Andy Owen explains how businesses can improve efficiency and productivity
The average worker spends approximately 348 hours per year commuting to work. This is the equivalent of a quarter of the working week spent travelling from A to B with no direct value to either employee or employer.
Similarly, many businesses find that moving products through the supply chain creates a lot of non-productive time. A survey conducted by Salary.com in 2014 found that 89 per cent of employees waste at least some time at work, 20% more than the previous year. In particular, 94% of engineering, manufacturing and construction professionals admitted to wasting time. The amount ranged from 30 minutes up to several hours.
When you look at these figures against the backdrop of the productivity crisis that many countries are reported to be facing, it paints a worrying picture. As production levels drop and wasted time increases, businesses must do everything they can to improve productivity. This comes as a result of improved efficiency.
However, it's not just intentionally wasted time that's the culprit. A lot of wasted time occurs as part of the warehousing and manufacturing process itself.
The first step is to determine where efficiency can be improved. Plant managers must therefore assess the main causes of non-value added time (NVAT) in their supply chain, which is often either the initial assembly or the subsequent transportation of products.
For example, an aerospace manufacturer will be required to move large parts across a plant as part of a staged production process.
However, an engineer will need a large industrial load carrier to do so, which may even need to be operated by a specially trained member of staff. This means that engineers must first wait for equipment to be available before the production process can move on.
An engineer might only spend five minutes waiting each time, but over the course of a working week this will accumulate and account for significantly more. The wait may also lead to a production bottleneck, with many parts ready for assembly but only limited capacity for moving them.
Any plant manager observing this would come to the conclusion that the process could be made more efficient and lean by changing it entirely. For example, there would be less wait time if each member of staff could use equipment to move parts to the assembly area without delay.
Businesses could act on this in several ways. On one hand, a business could invest in machinery that automatically moves completed parts to assembly areas on a set track. However, this may pose several logistical issues while also substantially increasing capital expenditure.
The cost-effective alternative is for plant managers to invest in powerful electric tugs for large or heavy-duty loads. These pedestrian operated tugs allow a single engineer to safely transport heavy parts across plants with ease, reducing NVAT by eliminating the need for waiting or specialist assistance.
Electric tugs from MasterMover, for example, can move loads from 50kg up to 60,000kg on castors. This not only makes the tug suitable for bulky parts, but also for moving completed products ready for storage or distribution.
Of course, this is only one way businesses can reduce NVAT. In order to truly maximise efficiency, businesses must adopt a lean manufacturing approach and slowly introduce changes. Each incremental improvement, such as saving five minutes wastage per day in assembly, is one step closer to creating a company culture of efficiency.
While businesses can’t do much to directly change the amount of time it takes employees to commute to work, plant managers can take action to ensure that work time is spent productively. This means more time working and less time waiting.
Andy Owen is managing director of electric tug specialist MasterMover.