Industrial use of the word “productivity” has been found to have a variety of meanings depending on what industry is being referred to and which operating conditions prevail. Because of these two factors, it is important to clarify a basic definition and how it is applied. 

The dictionary states: “quality or state of being productive.” The word also means “producing in abundance and yielding results, then, it declares rate per unit area or unit volume.” Well, and good, simply put: physical units produced (by whatever means) for each time used to produce the units is the basic premise. In beverages, this is the cases produced for each labor hour worked or cases produced on each machine hour run.

Both ways, it’s time and quantity and that is basic and fundamental ― regardless of the viewpoint.

Of all the measuring techniques employed by producers and distributors, productivity is perhaps the most factual and positive way to analyze and evaluate whether improvement is or has taken place in an operation ― it is directly related to continuous improvement for whatever task is involved.

But, what are the necessary steps to ensure accurate data is used in making a productivity calculation? 

  • First, labor productivity is probably the best approach to exemplify the significance of accurate data accumulation and use. Beverage packaging installations have people assigned to various workstations who expend labor hours to either operate or attend machinery during the time of operation to produce a required quantity ― this is the key data source. Manual or computerized data recording systems may be used to capture the number of hours the crew spent on the line and the number of units produced ― the result, valid production data. Therefore, the definition of labor productivity is units produced among labor hours worked. 
  • Second, evaluation is another important factor to consider. However, when using the productivity result for evaluation, don’t try to make this year versus last year (or any other period) comparisons. This is because operating conditions constantly are changing and caution must be exercised is making such comparisons.
  • Third, machine productivity, which is equally important as labor, is a crucial facet of productivity. In many operations, computer monitors are installed on individual machines, allowing assessment of that specific equipment; however, packaging lines are scheduled as a whole. Therefore, as a practical matter, machine productivity usually is calculated for the entire line(s), even where multipurpose layouts are used. Therefore, the definition of machine productivity is units produced among machine hours run.

Machine productivity has an important variable because it reflects the amount of downtime by machine or line and prompts evaluation and/or analysis of emergency or preventive (and predictive) maintenance activity. It also provides a basis for handling manufacturers’ warranty, claim and performance situations. Again, this year versus last year comparisons of machine productivity are not recommended. In many operations, remember that machine conditions are more volatile than labor and might affect erroneous assessments of productivity. 

The productivity approach used for labor and machinery in production is applicable to other areas in the beverage arena: vending, vehicle loading, staging and more. Remember, productivity is a trend mechanism ― it tracks positive and negative improvements in any operation and affects the bottom line.