Problem Solved: When Demand Exceeds Production
One problem a customer of ours was having recently was that their demand exceeded what we were able to produce on our production lines as they stood. The client is a snack food company, and we were having trouble keeping up with demand for packaging and distributing their products.
The clients volume was already up over 20% for the year, so how would we be able to deliver? This may be a problem you have to face at some point in your business.
To succeed and provide for your customer, there are some key areas to review to achieve the desired results. Here are four of the ways you can satisfy your customer demand with a cohesive, company-wide hands-on project.
Four Ways To Meet Customer Demand During Production Pressures
What happens when you can’t currently meet production demands? We’ll walk you through the four ways to make sure you’re able to meet demand and keep your customers happy. We will be providing examples from our own experience with this exact situation.
1. Working With The Strengths Of Your Employees
When figuring out problems, who are the people in your organization that can help you solve those problems? Asking people who are further removed from direct production can help you discover possible solutions that you might not have thought of before.
For example, your Production Manager may be a creative thinker. We found this to be true. A way ours was able to assist on the shipping end here was to think back on past problems we have faced.
One way that they were able to assist was finding a way to determine the best way to unload more trailers per shift with the staff available on the dock, without massive overtime or additional employees.
Your plant manager may be thinking more about staffing as well. Determine how you can strengthen your staff capabilities to manage different roles when someone calls out. This is just one way in which you can solve the problem of meeting unexpected demand by looking at your staff's skill sets from another perspective.
Cross-training is a great way to keep your team on top of its game while eliminating production gaps.
2. Talk To The People That Actually Work In Production
Doing Gemba walks with those who work on the lines every day may open your eyes to things you can do differently to help increase capacity.
What Is A Gemba Walk?
From Wikipedia: "The Gemba Walk is an opportunity for staff to stand back from their day-to-day tasks to walk the floor of their workplace to identify wasteful activities.
The objective of a Gemba Walk is to understand the value stream and its problems rather than review results or make superficial comments.” Gemba walks are a way to identify problems by going directly to the work experts, the ones on the lines.
Take people from different roles within your company, say two to three, that are not directly working in a production line position. Have them review the current processes and write down their observations.
Make sure to check in with those people that are the experts, the ones working that position. Collect relevant questions from the employees from other departments and use them to analyze the processes from an outside perspective in an effort to identify areas for change and improvement in production.
The big benefit is giving your team a voice in how things are currently done and how they think it could be improved. Take this into context as you’re looking from an outsider’s perspective on the processes and potential improvements.
3. Make Time For Collaborative Discussions
Getting people from different parts of the company to work together can lead to good brainstorming sessions on fixing issues.
Organize a meeting with respected coworkers who may not know much about the problem you’re wanting to solve. Sometimes questions they ask lead to the solutions you are looking for.
Finding a different perspective could help you take a different approach than you would if you only asked people from the same environment that you work.
Involving production managers, maintenance workers, line leads, and management members from other departments brings out ideas that can improve overall production.
For example, we were able to modify a production line to run more of the product our customer was demanding through ideas generated from other departments that have no part in the production process!
These modifications included extra bins which were used on a line that previously had never used that many bins to accommodate a greater number of snack foods. We also modified the speed settings on food scales to account for more product going over the scales throughout the day.
As for the ideas submitted by other departments, these included trying to get a new piece of equipment to run more product and implementing a third shift to get extra production out of existing lines.
This creative solution came from working with different departments and it allowed us to produce more products to the delight of our customers. These new ideas were submitted by the QC department as well as Maintenance. With their help, we were able to make the necessary changes mentioned above and meet the increased demands of our client.
4. Implement Modifications
We needed to alter one of our product lines from running 10-count packages to running 18-count packages on the same line. Where do we even start when we already thought our line was maxed out?
With the collaboration from our maintenance department, we were able to modify the line with the necessary components to run a product we previously hadn't been able to. Without involving the maintenance department, the process would not have gone as smoothly as it did.
Your customers are looking for you to solve problems they are having in the supply chain. This is one instance where we were able to, as a company, come together with a creative solution to get our customers what they wanted.
Meeting The Demands Of Production
By implementing each of the items above within your production facility, you should be capable of putting a plan into place to help you meet the production requirements of your customers, even when those demands grow quickly and unexpectedly.
If, after attempting to make similar changes to your production and find that you are still struggling to meet your consumers' demands, you may want to consider getting some outside help.
Feel free to contact one of our packaging experts. They will be able to help you formulate, implement, and optimize a comprehensive production plan for unsuspected demands and assist you in rising to the occasion of these greater consumer needs.
If you think that you have the forward thinking capabilities and problem solving skill sets required to achieve greatness in the face of adversity, we would like to hear from you! We are currently actively recruiting for multiple positions and are seeking out the best people to join our world-class team!
About Dan Westerlind, Production Manager
Production Manager for our Supply Chain Services Division in Webster, MA. Sharing my perspective as a Production Manager at a busy packaging facility. Always playing Tetris to satisfy customer demand. I enjoy as much family time as I can get.