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3 Things Slowing Assembly Line Production

Author Headshot - Thomas Feldman
Thomas Feldman
Sep 22, 2021

Why You Need to Improve Your Assembly Line Production

In this article you will learn the three major areas that need work in order to improve your assembly line production.

As we move into the future, assembly production lines seem to get more and more automated.

While automation is a great thing for business and can drastically improve production speed and efficiency, it comes with a high upfront cost.

Not every business can afford that upfront cost which would allow them to automate their assembly lines.

This means there are a lot of assembly lines that run inefficiently, because they’re run by people.

Thankfully by just improving three areas of your business, you can drastically improve your assembly line production.

Tool Specifics

The first major area to look at is going to be tools.

Tools are the first area we will look at for two reasons.

The first reason is because they play a major role in making your assembly line efficient.

The second reason is because they are the easiest of the 3 major areas to improve upon.

Not Having The Right Tools

I personally love tools.

It’s easy to geek out about different tools but at the end of the day there is only one tool you need, and that’s the right tool.

Any job will be made more difficult if you’re not given the proper tools to do the job.

This is true for every job but it is more true for assembly line workers who often have to do the same task over and over again.

A screwdriver is great for when you need to put a screw in something, but when you need to put a thousand screws in something per day I would much rather have a drill.

Not Being Organized

The next worst thing to not having the right tool, is not knowing where your tools are!

As someone who has struggled with my own garage workshop organization, I can tell you that organization is vital.

Organizing your equipment, and making sure you put tools in the right place when you’re done with them will save you so much time and effort.

This is crucial when running an assembly line.

Every employee should know exactly where their tools go and have a dedicated spot for those tools.

This will make sure you cut down on any wasted time in search of tools, which will very quickly eat up a lot of the day.

Not Maintaining Equipment

Having the right tools for the job, and knowing where they are will go a long way in cutting down inefficiency in assembly lines.

But it is always important to keep your tools well maintained.

This means many things from routine maintenance to making sure your employees always treat the tools with care.

I’ve seen a lot of people be careless with tools.

From letting them fall on the ground from their workspace, to purposefully trying to damage the tools out of frustration.

Employee Specific

The second major component in making your assembly line more efficient and productive is by focusing on your employees.

You could have all the right tools in all the right places, but if you don’t have the right employees then your production will suffer.

Improperly Trained Employees

The first employee specific issue is having improperly trained employees.

Employee training is vital when it comes to running fast and efficient assembly lines.

Something that employers often assume is that “training” takes place only for the new hires that are learning how to do the job for the first time.

This is a big mistake to make. 

As methods and techniques develop you will need to keep your older employees up to date or risk losing to your competitors.

Spending a couple hours every few months on making sure your employees are properly trained will save you many hours of wasted time and resources.

Not Giving Input

The second employee specific issue is when your employees are not giving you any input.

They don’t come to you with their work related issues or suggestions.

Factory managers will sometimes assume that the assembly line should just run itself. After all, that is pretty much what assembly lines do right?

Yes and no. Assembly lines are often very efficient at running their own process over and over again, but we can’t forget that when it’s human hands on the assembly line there can be room for error.

To counteract some of this error it is vital that your employees speak up, and feel comfortable about giving their input.

The line workers will know first hand what kind of errors are common and what changes might make their work faster and more efficient.

Management Specific

This is the most important of our three major areas.

Tools and well-trained workers are important, but without good management practices there will be very little incentive for people to work efficiently.

Not Streamlining Processes

The first management aspect which should be addressed is making sure that the assembly line process is streamlined.

One main reason why automated assembly lines are so efficient is because their process has to be completely streamlined.

Efficiency goes into the planning of every move for automated assembly line machines because these machines have to be programmed.

If the same level of planning went into the human assembly line process, there would be a great increase in efficiency.

As with most things, increased efficiency often translates to increased speed.

So streamlining your process might seem slow to start but it will get faster and faster as your employees become more practiced.

Not Encouraging Communication

The second point in the employee specific section was “not giving input” but it is also the duty of management to get that input from their employees.

If your assembly line workers feel like they will be criticized or punished for making suggestions, they will refuse to make any suggestions.

This point goes two ways as well.

If an employee makes a suggestion that is not feasible, don’t just dismiss their idea.

A good manager will first always make sure that their employees feel listened to.

So if a suggestion is not possible to implement, first thank the employee for giving the suggestion and then talk about the issues that might arise with that solution.

Measuring The Wrong Metrics

Another aspect that slows down assembly line production is by focusing on the wrong metrics.

Let’s say that all you care about as a manager is producing as many products as possible.

The metric you measure is factory output, which is a fairly common metric.

However, as you increase production there will be a tipping point where speed reduces quality.

Go too far beyond that point and not only will you not be producing a great quality product, you may actually be producing less “usable” items.

Let’s imagine one factory which produces 5 items that are of good quality, and the other factory produces 10 items that are of terrible quality.

The factory producing 10 terrible quality items may be doing great if we’re only measuring output.

But if 6 of those 10 items produced are returned due to their quality then the net output would be less than the first factory.

We can also imagine how the quality of the items produced would affect the number of returning and new customers.

So it is important to make sure that managers are measuring the right metrics.

Some of these metrics might even include things that don’t seem to be related to production, like how happy your employees are.

That is one metric that would greatly impact your production and is often ignored by managers.

Not Giving Responsibility

The last manager specific area which slows down production is not giving employees responsibility.

I’m not talking about the responsibility they have to show up and do their work.

I’m talking about recognizing drive in employees and giving them the opportunity to shine in their job and take on additional projects.

This could include something as simple as assigning someone a safety officer for the day to keep their eye out for any potential workplace hazards.

Does it come with more pay? No.

Does it mean they have to work a lot harder? No.

What it does is give them a feeling of importance and makes them feel trusted.

There are many potential opportunities for roles similar to this which would increase the bond between employer and employee.

That bond is going to make your production faster than just about any other kind of incentive.

Where to Go From Here

Now that you know how important the tool, employee, and management specific points are, you should begin to implement the needed changes to your assembly line.

Individually these changes will work to speed up and improve your assembly line’s production.

Combined they will go a long way to ensure your factory is successful and productive for many many years.

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