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The Top Continuous Improvement Tools to Use for Food Manufacturing - Part 2

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By Emilie A Lachance - October 26, 2020

As we noted in the first article in this series, food manufacturing is under constant price pressure, and because it can be difficult to raise prices, food manufacturers must focus intensely on managing costs. Waste is a large part of the costs of food manufacturing and represents lost money. Therefore, waste in any form, including defects waste or spoiled products and excessive packaging, must be minimized. 

The continuous improvement tools in part one focused on employee and management interactions and involvement. By engaging senior executives on the shop floor or by allocating project tasks to the most qualified team members, managers allocate the responsibility for continuous improvement across the business, and it becomes part of the company culture. 

Every innovation and improvement in manufacturing is money saved. Whether time is saved, less energy is used, or less material is used, decreasing consumption of all of these resources will save money. With profits as small as they are in the food manufacturing industry, saving money is crucial.

Whereas the previous article focused on the soft continuous improvement skills that are HR-oriented, in this article, we focus on four “hard” continuous improvement tools, such as analysis and process improvement tools.

1. Statistical Process Control (SPC)

Statistical process control (SPC) is a tool that uses control charts to monitor process behavior. The purpose of these charts is to identify non-normal process results in a timely fashion so that if there is a mistake made in a process, it can be rectified quickly. There are two types of variation that a control chart can identify: common cause variation (CCV) and special cause variation (SCV). 

CCV is inherent, unavoidable imperfection in a process, whereas SCV is variation caused by external factors that push a process outside statistical control. Identifying SCV and minimizing the impact external factors have on a process will improve efficiency within a company.

2. Six Sigma

Six Sigma methodology is intended to counter production problems and inefficiencies in a process. It involves different teams and groups assigned to specific projects for the explicit purpose of affecting net profit. In each group, there will be some individuals trained in “statistical thinking,” meaning that they have advanced project management training. Levels of mastery within the Six Sigma methodology are defined using a belt system based on karate, with black belts being the most advanced Six Sigma personnel. 

3. Lean Manufacturing

A tool often paired with Six Sigma, lean manufacturing is a group of practices focused on reducing waste. The eight wastes targeted by lean manufacturing can be remembered because they spell out the word “DOWNTIME”: defects waste, overproduction waste, waiting waste, non-utilization waste, transport waste, inventory waste, motion waste, and excess processing waste.

As a general rule under lean manufacturing, if a company uses resources on something that doesn’t add value for the customer, that is considered waste or loss.

Many companies follow lean manufacturing so strictly that they even prefer that their suppliers use lean manufacturing principles so that waste is minimized in all steps of a product’s production. Lean manufacturing is also considered more holistic than many other technical approaches because it involves the use of Kaizen, mandates workplace organization, and requires visual checks of most processes. 

Interested in learning more about how to improve OEE at your factory? Read our  latest guide, Leveraging Technology to Improve OEE in Manufacturing!

4. Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total quality management (TQM) brings all of the continuous improvement tools we’ve discussed in this series together. TQM is focused on customer satisfaction and involves the entire company seeking to improve their products and company culture.

TQM focuses on eight principles:

  1. Customer-focused goals: The customer is the judge as to whether or not continuous improvement strategies improve the quality of their products.
  2. Full employee involvement: Employees are encouraged and empowered as they work toward a common goal.
  3. Process-oriented thinking: TQM identifies and measures steps in systems to find areas for improvement.
  4. Integrated system: Part of TQM is establishing a detailed understanding of how each department interacts within the company.
  5. Systematic approach: Organizations create action plans when starting improvement projects.
  6. Continuous improvement: Analytical and creative solutions are found to meet the needs of customers.
  7. Fact-based decisions: Data analysis is used to pinpoint trends and make projections for the future.
  8. Communication: Good communication drives worker morale and motivation.

TQM builds continuous improvement and its practices into the fabric of a company’s culture and seeks to create an environment in which continuous improvement is encouraged. 

Why Are These Continuous Improvement Tools Used in Food Manufacturing?

In part one of this series, we focused on employee involvement. Motivated, involved employees in the continuous improvement process are vital because they drive continuous improvement. If a continuous improvement specialist comes to a company to teach employees to use these tools, the employees must believe in the tools and their application. If they aren’t on board with the implementation of continuous improvement tools, they will likely stop using them. If that happens, improvement will stagnate and the training will have been for nothing.

Worximity enables disparate workers and work groups to collaborate on continuous improvement implementations by providing them with real-time data to make informed decisions. Each member of the team has access to custom dashboards to suit their role, which improves process-oriented thinking. 

As we noted in the first article, the ultimate measure of success in manufacturing improvement is overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). OEE is a measure that captures all of the inputs into a manufacturing system and quantifies improvements at every level. 

Worximity enables you to quickly and efficiently gather the data that you need to benchmark your current OEE performance, so your organization can establish your opportunities for improvement and measure your progress along the way.

An OEE assessment using Worximity is a great place to start! Then, as you implement new continuous improvement tools, you’ll be able to measure the progress that your business is making toward becoming best in class. 

Receive a 30-day OEE Audit to measure downtime and throughput.

The Worximity Smart Food Factory solution is a low-cost hardware system that can be up and running in a few hours combined with an easy and intuitive yet powerful analytics dashboard that provides fast ROI to start and a roadmap to full-on IIoT success.

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