I write a lot in this space about strategy on the plant floor and different theories on how plant managers can effect positive change to their everyday operations. But whether it’s prioritizing product quality, identifying opportunities for automation or staying organized, eventually the time comes to put theory into practice. And that brings us to today’s tip:

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

What do I mean by that? Let’s imagine that you’ve recently invested in some new, automated vinyl welding equipment. This equipment has the potential to drive some significant new efficiencies in your production process, alleviating some labor woes you have and helping you maintain more consistent, quality corner welds. And to really get the most of your new equipment, you’ve decided to reformat your line layout to optimize flow and efficiency.

So now it’s time to install it. Your hardware supplier will likely provide a bit of support upon delivery, installation and initial calibration. But it will be up to you to align the operation of this equipment with your specific production goals as well as your plant flows. You’ll need to program this new equipment to effectively address your on-hand inventory, achieve your desired production output and consider any other factors. All the while, you also need to maintain regular production to keep up with ongoing demand. Even if your installation takes place during less busy parts of the year (perhaps this upcoming winter, for instance), there are still day-to-day operations to maintain.

It may take some trial and error to get there, and vinyl welding equipment is just an example. Maybe you have an automated insulating glass (IG) line coming in a few months. Maybe it’s something else. The key is being unafraid to tweak your operations as needed to get the most from your investment. Ask questions you might not have the immediate answers to. Move things around. Approach it with a continuous improvement mindset.

And don’t be afraid to seek help. Some of your vendors may have experience working with other customers on new forms of automated equipment, and if they’re truly invested in your success (as a good vendor should be), they’ll be happy to offer some tips and tricks to help you quickly optimize your reworked operations. Your IG spacer supplier, for example, may be able to offer their expertise on how their product runs on different types of equipment and could add operational insight you might not have identified yourself.

The bottom line is that optimizing your production isn’t always a straightforward process. But don’t let that keep you from doing the hard work necessary to maximize your investment. And likewise – don’t be afraid to ask for help.

John Ryba is Technical Services Manager for Quanex.

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