Improving shop floor efficiencies is essential in today’s competitive manufacturing market. Here’s what you can do to take your productivity to the next level.

A shop floor can be a chaotic place. In a typical manufacturing facility, overcrowded tool cabinets, disorganized shelf space and improperly marked storage areas and walkways can make it difficult to keep all your tools, parts and materials in order. All of this can make a facility grossly inefficient.

The good news is that there are several best practices and solutions to help manufacturers find shop floor efficiencies, which are essential in today’s competitive manufacturing market. 

As businesses move beyond their initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic and begin to establish a new normal, they need to devise workplace strategies that will not only help their employees work safely but also anticipate what’s needed to thrive in the work environment of the future.

All this must be accomplished with a limited workforce, whether due to cutbacks or the spatial distancing guidelines required to ensure employees remain safe from the coronavirus when at work. Adding to the workplace space challenge is the need to sanitize workstations and equipment frequently and allow individual employees to work more autonomously to minimize contact with others and dampen the spread of the virus. 

A factory or facility that adopts a lean-oriented production layout strives to create a continuous flow of workers, material and information.

By developing a plan, it’s quite possible to have a clean, organized and efficient shop floor that keeps workers safe and helps take your company’s productivity to the next level. After all, shop floor efficiencies can play a big role in financial success.

Here are five of the most effective techniques and technologies for maximizing available space and creating shop floor efficiencies.

Read more: Lean Manufacturing: The Advantages of Adopting Agile Operations

No. 1: Lean Manufacturing Techniques

If your shop floor seems to be perennially cluttered, perhaps there’s a bigger issue: Are you failing to preplan workstation needs before work begins to improve productivity and reduce movement? Are tools organized so that workers have them at their fingertips when they need them?

If these issues sound familiar, consider adopting a lean manufacturing practice such as 5S (a reference to five Japanese terms that describe the different steps for reducing waste). 5S is designed to pare down clutter and efficiently organize items, increasing productivity as a result. 

Lean manufacturing is all about using time and space effectively. It aims to minimize the time workers spend looking for tools, materials or information. A factory or facility that adopts a lean-oriented production layout strives to create a continuous flow of workers, material and information. 

When this process is designed well it avoids the buildup of inventory and excess equipment. And it can ensure you’re operating in a safe, clean environment where work is done efficiently. 

Read more about how MSC helps companies improve efficiency using 5S

No. 2: Machine Monitoring Systems

Cutting downtime—especially unplanned downtime—is an essential part of keeping costs down. 

Remote machine monitoring can help. It uses sensors mounted directly on your equipment to monitor a machine’s health by constantly transmitting data about its operations to the internet (vibration or temperature, for example), allowing technicians to monitor performance and provide help when needed. If a level is exceeded, a worker can immediately take action. 

If you’re not using remote machine monitoring, now could be the time to think about adopting it. The advantage of this process is that your machines have constant oversight and monitoring, which can lead to process efficiencies and boost productivity. 

Machine condition monitoring is part of a trend toward leveraging data in manufacturing to squeeze out operating efficiencies, which is a business imperative. If harnessed correctly, this information can positively affect your productivity and bottom line.

Manufacturers can save time and costs by quickly diagnosing problems. This means issues are resolved more efficiently and downtime is shortened, optimizing production.

Read more: How to Deliver Manufacturing Productivity Through New Equipment and Technology

No. 3: Efficient Assembly Lines

Flexibility and flow are vital for an efficient assembly line setup.

A lean workplace layout means, for example, having all of your most important working elements—your tools and most-used parts—nearby.

Several tools can help you achieve this, including:

  • Carts or conveyor systems that come in different sizes and designs. 
    • Some may be adjusted to various heights or have tilting capabilities to enable access deep into a container with minimal bending at the waist and back. Some with rotating tabletops allow for easy reach to parts at waist level.
    • Easy-to-reach shelving for small parts may fold out of the way when empty. 
    • And some carts can meet up with slat conveyors to receive loads at an easy access height.
  • Workbenches, such as those made by Little Giant & Treston. 
  • Safety signage that eliminates worker confusion or hesitation by ensuring the employee knows that personal protective equipment is required in a given area, or if social distancing is required.
  • Floor tape and other visual cues that clearly show a path to a machine or help ensure workers know about approved production flows.

Read more: Principles of Lean Process Improvement: Minimize Movement

No. 4: Smart Workstation Setups

Properly designed and configured workstations are an important element of a lean manufacturing system. They can help reduce waste, improve efficiency and provide employees with a relaxed working position where work movements follow the body’s natural movements. 

  • STAK storage solutions from Stanley Black & Decker’s Vidmar that adjust as needed to accommodate changing inventory needs.
  • Treston’s FiFo (First in First out) Flow Rack system is a flexible shelving, storage and picking solution that brings items from the warehouse near to your production, assembly or packing station, ensuring needed parts are at hand and no time is wasted searching for items.
  • Shadow boards visually manage tools that are used often during the workday so they are put back in the same spot after use and no one needs to waste time searching for them.
  • Organizer bins help keep clutter to a minimum and improve your ability to organize parts around a workstation.
  • Workstation dividers, barriers and other partition devices keep workers safely divided and help improve social distancing.
  • Matting reduces worker fatigue and improves safety by reducing the possibility of injuries.

No. 5: Managing Social Distancing 

Meeting the regulations that prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19 is vital for businesses to resume production efficiently and restore employee confidence. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a series of industry-specific alerts designed to keep workers safe. For the manufacturing industry, OSHA suggests such measures as:

  • Establishing flexible work hours, such as staggered shifts.
  • Practicing sensible social distancing, requiring workers to be 6 feet apart where possible. 
  • Limiting the duration of work activities and/or implementing innovative approaches where social distancing is a challenge, such as temporarily moving or repositioning workstations to create more distance or installing barriers (e.g., plexiglass shields) between workstations.
  • Discouraging workers from using other workers’ tools and equipment.

Digital tools and technological solutions are also playing a role in helping manufacturers maintain social distancing measures. 

While some companies are using their existing Wi-Fi communication systems to monitor the distance between individuals (Wi-Fi can see the location of devices such as tablets, laptops or smartphones and show where individual users are stationed), others have adopted wireless proximity systems (typically wearable devices or mobile apps that transmit signals so their proximity to another device can be determined). These devices emit a signal (an alarm, flash, vibration or text message to each person—or a supervisor—if individuals become too close). 

Other technologies to keep workers at a safe distance include Haimer’s contactless tool management system, which allows tool operators to change tools without any personal interaction with their co-workers and therefore avoid lengthy and costly workplace cleaning periods.

Read more: COVID-19 Social Distancing: Technologies and Tactics to Keep Your Workers Safe

What Steps Are You Taking to Improve Shop Floor Efficiencies?

Improving shop floor efficiencies is essential in today’s competitive manufacturing market.

Thankfully, there are several options available to any company that wants to take productivity to the next level.

Take our poll to share your insights on this topic.

Which of the following techniques or technologies are you using to optimize space on your plant floor?

What steps are you taking to optimize space on your facility’s shop floor? Share your thoughts and insights in the comments below.

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I had adopted techniques in a setting whereby we were able to eliminate horrendous backorders on product by focusing area work flow based on:

1.) quote time estimate

2.) utilizing/designing automated systems which provided a redundancy in product output

3.) Limit the amount of steps needed to perform tasks; ie condense the work area to only what was needed to beat quote times while maintaing safety. 

4.) the above steps over time allow management to create a formula for efficiency in each work area and thereby enabling the possibility of establishing a % of efficiency based on quoted times compared to product out of the area. This can be evaluated monthly, weekly, daily or even hourly. It was a tremendous tool in gaining extreme efficiency-unfortunately that company moved away from techniques I developed and they have fallen off the cliff in terms of lean manufacturing.



Thank you for sharing your success story. Are there any others out there?


I learned a few things having been in them trenches for about 30 years. A big plus on set up times is to kit each production  job and when the work order comes in have it Automatically order the tools required.  When the travler is made for the work order make checking the rev to the correct print an op it will save you the embarrassment of having to tell the customer your an idiot again. Make tooling the job box and pulling the fixture an op. That way it don't make it to the floor with out every thing needed to set up and run the job .The best shift ever could be adopted by all shifts . That is the weekend shift hours are the best.3 twelve hour days you get 24 regular hours and 12 overtime. Weekend shift usually gets a shift differentials. But life is so good . You get 4 days off a week .You can go to school or instead of paying daycare your home already .And your 1st day goes quick .2nd day is hump day already and then it's your Friday and payday . Life is so good . Start a business. Go fishing , get a life.






thanks for information


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