5 tools to boost productivity for manufacturers

No matter how big or small your business is, improving processes to maximise efficiencies is key to maintaining competitiveness and growing profits. Evaluating current practices and existing workflow is necessary, but implementing and utilising new technologies and tools can increase productivity as well.

Here are five tools and processes to help you examine and design a more productive – and successful – manufacturing process for your business.

Rapid prototyping

Moving a product into mass production without recognising even the most minor of flaws or defects can cost a business millions of dollars. Enter rapid prototyping — technology which automatically builds a real-scale model of an object in a short lead time using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software. 3D printers are included in this class of technologies.

Rapid prototyping gives the engineer, design, and development teams the advantage of being able to explore and realise concepts much faster. Teams can move beyond visualising and can grasp the physicality of the product much more easily. This also increases the ease of identifying flaws before the item is mass-produced. The efficiencies gained from rapid prototyping are not only time saved, but also savings in cost.

Gas metal arc welding (GMAW) tools

GMAW tools offer a significant increase in productivity versus gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) tools. The deposition rates and ease of operation are considerably higher than GTAW tools and are suited for both automatic and manual welding situations. Although the equipment is more complex, in terms of quality control, GMAW tools can produce high-quality welds much faster, so taking the time to learn how to use the equipment pays off.

Air blowers

Air blowers are effective at speeding up the drying time for various applications, including processes for welding, melting, shrinking, curing, drying, heating, activating, and sterilisation. Air is passed across a heated element to raise the air’s temperature and enable the user to focus extreme heat in specialised areas.

Water jet cutter

A water jet cutter is a tool capable of cutting a variety of materials using an incredibly high-pressure jet of water. The nature of the tool allows it to be easily modified to be used in almost any industry, making it an indispensably versatile tool. Another important benefit is the ability to cut material intricately without interfering with its structure. There is no heat-affected zone (HAZ) since the water isn’t hot, so metals can be cut without changing basic properties.

Lean tools

Some of the best tools for maximising productivity aren’t physical tools, but a philosophy called lean thinking. Lean’s goal is small, incremental changes in processes that help decrease wasted time in these seven areas:

  • Defects or errors
  • Over production
  • Waiting
  • Inventory
  • Transportation
  • Motion
  • Over processing

Paired with the Six Sigma process to reduce product defects, lean thinking accelerates process improvement and increases efficiencies while simultaneously improving product quality. Revenue increases, costs are reduced, processes are more efficient, and more effective teams are developed.

As technology advances and manufacturing plants get more and more sophisticated, more efficiencies will arise. Technologies once thought of as impossible have revolutionised processes, already greatly improving speed and costs. What progresses will the not-so-distant future bring?