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8 strategies for boosting your manufacturing production capacity

Are your manufacturing company’s sales up over recent years, causing you to reach maximum capacity? One solution is to expand your operational footprint. But doing so requires large cash outlays, and you may feel some uncertainty about the economy and be hesitant to make such an investment.

Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to increase your production capacity without committing to acquiring a larger facility. Here are eight ideas to consider:

1. Measure your production capacity. To identify the right strategies for achieving your desired levels of production, it’s critical to measure your current production capacity. For example, suppose your employees work eight hours per day running 10 machines that produce widgets, for a total of 80 machine hours per day. If it takes three minutes (0.05 hours) to make a widget, then your production capacity is 1,600 widgets per day (80 divided by 0.05). Armed with this information, you can evaluate your options for boosting your capacity.

2. Increase employees’ hours. One of the quickest ways to scale up your operations — particularly to meet short-term demand — is to ask your current employees to work longer hours. For instance, if, in the scenario above, you had your employees work 10 hours per day, you’d increase your machine hours to 100 hours per day, enabling you to produce 2,000 widgets per day (100 divided by 0.05).

Doing so would likely result in overtime pay, however. You’d need to weigh this cost against the increased capacity and revenue benefits.

Hiring additional workers can avoid overtime costs, though of course, there are other associated costs you’ll need to consider. Recruiting qualified workers continues to be a challenge for many manufacturers.

3. Add work shifts. Implementing a shift-based approach is an effective way to add production capacity. Additional evening, overnight, and even weekend shifts allow your equipment to run longer—even around the clock—providing a substantial capacity boost without the need for major capital investments.

4. Outsource. If your equipment is already running at peak capacity, consider outsourcing the manufacturing of a product or part to a contract manufacturer. While outsourcing may come at a premium price, in some cases contract manufacturers may be able to manufacture a product or part more cheaply than you. Outsourcing may be your best bet if you’re looking for a scalable short-term solution.

5. Add equipment. If space and budget constraints allow, consider purchasing or leasing new equipment to handle your excess capacity needs. This is a long-term strategy, but it involves a less significant investment than moving to a larger facility.

6. Make current equipment more productive. Take advantage of techniques such as predictive maintenance to increase the output of your existing equipment. Rather than waiting for equipment to break down before repairing or servicing it, predictive maintenance uses wireless sensors embedded in the equipment to alert technicians that service will soon be needed. This minimizes downtime and lost productivity.

7. Become more tech-savvy. Leveraging technology can enhance the productivity of your current operations. Cutting-edge technologies—such as automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence—can enable you to do more without added human capital. In addition to boosting productivity and efficiency, these technologies can also improve quality and reduce costs.

Augmented reality (AR) technologies can make your workforce more effective and efficient. By overlaying digital imagery onto a worker’s physical surroundings, AR can help improve a variety of complex manufacturing processes.

8. Streamline your operations. Adopting lean manufacturing practices can enhance the productivity of your current operations. Lean manufacturing strives to improve efficiency, minimize waste, and reduce lead times, enabling you to deliver more products.

But be sure to balance these benefits against the potential disadvantages in the event of another economic downturn. Many manufacturers that embraced lean techniques, such as just-in-time inventory management, found the approach to be a liability when the pandemic disrupted global supply chains. Have contingency plans in case of similar supply chain disruptions in the future.

It’s difficult to predict when another downturn will occur, so it’s important to be flexible. The good news is that many of these eight strategies are scalable, allowing you to quickly adjust your production output up or down to keep pace with fluctuations in demand. Contact us to discuss what’s right for your situation.

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