How do you ensure efficiency and productivity in your contingent workforce? There are several different methodologies that are designed to help you do that. But which one is the right one for you? To help you figure it out, here are four proven methods for manufacturing facilities that you can train your contingent workers in, along with real life examples of the companies that use them.
1. Lean Manufacturing
Lean manufacturing is the overarching school of thought under which the others on this list fall. It seeks to eliminate waste in manufacturing by identifying bottlenecks in the process and getting rid of them. It begins with standardizing your procedures. This is particularly helpful for a contingent workforce with a high turnover rate, as new employees can be trained quickly by veteran employees. It also requires organization of your surroundings, as well as a system of quality control.
Lean manufacturing is employed by some of the biggest manufacturers in the world. Intel, for instance, is the world’s largest manufacturer of computer chips. Their facility in Leixlip, Ireland used to take 14 weeks to introduce a new chip into the factory. However, with the principles of Lean Manufacturing, they can now do it in 10 days.
Kanban is an organizational system developed by Toyota in the 1940s and is what helped make them one of the most efficient, productive, and successful car manufacturers in the world. Kanban uses a system of cards to prevent work from piling up or creating a lot of “works in progress,” waiting forever to be completed. When manufacturing a specific product, each part needed to produce it is assigned a card. Only a certain number of cards are issued for each part, and no part is allowed into production without one. This means that if there’s a problem at one point in the assembly line, slowing or halting production, it can be quickly detected before it causes a huge pileup in production, since you can’t issue a card for that particular part until the existing workload has been taken care of, freeing up more cards. It’s also called Just-In-Time Manufacturing because you only manufacture what’s needed when it’s needed, and no more.
CONWIP is very similar to Kanban but is designed for a wider manufacturing scope. CONWIP also issues a card for each part in production, but those cards are a bit more flexible. Whereas Kanban assigns specific cards to specific parts, CONWIP’s cards are generic, and can correspond to any part, as long as the number of cards corresponds to the quantity of parts being allowed into production. So while Kanban is good for mass production of a single product, CONWIP is better for customized products that require special or unusual parts, thus making it the ideal methodology for smaller manufacturers, who cater to the customer’s specific needs.
Kaizen is the Japanese word for improvement, and as a manufacturing strategy refers to the constant effort to make things better, more productive, and more efficient. As in all methods of lean manufacturing, you begin by standardizing your processes. Come up with a method for efficient production, and make sure that each of your contingent workers always performs it the same way. Once the system is in place, measure the results. Are they consistent? Are employees able to perform their tasks quickly and efficiently?
After you’ve measured those results, analyze them. What’s your productivity level, and does it meet your goals? If you find that your method isn’t working the way it should, then you need to innovate a better solution and implement it instead. Then, repeat the entire process for the new solution, to see if it’s putting your company where it needs to be. And even if you are meeting your goals, there’s still room for improvement, which is why kaizen is an ongoing process that ensures continued improvement of your contingent workforce. One company that uses kaizen to great effect is Sony. A CD manufacturing plant of theirs in Indiana was using 13 workers to produce 369 products per hour. But by applying the principles of kaizen, they were able to use only 3 workers to produce 2,715 products per hour or around 27 million per month.
Each of these manufacturing methods has different advantages for your contingent workers. You can choose which one is right for you, or apply elements from each of them as best fits your company. But they’re all tried and true methods, and by applying these principles, you’ll be well on your way to a leaner, smoother, more productive workforce.