes — like DMAIC and PDCA — you don’t have to follow such a formal method, at least not initially.

The crux of the matter is seeing where processes can be bettered to reduce waste, and that they can be worked through quickly while ensuring quality doesn’t slip.

You can start optimizing your processes by:

  • Asking all your team members what they think could be changed. Perhaps there’s a certain step that needn’t be there, or perhaps there’s a step that doesn’t make sense, causing employees to skip it entirely. Directly asking them about the processes they use means you can then make direct improvements.
  • Going through processes yourself. By working through processes yourself with a critical eye, you may spot inefficiencies or wastefulness that can be easily remedied. 
  • Testing updated processes before others use them. Making improvements to processes is necessary, and you’ll need to do it constantly to keep your pivotal processes in shape. However, how do you know the changes you make will always be good ones? Test the updated process yourself or get a team member to. You may find out that what you thought would be an improvement actually worsens the process.

There you have it.

4 easy-to-follow tips and tricks to help you truly take control of the factory floor operations you’re overseeing.

All of them, though, either directly or indirectly require a BPM tool to be used. 

So, let’s talk more about the only BPM tool you’ll ever need: FAT FINGER.

Use FAT FINGER to Establish and Follow Pro Manufacturing Processes!

FAT FINGER is BPM software that enables teams to easily digitize their essential processes, workflows, inspections, and overall operations. 

With FAT FINGER ‘apps’ — which are checklists — recurring tasks get completed to a high-quality every time, no human error happens, and safety is never an afterthought.

What’s more is that FAT FINGER has been specifically created for those working in industries like construction, production, and manufacturing. So it’s simple to get running, and it’s simple to carry on using.

For a visual introduction, watch this video below.

Now, for manufacturers in particular, FAT FINGER can be used to master your manufacturing processes, the processes within those processes, and the necessary, related processes like the manufacturing operations audit. 

To help you get started, here is a ready-to-use manufacturing operations audit checklist that is already being used by reputable companies. All you need to do is copy-paste the steps into a new app inside the FAT FINGER tool!

Haven’t got a FAT FINGER account to use the above checklist?

No worries.

Sign up for a free trial and start using powerful, work-changing apps immediately.

If you use apps for all your team’s processes, expect to notice a positive change. Other teams using FAT FINGER report that 83% of them resolve workplace risks faster, 85% say there’s been an increase in team accountability, and 60% say their workplaces are safer. 

Luckily, the good news doesn’t end there.

You don’t only create checklists for your important processes with FAT FINGER; you can also use data-filled dashboards, conduct video calls with team members, and even train employees with the state-of-the-art Ai-Coach.

For a glimpse into some of these features — and to pick up some quick tips and tricks along the way — check out this video from the founder and CEO, James McDonough.

That’s FAT FINGER.

And it’s about time you got your hands on it.

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