Non-core activities can be simplified and improved with outsourcing

Can outsourcing simplify and improve non-core paint shop and chemical management activities?

By Scott Follett

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For a manufacturing facility to stay ahead of its competition, it must focus resources and employees on making high-quality goods and services the market wants. In many cases, non-core paint shop and chemical management activities, important support activities not directly involved in production, often are viewed as a headache, fall by the wayside or are performed at below optimum levels.

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Because so much attention is focused on manufacturing, often there's little time to attend to non-production activities. However, they are a critical part of a plant's assembly line and have the power to slow down and even stop production.

The trend of outsourcing these activities which provides numerous financial and environmental benefits is becoming increasingly popular within automotive manufacturing and is spreading into a variety of other industries.

Savings realized by customers that have implemented an outsourcing program for paint line cleaning.

Is outsourcing worth it?

A successful outsourcing program revolves around a plant's specific needs. Outsourcing activities, such as paint detackification, water treatment, spray booth balance, paint system cleaning, logistics and warehousing, offer a competitive advantage by enabling the plant to focus on its core competencies, in turn, improving quality and throughput and reducing total cost.

Depending on the program's scope of work, outsourcing many paint shop tasks can generate other important benefits, including a cleaner environment; a single point of contact for manufacturing, accounting and purchasing; and continuous process improvements. Most plants begin witnessing these benefits almost immediately after implementing their paint shop program. Aside from these benefits, an established outsourcing program allocates adequate resources to paint shop practices that may not have been optimized before.

Although outsourcing these activities might seem a bit overwhelming at first, it's a manageable concept. An experienced outsourcing service company will guide you through every step of the process to ensure a smooth transition of the paint shop responsibilities and ensure the program provides your plant with the greatest benefits.

Taking the first step

When a manufacturing facility decides to outsource its paint shop activities, it must identify areas that outsourcing would improve. Managing paint shop processes, chemical management, securing paint shop maintenance supplies, water treatment, general cleaning and filter management are among the activities often considered for outsourcing.

Whether these or other activities come to mind, there is time-consuming, inconvenient, costly work inside every manufacturing facility's paint shop, characteristics that make the tasks prime outsourcing candidates. To help determine which activities are best to outsource, the services company should conduct an audit of the current paint-related processes and apply its expertise and experience to predict savings. This formula identifies the greatest potential for improvement. The audit's complexity depends on the number of candidate tasks chosen for evaluation. While audit details are usually considered proprietary, an audit aims to evaluate the potential for total cost savings by performing a detailed cost analysis of a plant's existing processes.

A typical audit requires participation from the manufacturing facility and its employees to help the service provider understand the plant's background; the material, manpower and equipment used in current procedures; the processes in place; and associated costs. Supplying this information helps the service provider identify the best course of action for the plant.

Outsourcing certain services can help plant employees who must deal with many non-core activities and suppliers.

Making the transition

After the service company analyzes the data, it should be able to compare the total cost to outsource the activities to the plant's current total costwhich reinforces the benefits of outsourcing the chosen tasks. The services company, together with plant personnel, then can define the program scope.

The next step is to produce responsibility charts that define tasks for each area. These documents state clearly which workers are responsible for which tasks during each program phase.

After the manufacturing facility finalizes the job specifications, a transition period is required before implementing the program. This varies with the size and complexity of the program. Regardless of the time the transition takes, it is critical it be seamless to prevent interrupting production.

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