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How to Gain Operational Efficiency Over Your Competitors

By Gene Ligman
Manufacturing efficiency

In the current market, producers in every industry are facing tough competition. Every opportunity to increase operational efficiency is worth considering. Efficiency leads to increased revenue, and increased revenue leads to happy investors. Efficiency is key to competing... 

 

How Vacuum Pumps Can Increase Operational Efficiency

Pump-down times are built into production times and are sometimes considered immutable. They're just part of the process. But with new and improved vacuum pump technology, lower pump-down times are now a real possibility. This means increased efficiency that can yield impressive results in your production numbers over the course of a year. 

Take, for example, an industrial leak tester for automobile radiators at a plant in Indiana. Their pump-down time on each machine was about 12 seconds. By upgrading their vacuum pumps, they reduced that time to 8 seconds per machine. That reduced cycle time profoundly impacted their production. They were able to test thousands more radiators each year, resulting in revenues that quickly paid for the pump upgrades. 

 

"If I reduce my cycle times, I will throw off my workers’ schedules." 

Every manufacturing plant operates on a unique schedule, timed down to the minute or even to the second. If you reduce your pump-down times by several seconds, you may have to rework some of your routines. But, as mentioned before, efficiency is key to competing.

A factory in Portland puts coatings on plastic parts for various applications. They needed to replace some of their vacuum pumps because their older equipment had been phased out. A Leybold representative showed them how they could get increased production by upgrading their pumps. Better pumps would reduce their pump-down time substantially. Initially, they were concerned that their workers' schedules would be thrown off and that they wouldn't be able to make use of the faster pump-down times. But, since they needed to replace their pumps anyway, they decided to give it a try. 

Within a few months, the increased efficiency meant they were able to hire another worker to operate the machinery faster. The more efficient pumps paid for that additional worker several times over.

 

More Efficient Use of Power 

Many plants face restrictions on the amount of power they can draw from the electrical grid. Nationwide, many electrical grids have little to no extra capacity. In these areas, manufacturing companies have to apply for permission to put in an extra power supply. 

One solution many manufacturers are trying is exporting production to locations with fewer restrictions. However, as we're quickly discovering, moving to a new location is quite a disruptive evolution. 

Therefore, if you want to increase production, it makes sense to seek out ways to improve the production capability of the equipment you already have in use. Improving your vacuum pumps is a significant and reliable way to do that. A Leybold representative can help you calculate just how much you would save per machine each year.

 

More Efficient Use of Labor

Facilities are also facing tight employment. This is a reflection of our current phase in the economic cycle. Right now, it's very hard to find a competent worker. The more technical the work, the more expensive and difficult it is to find someone reliable to do it. If you're working with a minimized crew, as many are, you are probably seeking ways to reduce their burden. 

One way to reduce the burden on this strained labor force is to reduce the amount of maintenance required for your vacuum equipment. For example, traditional oil-sealed pumps require regular oil changes and disruptive repairs when those changes aren’t made. By switching to dry vacuum pumps, you remove this requirement altogether. Dry pumps require drastically less maintenance. This frees up your workers to do the important, money-making work they were hired to do. 

 

Case in Point: Downtime in Botanical Production

Vacuum pumps are a critical component in botanical processing. In many cases, people are using cheap Chinese oil pumps. They have to change the oil at least once per week, and sometimes every day. Let's say it takes an hour to change the oil once per week. Some of these botanical facilities generate thousands of dollars per hour. So you can imagine the impact that one hour per week (or 52 hours per year) of downtime would make on their annual revenues. The cost of an upgraded pump, when viewed at that level, suddenly seems very reasonable. 

 

Inaction Is Your Most Costly Decision

Sometimes it's hard to prioritize the best maintenance plan or equipment upgrades because there are too many fires to put out elsewhere. It can be hard to think beyond the urgent. 

But, if you choose inaction in these competitive times, you are likely missing out on revenues that could be accumulating on a daily or even hourly basis. 

You might be shocked by how much money you're leaving on the table. Inaction is costing much more than you think. 

 

Financing Makes Action Possible

Leybold, for one, is always open to financing new equipment. Your upgraded pumps will increase your operational efficiency as soon as they're installed, and you'll have a reasonable monthly payment. This means that you can be in cash flow positive from day one.

Financing may be especially helpful for maintenance managers who would like to see their vacuum pumps upgraded. You can present a plan in which payment for the upgraded pumps is covered by your maintenance budget. 

 

Final Considerations

Keeping your facilities modern, quiet, and safe is critical to remaining competitive. 

  • When a top client walks in the door, you want them to see modern, high-powered facilities. This gives them confidence that you're up to the task. 
  • Upgraded pumps make for quieter equipment. Mistakes happen in facilities where noise prevents workers from hearing each other. 
  • The best workers want quiet facilities and quality equipment. Investing in high-quality equipment is critical to retaining high-quality personnel. 

Upgraded vacuum pumps make a significant improvement in operational efficiency. They increase production without increasing power consumption, which is often a limited commodity. They also reduce the maintenance burden on an already strained workforce. Manufacturers in all industries can see greater operational efficiency from these improvements. 

 

Tags: Insider, Industrial, Industrial & Process Vacuum, vacuum pump

About Gene Ligman

Gene Ligman

Gene Ligman is an engineer with a passion for vacuum applications and equipment. He started his engineering career over 30 years ago in the nuclear power industry where he was first introduced to the utility of vacuum in steam systems and some basic vacuum generating equipment. In the mid 1990’s, he joined Edwards Vacuum where his knowledge of vacuum applications and equipment expanded exponentially.

Having a degree in mechanical engineering with a focus on vapor physics has propelled him to become one of the primary resources in applications where phase change creates complexities above and beyond the normal complexities of vacuum applications. Now with Leybold USA, Gene is a Sales Development Manager for Leybold’s largest and most industrial vacuum generating equipment. He trains the US organization in key insights about how the right vacuum equipment can radically improve the productivity and profitability of vacuum using factories. These insights, along with his passion for vapor physics makes him a leading authority in vacuum system design for cannabis processing facilities.

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