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Operational Efficiency

My factory is full – get me out of here!

For a manufacturing firm that has reached production capacity, sometimes it seems like the only way to create more space is to acquire more square footage. But don’t hit the property pages just yet – Paul Holt, specialist Manufacturing Advisor at the Hub suggests some alternative solutions.


One of the most common challenges I speak to manufacturing firms about is space – primarily a lack of it. Order books are full, the shopfloor is working at capacity, there’s no physical way that your business can take on that extra order – the only answer is to move to new premises which better meet the demands of the business.

This is an understandable reaction to an issue that has been building up over a long period, and often the business owner can feel trapped. However, moving to a new property has its own challenges, and is often not the most cost-effective solution. Planning a move is time-consuming, resulting in extended downtime or a complete halt of production, not to mention the challenge of reskilling your workforce in a new environment.

Is there stock or WIP on your shopfloor that hasn't moved in six months?

Is there stock or WIP on your shopfloor that hasn't moved in six months?

Take a look around you

Before you start to plan a move, I heartily recommend that you take a good, critical look at your current premises. Ask yourself the following question:

Is there an area in your factory which currently holds stock or product that hasn’t been touched in six months or more?

Now consider your rent per square foot – say this is £10 per square foot a month. How much money has been spent housing those materials that you don’t need? £60? £120? £1000?

If one of your machines was running wastage at that level you’d fix it immediately, but when it comes to stock, defects or work in progress, we’re reticent to move it… just in case.

5S, Value Stream Mapping and Just in Time

Over the last six months I’ve worked with three businesses which have had exactly this challenge. All of them thought the only solution was to move to new premises, but when I walked their site I recognised that some simple, Lean techniques could help them create the capacity they needed to grow.

In all cases I recommended 5S, a Japanese workplace organisation method, the principle of which is to clean up the shopfloor for maximum efficiency. The technique has a five step process Sort, Straighten, Sweep, Standardise and Sustain, which enables the workforce to become involved in workplace organisation. We have recently produced a factsheet on 5S which provides a step by step guide to implement this in your factory.

Join the Manufacturing Network to access the 5S factsheet for free. I would advise you to start small and initially focus on one area of your operation to see the impact it can have. 

In other cases I recommended Value Stream Mapping, analysing the entire process through the factory to identify the flow of material and help avoid clogging up valuable space with unnecessary stock when it’s not needed.

I recently worked with a business which manufactures large end products, and we have implemented a ‘Just in Time’ production model which sees the business planning stock against bespoke orders. This is the model used by Toyota and it helped the business to reduce stock and work in progress at the factory.

It seems so simple…

Many Lean techniques are simple, common sense. The challenge for a busy manufacturer is the pressure to meet customer demand, whilst allowing yourself the space to consider – is this the best way to do this? Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to see the opportunities, which is why I’ve been able to help three businesses thrive without any of them needing to raise a holding deposit.

Factory floor after implementing 5S

The same factory created space by implementing 5S.

If you would like to access support from a fully-funded specialist Manufacturing Advisor to produce a Productivity Audit for your business, please enquire via the online form today. 

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Paul Holt

Paul Holt, Manufacturing Advisor

Paul is an experienced production and operations manager with specialisms in strategic planning and materials management.

With a MSc in Manufacturing Leadership, Paul uses his industry knowledge to support manufacturing businesses in implementing lean methodology to manage flow, capacity and eliminate waste.

Paul is experienced in the design and manufacture of capital equipment, implementing process and quality management to meet industry standards, has implemented ERP and MRP systems within operations and successfully introduced new products to market.