How to Streamline the Product Manufacturing Process
Sometimes the overall manufacturing process can slip through the cracks between product development and building a new business. Taking time to streamline the packaging and shipping processes and promoting communication between teams is crucial for your business to run smoothly.
Streamlining your product assembly and design saves time, labor, and money. All it takes is some planning, thinking ahead, and most importantly, communication. Without communication between your teams, no matter how small, the conveyor belt of all production will cease to function properly. It may seem like something you can deal with later, but trust us, the longer inefficiency is allowed to continue, the more it will become the norm.
Design Smart and Save
One size does not fit all when it comes to packaging design. If your packaging has too much empty space it will cost you extra money. Larger boxes take more material to make and more insulation materials to keep your product safe (Damaged goods? Not a part of the plan). This comes into play both with your product’s physical packaging and its eventual shipping container.
We’ve all received an order in a too-large box. Eliminating excess space will allow you to save money on void-fill packing materials like packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and even our air cushions. You’ll also save on shipping costs, especially as many shipping companies move to dimensional weight pricing. A well-packed box means less for your customer to dispose of on the receiving end. Don’t deal with unhappy, environmentally-conscious customers calling out your company for overusing packing materials. Pack and ship your products in boxes that fit them instead of boxes you pack to fit.
Packing and shipping costs can add up quickly. Make sure you incorporate the cost into your budget to avoid it sneaking up on you. For example, a fragile item will likely require extra packaging materials. Don’t skimp here, it will be more expensive to return and restock a broken item than if you packed it correctly the first time.
Choose the right kind of packaging. As you know, some materials cost more than others, but it’s possible to find materials that look and work just as well, or even better, at a lower price. Don’t waste money by skipping the research phase and choosing the first material you come across. It may save time, but unless you are lucky, it won’t save you money. Think about the kind of packaging each specific product needs. Do you need thicker material to protect heavier products? Or something that will protect from damage in addition to filling open space? Experiment. It may take some trial and error to find the material best-suited to your product.
When you have decided what packing material to use, consider buying in bulk. If you sell several similar products you can likely use a “one size fits all” approach. Buying in bulk allows you to purchase a large back stock of material, usually at a lower price. If you have storage room available you can buy as much as you like to use as you need it. On the other hand, if you can’t buy in bulk, don’t. If you sell multiple products that need more specialized packing material, or if you need to keep your business lean and clean, save yourself the space and the overhead cost. If you are just starting out, you may not be certain what materials will ultimately serve your needs. Put off buying in bulk for now. It’s better to be absolutely sure before you make a large investment.
Another way to streamline your packaging is to eliminate unnecessary labels. Making sure that your products packaging is clean, concise, and clear can save you, and your customers, a headache or two. First, the cost of multiple labels will add up over time. Second, a confusing design can frustrate the assembly process, increasing the time it takes to get your product out the door. An extra point? Packaging that is less “busy” will be more attractive to customers. Simplicity is the number one packaging design trend for 2018.
Always take into consideration how your product’s design impacts its assembly and reception. Above all, make sure that you don’t skimp on the necessities. Failure to do these two simple tasks could put your manufacturing lines or profit margins in jeopardy.
Communication and Technology
Communication may seem wholly unconnected to the manufacturing process on the surface, but poor communication can have a big impact on how well your business functions. Failure to communicate effectively can lead, at best, to frustration and hurt feelings between teams and, at worst, to loss of profit or even physical injury. No one likes to be left out of the loop, so take the time to fill in your counterparts.
Consider setting up meetings during the week to increase communication. A weekly meeting will allow people to ask questions, learn more about the bigger picture, and feel heard and appreciated. Meetings also give your employees a chance to give feedback. A material handler in your warehouse may have important input on the packaging process that you may not think of if you spend your time in an office. Both your time and your employees’ is valuable, but taking some time out of the week to make sure everyone is feeling good about their job and their duties can be mutually beneficial. If you don’t have the time or the capacity for personal meetings, consider holding open office hours where employees can pop in and chat. Being available and transparent can go a long way toward fostering good communication in any business.
Technology can also be a good option when it comes to improving communication. Trading emails or using instant messaging software will go miles toward making sure your team is running like a well-oiled machine. Just be sure to take possible miscommunication into account. It’s harder to read tone and meaning from online communication, and it will not help matters if messages are perceived as offensive or out-of-line. Try to identify and solve problems like this as quickly and efficiently as possible so your employees can get back to what they do best.
Technology does not only increase communication, it can also help your assembly line tremendously through data collection. Mining past production data can help you pinpoint processes that could be improved, and make clear those that you should keep the same. If you take the time to look at past production data and make changes to the process, you may be able to decrease the use of extra boxes, extra packing materials, or simply eliminate certain unnecessary steps.
Producing a product is hard enough, so make sure you make it a point to keep communication open between all parties, and use technology to your advantage. All the little things add up, and you will see a difference.
If you don’t have the resources to complete production the way you want to, consider streamlining by eliminating internal steps through outsourcing. That might mean using a third party to help with packaging or a distributor to ease shipping responsibility. By outsourcing your packaging, you give the task over to a company that already has the infrastructure in place to handle it. If you find the right outsourced packer, their expertise will assist them in finding the most efficient way to accomplish the task. A contract packager will know their way around packaging. They will likely know the cheapest, most effective way to accomplish what you are looking for. A great co-packer will manage more than just your product. They will take on labor, space and inventory for your product. This eliminates the the trial and error that would otherwise take place at your own facility.
When it comes to your product’s packaging design and shipping, every choice you make has a huge impact on your costs, labor, and time. Take the time to research and promote communication and transparency when deciding what needs to be done, and how it needs to be done. This way, your process will be streamlined, and your team will be stronger than ever.