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3 Ways to Improve Productivity and Efficiency in Manufacturing

Zac Francis
Zac Francis

Productivity and efficiency are key features of an optimized workforce, and businesses fortunate enough to employ such a team experience benefits ranging from revenue growth to increased levels of customer satisfaction.

However, improving productivity and efficiency is no easy feat, and this especially rings true for those in the manufacturing industry where rolling out a successful operation relies on optimizing many moving parts. Equipment failure, workplace accidents, and finding skilled workers are just some of the issues plaguing manufacturers and hindering productivity. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are steps businesses can take to correct those familiar problems and ensure an improvement in productivity and efficiency. 

Interested? Keep reading to find out what is meant by manufacturing productivity and efficiency, what common problems manufacturers are facing, and the solutions to those problems.

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Engineer with mechanical worker checking on production

Efficiency vs Productivity in Manufacturing: What's the Difference?

Efficiency and productivity are two terms often used interchangeably. However, they’re not quite the same.

In manufacturing, productivity is defined as the ability to produce goods with a specific number of resources. Therefore, producing more goods with the same resources would mean an increase in productivity. 

Efficiency is about producing the same results (or better!) with fewer resources. This often means a workforce requires less time, material, or personnel to achieve the desired results.

Problems Facing Productivity and Efficiency in Manufacturing

While each business is in some way unique, there are common problems that plague almost all manufacturers. 

Below are some of the more prominent and detrimental challenges facing productivity and efficiency in manufacturing:

Workplace accidents and illnesses

While workplace safety has come a long way since manufacturing’s inception, safety remains a major concern for the industry. Harmful substances, equipment failure, trips and falls—a potential accident is never far away when you work in manufacturing. Despite accounting for 10% of the workforce, manufacturing produces 20% of all workplace industries. 

Losing a skilled worker disrupts operational processes and demands more from your current workforce. More often than not, both productivity and efficiency will take a hit. Further complicating the issue is the fact that finding an immediate replacement is incredibly difficult for an industry lacking in qualified workers, and the chances of a severe injury are much higher in manufacturing, where it’s not uncommon for workers to be off for weeks at a time.

Equipment failure

Manufacturers lose almost $1 trillion a year due to machine failures. No, that’s not a typo. For most industries, equipment failure is an inconvenience that’s rectified within 24 hours while a workaround is put in place. 

Manufacturers are denied such a luxury, and a machine failure can mean a complete halt in production while the problem is identified and a solution is reached. And it’s not always an easy fix, with some complex issues requiring outsourced expertise. In manufacturing, equipment is more than just a tool used by employees, it’s an extension of the workforce itself.

Employee turnover

It’s practically impossible to identify any industry where employee turnover isn’t a serious problem. Manufacturing experiences a 39.9% employee turnover rate, and, as previously mentioned, manufacturers have difficulty finding skilled workers, with 85% of businesses struggling to find the necessary talent.

Losing a worker results in a loss of productivity, and dedicating the time to identify a replacement and train them only exacerbates the problem.

3 Ways to Improve Productivity and Efficiency in Manufacturing

Time for the solutions! What we are about to suggest are best practices that are cost-effective, easily implemented, and proven to optimize your workforce.

Regularly inspect and assess machinery

Regularly inspecting machinery identifies problems early on and prevents a full-scale breakdown. Instead of putting out fires, you can prevent them altogether. Put in place a maintenance schedule that promotes regular inspections among the workforce.

Assessing machinery allows you to understand how it performs and whether or not it’s an asset to the business. The most expensive piece of equipment doesn’t make it the best fit. Speak to those who use the equipment and ask for their assessment as they’re best placed to provide an accurate review.

Improve communication

When a company prioritizes communication, everything runs smoother. Faults and accidents are easily reported and addressed, allowing for minimal disruption and increased levels of efficiency and productivity. 

But there’s more to it than just optimizing the production line. Employees that feel connected to a company are up to 25% more productive, and companies that effectively communicate with its workforce boast retention rates that are 4.5 times greater than companies with poor communication.

Some great ways to improve communication include rolling out a quality onboarding process, utilizing technology, and collecting feedback.

Optimize employee training

Training a manufacturing workforce can be challenging. They work varied shift patterns, are always on the move, and are spread out over multiple locations, making it difficult to provide standardized training.

Yet despite knowing this, a large proportion of manufacturers continue to roll out traditional classroom training that fails to successfully navigate all of the challenges we’ve highlighted. That’s not to say in-person training doesn’t have its place, however, there are alternative ways to deliver training without removing workers from the shop floor for lengthy periods.

We recommend incorporating training that’s embedded, seamless, and available at the moment of need.

Embedding training into existing company technology makes it easy for all employees to access role-relevant training without leaving the shop floor. For example, within an HCM like Workday—a popular workforce management tool used by manufacturers—which integrates with our mobile training platform, to deliver optimized training to frontline workers. Don’t use Workday? We offer other third party integrations, with emails, SMS, and the increasingly popular industrial handheld devices serving as additional locations where training can be inserted. 

Seamless training means removing any barriers that might prevent participation and offering a friction-free experience. No passwords and no need to bounce between apps increases the chances of employees engaging in the required training.

And by providing training in the moment of need instead of once every few months, you tap into the timeliness of the informational need - cutting down time spent searching for knowledge or traveling to a device or location for training.  This can be achieved through QR codes affixed to a piece of equipment, where, upon scanning, they can access relevant lessons and tutorials.

By revolutionizing your employee training, you provide your workforce with the skills and knowledge needed to remain productive and efficient. 


eduMe’s seamless integrations and harnessing of microlearning makes it easy for businesses to deliver outstanding employee training. We’ve already partnered with industry leading manufacturers to achieve impressive results including a 26% reduction in workplace injuries and 5000 fewer hours spent training annually.