Need to know how to increase capacity?
Are you one of those food businesses who has adapted and survived through the various lock-downs and built a new and different customer base but are suddenly realizing you are going to struggle to keep up with demand? Or maybe you started during the pandemic and your sales have really taken off and you just can’t keep up?
Either way you know its time to start finding ways to increase the amount you can produce and in this article we consider the 3 fundamental ways of increasing capacity.
1. Improve your processes
This is the best place to start when you need to increase your capacity and make more products. If you can make your processes more efficient then you make more in the same available time.
So how do you start?
Begin with listing out your processes on paper, identifying each stage in the process. Ideally do it with someone else as you might look at it from different perspectives. Then consider why the process is the way it is. Ask yourself:
- Are there times when it is delayed waiting for equipment?
- How much do you make in each batch?
- How much backwards and forwards do you have fetching ingredients, etc?
- Does everyone follow the same process? Are there any shortcuts?
- Where is the waste in your process?
You get the general idea. The more you look in detail, the more questions you will stimulate. Once you have done this then make sure to walk the production process to check you have captured everything.
As you review your process you will start to see opportunities for improvement and making it more efficient. If you generate lots of ideas you might want to prioritise them based on ease of implementation and potential benefit.
Perhaps you already feel that your processes are pretty efficient so you might want to start investigating how you could incorporate some lean principles. If you are interested in finding out more then the Lean Institute website, www.lean.org, is a good starting point.
2. Staffing to increase capacity
The next logical step is to review your staffing levels. Decide whether you need to increase your capacity temporarily (due to seasonality or promotion) or permanently. Depending on the reason will help you decide the best options for changes to staff levels. Some ideas to consider for temporary changes:
- Annualised hours : Could you look at staff contracts so that extra hours are worked at busier times and less hours are worked at quieter times. Staff still receive same salary each month but it helps to manage some of the peaks and troughs in demand
- Change existing staff hours : Have you thought about spreading out the day so that nobody is waiting for equipment and everyone has space to work ?
- Use of seasonal staff: Recruiting less skilled seasonal staff for short term peaks can be a cost effect ‘boost’, freeing up more experienced staff to focus on the more skilled jobs.
- Part-timers flexing their hours: This can be a temporary fix for a short term peak in demand
- Staff multi skilled: With training, the more staff can be multi-skilled and do most jobs the better.
If you need more permanent increases to capacity then beginning with one of the ideas above will give you some breathing space to recruit more staff.
3. Review your equipment
So after looking at your processes and staffing levels it makes sense to consider your equipment. Think about times in your process that staff are waiting for equipment. It might only be small items such as baking tins but will make a huge difference. You might be at the point in your growth that its sensible to consider larger equipment to make bigger batches. Some of your products or steps in your process may be handmade where a machine could do it much more quickly.
Obviously in equipment purchases require cash investment so depending on what you need you might choose to do a combination of all the ideas suggested.
Hopefully this article has helped you to think of some of the areas to consider when you need to increase your capacity in your food business. There is also a free guide, ‘5 Steps to Scaling your Food Business’ which can download here.