There are many definitions of throughput in the realm of manufacturing, but generally speaking it is the rate at which work proceeds through a manufacturing system. Throughput can also be defined as the average number of units processed per time unit, i.e how many cars are produced in a week or how many pens are manufactured in a day. Either way, throughput is a performance measurement tool Lean manufacturers use to indicate whether or not their processes are running efficiently. If a company falls behind on throughput, it results in delayed deliveries and a slowdown in the production line.
Delays in throughput time are a result of wastes in the manufacturing system. Whether it’s downtime or excessive production, the common wastes of manufacturing directly impact throughput. Working on wastes, even seemingly small ones, will eventually impact throughput. One of the best ways to improve throughput is by eliminating bottlenecks. Bottlenecks are an area along the production line where work gets backed up. For one reason or another, bottlenecks arise and stalls production and causes other forms of wastes.
Defining OEE can be another important and beneficial tool to maximize the constraint of throughput. The OEE formula (Availability x Performance x Quality) will help managers understand what maximum production looks like. From there, schedules and production lines can be tweaked to ensure efficiency.
Finally, an overlooked way to improve throughput is by increasing manufacturing safety. Time lost due to safety accidents is actually one of the biggest impairments to manufacturing throughput. Employees injured due to an unsafe work environment or skilled workers needing to take time after an accident all lead to time and money spent, as well as a temporary delay in the manufacturing process. Creating a safe workplace will help to avoid these issues while keeping your facility running efficiently.
Throughput not only indicates to managers how well a process is running, but it can also be used to forecast and plan for the future.