Meeting your customers' demand is paramount. At the same time, you need to schedule employees in a timely manner and properly manage production capacity. A complicating factor is that you're dealing with skilled labor jobs, and it's hard to find qualified people in today's tight labor market. Considering all these aspects, you need to create a buffer which allows you to cope with fluctuations. In this blog, we'll describe three buffers that could solve the issue!
1. Separate activities and create an 'intermediate' stock
A production process consists of several activities. If you separate these and consider them as independent units, you can, for example, continue the second activity even when the first is delayed. This way, you'll manage to stay on track. In this case, you'll need to create an 'intermediate' stock. Therefore, this solution is especially suitable for goods with predictable demand, so the inventory has a high turnover.
2. Opt for a technical buffer to avoid overstaffing
Say, your production machine and warehouse are inextricably linked: warehouse employees are tasked with the responsibility of processing the production line's output and need to keep up. Often, however, this results in overcapacity in the warehouse, which is rather inefficient. A potential solution would be an intermediate storage buffer for produced goods. This would allow you to achieve more efficiency with a lower warehouse capacity, as you can schedule employees based on the average (rather than extremely high) output. If your issue is overstaffing – because you need to handle peaks – this solution might work for you.
3. Deploy your staff across departments
If your employees' job profiles don't differ that much from each other, it means your staff is rather versatile. In that case, you could solve capacity issues by deploying them in different places – from production line A to production line B to warehouse – depending on current peaks. This way, you'll get the most out of your staff, and you will work in a very efficient manner.
The flip side of the coin (and why a buffer is worth the investment)
Depending on your situation, you could opt for one of the above solutions or a combination thereof. Remember you'll always need to compromise in one way or another. For example, if you decide to create an 'intermediate' stock, you'll require more working capital. If a technical buffer solves your capacity issues, you'll need to invest in additional equipment. If your staff is versatile enough to take on more than one task, you'll have provide them with additional training and become more picky when hiring new people (as they, too, should be all-round employees).
In other words, each solution comes with a price tag, so it's wise to consider your options carefully. However, a buffer will pay off in the long run, as it allows you to stabilize your workload and reduce fluctuations!
Are you dealing with highs and lows in the manufacturing process, and would you like to brainstorm your buffer options? Please don't hesitate to contact us.