Navigating the rough waters of any manufacturing process is a complicated and difficult undertaking. Managing risks, costs, time-to-market, the communication across departments, and the other aspects of your manufacturing project can make staying organized difficult and slow you down.
But you don’t have to go into a project hoping and praying for the best. Thankfully, applying some simple project management tools and fundamentals to your manufacturing process will save you time, money and a few headaches.
Establish project fundamentals
Any successful manufacturing project starts with setting reasonable goals. This means allotting an appropriate amount of time for project completion, assigning the right tasks to the right people, assessing quality expectations, and setting deliverables.
Tracking all of these is a hassle already, let alone in static Excel spreadsheets. With the amount of uncertainty present in today’s global manufacturing market, teams must have a project tool that allows for up-to-the second tracking, planning and communication. PM tools are fundamental to the success of a project.
Tool tip: Look for a solution that supports collaboration and document sharing, so you can track production across the supply chain.
Once you have a timeline set and your goals firmly in mind you will need a strategy to achieve them. There are many methodologies in the world of project management — all of them can be applied to manufacturing. Adopting existing project management frameworks from Waterfall to Agile and Lean can set you up for success depending on what your manufacturing project entails.
Sometimes sticking too closely to methodology can unnecessarily slow you down, which is why agile project management has become so popular — particularly in manufacturing.
Tool tip: You want to make sure your PM platform is flexible enough to work with your chosen methodology.
Speed up the process
The quickness in which you are able to complete a manufacturing project is perhaps the greatest indicator of whether you will be able to stay ahead of the competition. Speed is another reason that agile project management is gaining momentum in the manufacturing space and elsewhere.
The agile method — which is designed to improve processes each time a project or sprint is completed — can be effective at producing high quality results at a faster rate. However agile requires input from all team members and a project leader that is able to compile these insights, otherwise it can lead to mistakes and slowdowns.
Tool tip: Set up alerts in your PM tool to support team awareness of the project and task changes, to keep everyone looped in.
Communicate between departments
Manufacturing projects are notoriously complex and usually involve multiple departments. If you don’t have a centralized project management tool, communication can become muddled and breakdown across the departments that are need most to execute part of the project plan.
Manufacturing projects have begun to involve more and more parties as supply chains have become global in the modern economy. Project leaders that prioritize organized communication will reap the rewards later on in their manufacturing process.
Tool tip: Look for a PM tool with mobile apps and collaboration features, like chat.
Predicting risks before they arise is fundamental to the project management process and one that is especially important in a manufacturing project. As a manufacturing project goes on, many aspects are built upon and rely on others. Anything from a missing label to machine malfunction can throw things off and require a response. This is where outlined contingency plans come in handy so that valuable time isn’t lost when something inevitably goes awry.
Tool tip: Managing issues and risks is easier when it’s part of your PM suite, rather than standalone Excel docs.
If you set a project plan and are not tracking how the team is performing in keeping up with the plan as the project moves along, the results could be devastating to your manufacturing project. A feature common in most project management software tools is an interactive Gantt Chart.
Having these Gantt charts available to the whole team allows for the project manager to be able to see how far along in the process each team member is in completing their assigned task. This allows project managers to plan accordingly if you are lagging in one area or ahead of schedule in another.
Tool tip: Not all Gantt charts are created equally. Make sure to find online Gantt charts that have drag and drop capability, for easier project scheduling.
Applying project management methods to streamline the process and cut out unnecessary tasks (often called “wastes”’ in lean project management) can help save time and lead to greater product efficiency. Removing excess processes gives the project manager a greater ability to react to unforeseen events.
Whether these processes are deciding on methodology, tracking, or risk management, sometimes they don’t all need to be implemented to all team members. Applying the appropriate project steps only to the team members who need it can save valuable time and is really an innovative way to go about managing your manufacturing project.
Tool tip: Make sure your PM tool offers resource management, to be able to spot performance issues in select team members, so you know where improvements in process need to be made.
Implementing these continuous improvement processes in every project going forward will produce results that are pleasantly surprising as time goes on. As you and your team become more accustomed to using a project management tool and implementing project management fundamentals, your manufacturing should become more streamlined and your products produced faster and at a higher quality.
Tool tip: Use real-time dashboards for visibility in tracking. You can’t improve what you can’t see.