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What is a manufacturing flow management process?

A man standing and looking at a whiteboard.

The efficiency of your production processes can make or break your business. Key business processes without flow management can slow you down and cause revenue to drop.

Thankfully, by breaking down each component of your production process, you can:

  • Increase efficiency.
  • Gain more customers.
  • Get ahead of competitors. 

If you’re new to manufacturing flow management processing, this guide will tell you what a process flow is and how to incorporate it into your manufacturing strategy.

What is a process flow?

A process flow is an overview of your business operations and corporate functions, typically in the form of a chart or diagram to help employees visualize their tasks.

It outlines the following factors:

  • Point persons involved.
  • Timeline and schedule.
  • Resources required, including materials, equipment, and software.

Consider this example of a process flow. Suppose you’ve introduced a new variety of products into your commercial supply chain and need to hire new employees.

A hiring process flow might look similar to this:

  1. Obtain a new hire request from the appropriate department. 
  2. Select your HR curricula.
  3. Develop and post job advertisements.
  4. Shortlist promising candidates.
  5. Conduct testing and interviews.
  6. Obtain the department manager’s approval to hire.

What is the value of creating a process flow?

The value of creating a process flow is to standardize and optimize your daily operations and supply chain strategy.

Below are a few benefits of supply chain management process flows:

  • Standardized processes: Starting a new project doesn’t mean you have to develop an entirely new approach. Instead, you can standardize the production process to put tasks into context.
  • Project documentation: Establishing critical business processes is useful only if you remember how they work. Map out your approach before assigning tasks, so everything is clear. Give new hires easy-to-follow references to keep them engaged and on track.
  • Team accountability: By clearly defining and visualizing your process, team members are encouraged to be more accountable for their tasks and are less likely to miscommunicate. Use production planning to make tasks and deadlines abundantly clear.
  • Optimized operations: Optimizing your operations can reduce the repetitive tasks you perform manually. Not only will you improve your manufacturing flexibility, but you’ll also save on operational costs by automating tasks. Over time, it will be easier to identify resource constraints, project dependencies, and other sore points.

What is a manufacturing process flow?

In a manufacturing setting, process flows detail each step of the product development process, from ideation to distribution.

Manufacturing engineers can benefit from a process flow by standardizing each phase and specifying resource needs.

Manufacturing process flows should be measurable, especially regarding inventory management and production times. You can use these numbers to create benchmarks and actionable goals for improvement.

Manufacturing flow management processes

The type of manufacturing flow management process you employ will depend on your industry.

For instance, retail business processes that provide a competitive edge may not benefit automobile manufacturers.

Below are a few business aspects that can apply to most industries:

  • Quality assurance: Once your goods have passed through the manufacturing process, quality assurance can ensure no defects or damages. In addition, it can outline contingencies should you come across a defect in the future.
  • Facility management: Part of demand management is ensuring your facility is in good shape. Otherwise, you could run into delays and potentially decrease profits. With flow charts, you can ensure tasks are consistent, and employees follow warehouse protocols, such as space usage and maintenance schedules.
  • Employee training: Streamlining your onboarding process ensures that new employees learn commercial supply chain activities quickly. In addition, it keeps everyone on the same page and puts less pressure on supply chain managers.
  • Equipment maintenance: An integral part of the product development process is ensuring all equipment is usable and in good shape. Creating comprehensive workflows for equipment can prevent downtime and ensure safety for all employees.
  • Order processing: Effectively meeting customer demands means streamlining your process for inbound production orders. Order processing workflows aim to stock materials according to accurate demand forecasts. In addition, it can tell you what products require more intricate assembly or which items to prioritize.
  • Customer service: Improving the customer relationship management process can do wonders for your supply chain and general workflow. You can enhance customer satisfaction and optimize supply chain activities when you quickly provide customer feedback to the appropriate teams.

Benefits of manufacturing flow management

If the benefits of manufacturing flow management still aren’t too clear, below are a few other advantages supply chain managers can enjoy.

  • Reduced manufacturing costs: Automating and standardizing workflows can make your product development process quicker, more efficient, and cheaper. You can cut down on costs and resources through automation.
  • Improved product quality: Many supply chain management software has real-time reporting capabilities, which can help you refine the product development process as you go. You can also discover defective components and find better solutions in your supply network through automation.
  • Increased data security: The most agile supply chain strategies no longer rely on paper-based data entry. If you want to keep up with competitors, reduce human error, and ensure your customers that their information is safe, adopting an automated flow management process can help you achieve these goals.
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction: Part of effectively meeting customer requirements is doing things as efficiently as possible. By digitizing workflows, you can receive accurate real-time data regarding customer inquiries and feedback.
  • Streamlined communications: Establishing a workflow process ensures that all employees know where to get the answers to their questions. Eliminate information silos and improve supplier relationship management by making communication channels clear and accessible.

How to document a process flow

Standardizing a key business process involves documenting it step-by-step. Below is a simple process you can follow when developing new workflows.

Step 1 – Name and define your process

Make your key business processes identifiable by creating descriptive titles.

For instance, you might choose something as simple as a “new product.” Then, define the scope of your process by assigning end deliverables, a primary objective, and success identifiers.

Step 2 – Develop a common objective

Your supply chain team should clearly understand the process’s objective. Define why the process exists and what it aims to solve to provide context.

Step 3 – Identify input and output variables

Key process input variables (KPIV) can impact your process during the input phase. These factors include time spent, resources required, and equipment.

Identifying these lets you determine what to do to achieve the project goal.

On the other hand, key process output variables (KPOV) can impact your process during the output phase. These factors can be final profits, the number of sales, and customer feedback.

Step 4 – Assign roles

Once you define the resources required to achieve your process goals, assign responsibilities to your supply chain team. Define these roles and their implications clearly. 

Step 5 – Outline the process visually

One of the best ways to put your key supply chain management processes into perspective is to represent them visually.

Process flow diagrams (PFD) visually represent the relationship between the components in your workflow with symbols and elements.

Key takeaways

Commercial supply chain management involves many moving parts that you can simplify into categorized workflows.

To optimize a manufacturing flow management process, remember that it puts critical business processes in perspective by outlining key players, resources, and timelines.

Creating a process flow standardizes operations, keeps teams accountable, saves money, and helps you meet customer demands more efficiently.

Looking to standardize workflows for your commercial supply chain teams?

If so, consider using Method:CRM to improve your distribution strategies through shared portals and custom workflows.

Manufacturing flow management process FAQs

What is flow management in the supply chain?

Flow management in the supply chain is a process that ensures goods and materials flow smoothly through the supply chain. Team members can use flow management processes to optimize projects.

What is meant by the manufacturing process?

The manufacturing process is when your business turns raw materials into finished goods with tools, machinery, or human labor. This process usually involves specific departments, resources, equipment, and timelines.

Is manufacturing part of supply chain management?

Manufacturing is part of supply chain management because it is one of its five elements: production planning, raw material sourcing, manufacturing, product distribution, and return processes.

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