Growing demand? Here's how to increase production capacity effortlessly!

As we push to increase our brand awareness, we hope that the demand for what we make will increase, but with this comes the fear that our current production capacity might not be enough. We start to worry; How will we cope with larger numbers of orders needing to be fulfilled? What if we can’t keep up?

Today on the podcast I want to show you how to scale production in a way that keeps you effectively meeting demand.

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Understanding how to scale production capacity

Watch the video here;

Or Listen to the podcast here;

Mentioned in the podcast is the Craft Biz Incubator - my group coaching platform for craft businesses, which is now open for enrolment!

On with the show notes;

First, we need to switch our mindset from creator, to business owner and look at this situation with fresh eyes. Our first obstacle is learning to work like a factory and batch produce.

 
Batch production is a method of manufacturing where products are made several at a time. The number of products produced is determined by the effectiveness of ‘production capacity’; where people, processes and equipment vs. space are taken into consideration.
— Sara Millis
 

My God that sounds boring right? We thought that we were handmaking for the joy of individual creations and here I am suggesting we start working like a factory.

BUT here’s the thing;

In order to increase the numbers we produce and sell, we need to start batching our manufacturing process. So, instead of making just one product at a time, we make two, ten, or even more. Then when we get to 10 units at a time and we can see demand still growing, we need to consider how we can increase our batch to 20 and so on.

Depending on what you make batch size capabilities will vary. For example if you are a painter it might not be conducive to have more than two paintings on the go at one time, whereas if you are a soap maker, there may be little difference in making one, two, or ten bars of soap at a time.

As a hand-producer the idea of working more like a factory can feel like your soul being sucked away into oblivion, but this is the key to keeping up with demand as your business grows and ultimately making a wage from your art. I promise it really doesn’t have to be passionless, instead you are swapping creative individual pieces, to targeted highly crafted pieces that sell out… it’s still creative, it’s still unique and it’s still handmade if we want it to be!

 

What do we need in order to scale production?

  1. People – we need to understand how many people we need to fulfil increased batch sizes and the skills they need to do their individual jobs (these jobs can be outsourced if we do not wish to employ in-house)

  2. Processes – we need to understand what processes we can streamline to save production time, or which processes can be worked in multiples

  3. Equipment – we need to know exactly what equipment we will need in order to make larger batches of our products

  4. Space – we need to estimate how much extra room an increase in production will require

Depending on your situation and your dream of what your ultimate business looks like, you may have pre-imposed limits to some of these areas. For example, when I ran Sara’s Texture Crafts, although I dreamed of running a shop/dye studio for my yarns my health limited me to working from home. This gave me a limiting cap on how far I could go with batch producing my yarns… it came to about 20kg per week.

However, I am in no doubt that had my situation been different I would have considered employing staff in a dye studio/shop in order to grow my business further and my production cap would have been far higher as a result.

And I appreciate dreams vary, so my best advice is to be very honest with yourself from the beginning of your business – can you grow to a size that pays you a wage for the time you want to spend on your business. If the answer is ‘no’, because production capacity is such that you will never meet the demand you must seek in order to gain the revenue you need, then realistically your business will probably remain a side-hustle. And that’s ok, if that makes you happy – there is no shame in that! But realising it early on will help you in making necessary business, work and life decisions.

How to batch your manufacturing process effectively

The key to understanding how to increase your production capacity is in your production sample.

 
A production sample is a fully rendered product, made to retail standard, from which you can determine costs, manufacture time and future manufacture automation, or batching.
— Sara Millis
 

Have you made a production sample yet? No?! I recommend you make one now!!

Understanding the detail of your production sample, will help you create a batch action plan on;

  • Key processes that can be batched, cutting down on labour time and costs

  • Process order of manufacture

  • Material supply numbers needed to create an increased batch (which may cut costs if you meet supplier discount minimums)

  • New equipment that may help speed, or increase unit production, either as a whole or in part of your batch process

  • Space you may need for storage of; materials, works in progress, or retail units

  • Training you may need to provide staff, or specifications for manufacturers on process details

Once you have this you can then set yourself a production schedule which should include;

  • Material ordering times

  • Production days and how they can be split by product batches

  • Weekly schedule for the total number of  production days you need

  • Design time – allowing for new product or range inception

This is how I kept on top of producing for my website, as well as other selling platforms like; eBay, Amazon, Etsy, or craft shows and other events I attended with my yarn.

 

How to be better at batch producing

Once we understand the ‘how’ and have made all the necessary changes to increase our production capacity we can start batch producing.

This should certainly make all the difference to meeting the increasing demand for our product effectively. However, for those of us who struggle with organisation, or keeping to time, or meeting deadlines, falling away from a best laid plan will have consequences, with missed orders, or sub-standard batches. So how can we avoid this?

My best advice is to try the following;

  • Always make sure you have a clean workspace, tidying at the end of each batch produced – this isn’t only good cleanly practise, but it helps breed a positive mindset when you come back to your production space

  • Have a designated space for equipment and tools

  • At the beginning of each batch measure out, or cut your materials

  • Have a product manufacture process with you during production to keep on task

  • Have a production target on hand each day, or to do list

  • Use your customer communication to keep yourself accountable. I used to have an ‘order being dyed’ automated email I could trigger for custom orders to let customers know where their order was in my production process. By sending that email it was self-imposing a deadline, or a promise of commitment and this helped me to make sure things got done.

  • Reward yourself, only if you reach your production target in number and quality

 

Takeaway

Scaling your production capacity effectively will help you create more retail products to meet your growing demand… and in possibly less time and cost too! This will help us have the numbers of product in stock that we need in order to not only meet current demand, but to also strive for our preferred weekly sales target (the target which helps us get paid!)

Take your time to work out how you can scale production with your current set up and what changes you may need to make in order to meet the growing demand you are pushing for.

And bonus tip – It’s ok to scale more than once!

Over the years I ran my own craft business I ‘scaled’ my production capacity probably , three, four, or maybe even five times to get to my 20kg of yarn per week (200 skeins). I would never have been able to do it all at once, because I didn’t have the money, the customers or the equipment and space. I moved to a new house twice, I invested heavily twice, and I spent many, many hours marketing in order to get brand awareness working for me in terms of sales growth. So, take your time and do what makes sense, one step at a time.

 

Resources

  1. If you need to free up finance for investment then I recommend you read – 5 reasons to know your business expenses

  2. Looking to grow your sales this year? Read this – 6 important ways to boost your online store sales this year or grab my freebie!

Before you go tell me; if you had £1000 to invest in increasing your production capacity today, what would you spend it on?

I’d love to hear from you – comment below 👇 or email me!

 

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