Manufacturing Excellence: Streamlining Shop Floor Operations

Written By: Anthony Offredi
January 31, 2024
4 min read

The shop floor is the beating heart of any manufacturing operation. Keeping production humming along efficiently is critical to meeting customer demand and maintaining profitability. However, managing a dynamic shop floor environment can be challenging with paper-based processes or outdated software tools. That's why forward-thinking manufacturers are increasingly looking for software solutions to provide a modernized shop floor management system (SFMS) that takes them to the next level- and fit their unique operations like a glove.

“Manufacturers that digitize their shop floors and implement smart factory technologies see 8-12% gains in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and 15-25% reductions in unplanned downtime” (Boston Consulting Group, 2023)

Ideally, a modern SFMS provides the real-time visibility, collaboration tools, and data insights you need to optimize production. You can’t know where you stand or identify critical gaps if you don’t have a clear view into performance, quality, pace, and emerging issues in real time. Dynamic, modern manufacturers today need exceptional visibility across the shop floor with operational dashboards that enable a unified view of manpower, machine, methods, and material data.

What shop floor management requires

An effective shop floor management system is complex and covers a range of communication challenges like scheduling, shift change, and scrap tracking. And the workforce planning relies on aligning worker capabilities with production tasks and requirements. This is especially challenging with a workforce seeing a lot of people retire, coupled with new workers who aren’t yet skilled and expect technology and flexibility as the norm. In fact, as Deloitte found in their 2024 Industry Outlook, manufacturers are expected to face labor shortages among other challenges in 2024, including "economic uncertainty...lingering and targeted supply chain disruptions, and new challenges spurred emissions goals."

Job skills matrices and job coverage matrices allow manufacturers to visually map their workforce's competencies, availability, and skill gap. A job skills matrix tracks each employee's proficiency across various machine types, manufacturing processes, and quality checks. It can enable smarter task assignment based on skill fit. A job coverage matrix, on the other hand, outlines which workers are available for different shifts, days, or job types based on schedules and qualifications.

Maintaining accurate skills and coverage matrices provides visibility into your labor force and human capital. This allows shop floor managers to strategically assign the right workers to the right jobs at the right times. When this is done well, the result is optimized staffing that improves productivity, quality, and on-time delivery of your products. When all of this is tracked on spreadsheets or paper, it is nearly impossible to optimize, and it is yet another impetus to promote the digitization of the shop floor.

“An L2L survey (via Plant Engineering) found that only 24% of manufacturing companies even have a digital transformation strategy and that over 40% of them have yet to take the first steps toward implementation.”

Aside from the job cover and job skill examples, scrap report tracking represents a major opportunity for digitization on the plant floor. Rigorously tracking scrap and defects on the production floor is crucial for any manufacturer seeking operational excellence- but many are using paper-based tracking methods that are inefficient and prone to errors. Using dedicated scrap tracking software provides manufacturers with enhanced visibility and insights into quality issues. Digital solutions enable each defect or scrap event to be logged with important metadata like date, time, machine, operator, and root cause. This software generates scrap tracking reports and metrics so managers can identify trends and recurrent problems. Tracking root causes helps production teams implement corrective and preventive actions to reduce future defects.

Driving success on the floor

The bottom line is that defect data visibility drives continuous improvement- which is the goal of any plant floor manager. By leveraging scrap tracking software, manufacturers gain the actionable intelligence needed to optimize processes, reduce rework, improve yields, and cut costs. Accurate tracking and analysis of shop floor scrap and defects is a must for any world-class manufacturing operation.

Quickbase offers a best-in-class tool to support these use cases and many others across the manufacturing industry. We know the challenges that manufacturers experience and have built custom solutions to address common manufacturing needs. Quickbase provides a single, unified view into all that you need to know when it comes to shop floor operations to increase productivity and reduce downtime. With Quickbase powering your shop floor management, you gain the speed, flexibility, and insights needed to reach the next level of operational excellence. You can build a custom SFMS solution that is easy to use in weeks, not months like traditional software. And your teams can make ongoing improvements and adaptations without relying on IT.

The efficiency and visibility you need to modernize the shop floor operations is at your fingertips – it just doesn’t live in the existing manual processes that are so common to manufacturers. Centralizing and effectively managing your shop floor management means better quality, higher quantity, and ultimately more ROI from your most important asset – your people.

Anthony Offredi

Anthony Offredi is Director, Customer Advisory at Quickbase. He has extensive experience in the manufacturing industry at companies like Ford, Amazon, and Stellantis.