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    How to Reduce Downtime in Manufacturing

    Table Of Contents

      The manufacturing sector is a testament to human innovation and the drive towards efficiency. Yet, amidst the relentless hum of machines and the intricate dance of assembly lines, an ever-present specter lurks: machine downtime.

      While to the untrained eye, it might seem like a mere blip in the operational timeline, downtime - whether planned or unplanned - can have profound implications on productivity, costs, safety, and morale. How can manufacturers reduce downtime?
      As we delve deeper into the intricate web of manufacturing processes, it becomes imperative to understand the nature of machine downtime, its types, and the far-reaching impacts it can have on a manufacturing enterprise.

      Decoding the Complexity of Downtime

      Downtime in the manufacturing realm is not a monolithic concept. It's a multifaceted phenomenon, borne out of many predictable events, others unforeseen. Understanding these variances is the first step toward addressing and mitigating their impacts.

      Unplanned downtime

      This is the Achilles' heel of any manufacturing setup. Such downtimes are sudden and unexpected, resulting from technical glitches, equipment malfunctions, tooling mishaps, or human errors. The unpredictability of such events often leads to significant disruptions, mainly if there's a lack of preventive maintenance or operator training.

      Planned downtime

      Contrary to its unplanned counterpart, this downtime is scheduled and foreseen. It might be for necessary activities like training sessions, team meetings, preventive maintenance, or scheduled events like equipment changeovers. However, just because it's planned doesn't mean it's optimized. Often, you can reduce downtimes with better planning and processes.

      Scheduled downtime

      The periods when the entire plant might be non-operational, such as during weekends, holidays, or designated non-working hours.

      Cycle or performance downtime

      An intriguing category, this downtime arises when there's a gap between expected outputs and actual outcomes. The reasons could be manifold - subpar maintenance, quality challenges, or unforeseen events that disrupt regular cycles.

      The Pervasive Impacts of Downtime

      The ripples created by machine downtime extend far beyond the immediate loss of production hours. Their repercussions can be felt across various facets of a manufacturing enterprise:

      Cost Implications

      Downtime is synonymous with financial drain. The financial ramifications can be staggering, be it the direct costs of part replacements, inflated spare parts inventory, or the indirect implications of reduced throughput. Reduce downtime to mitigate revenue loss.

      Safety Concerns

      Any discussion about manufacturing is incomplete without addressing safety. Downtimes, especially if they arise from equipment malfunctions or training lapses, can lead to accidents, jeopardizing worker safety and further affecting productivity.

      Service Levels and Reputation

      Manufacturing isn't just about producing goods; it's about delivering on promises. Downtimes can delay orders, extend lead times, and tarnish a company's reputation in the competitive market.

      Employee Morale

      A frequently overlooked aspect is that prolonged or frequent downtimes can erode employee morale. Workers can become disillusioned if they perceive constant downtimes arise from poor processes or a lack of resources.


      Measuring Downtime: The Foundations of Improvement

      As the adage goes, "What gets measured gets managed." Calculating downtime might seem elementary:
      Planned Time – Actual Operating Time = Hours of Downtime
      However, the modern manufacturing landscape, infused with digital technology, takes this further. Advanced tools and cloud-based analytics platforms now allow for a granular breakdown of downtime metrics - by shift, operator, machine type, and department. Such data-rich insights pave the way for targeted interventions and reduced downtimes.
      Amidst the vast ecosystem of the manufacturing world, data and analytics have emerged as pivotal tools in revealing and addressing the intricacies of downtime. Even as manufacturers intuitively understand the bane of downtime, many remain oblivious to its accurate scale and impact. Bridging this knowledge gap demands both technological intervention and a strategic approach.
      Plug-and-play Machine Connectivity

      Downtime Through the Lens of Technology

      The shift towards a connected manufacturing ecosystem - the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) - has illuminated aspects of downtime that were previously in the shadows. A stark revelation from a 2017 report titled "What is the True Downtime Cost (TDC)" highlighted a pervasive underestimation of downtime costs across the industry.
      With the advent of machine connectivity and sophisticated monitoring solutions, manufacturers now have insights into issues they were previously unaware of. A case in point: Carolina Precision harnessed the power of MachineMetrics to identify primary downtime culprits, subsequently boosting shop productivity by 20% and realizing savings of $1.5 million. Read the full story.

      Zooming into Downtime Causes

      To reduce downtime, it's crucial to recognize and understand its primary drivers:

      Process inefficiency

      Often, operational inefficiencies lie camouflaged as essential processes. Activities like equipment setup, tooling changes, or material swaps can significantly impact the ability to reduce downtime, especially when not continually measured, analyzed, or refined.

      Operator error

      Human operators, while indispensable, are prone to errors owing to fatigue, multitasking, or lack of training. Moreover, the impending skills gap, exacerbated by the retiring workforce, threatens to create a void in experiential knowledge transfer.

      Material downtime

      While efficient, the quest for lean inventory models can amplify downtime during supply chain disruptions. Balancing lean principles with robust demand forecasting is vital to reduce downtime.

      Maintenance problems

      Maintenance is a double-edged sword. While neglect can lead to equipment failures, over-maintenance can be equally detrimental. Employing connected devices and real-time data analytics can fine-tune maintenance schedules, transitioning from a reactive to a predictive analytics model. Read the “Roadmap to Digital Maintenance Automation” for more details.
      Optimizing Your Maintenance Strategy

      Cultural / management downtime

      An overlooked aspect of the organizational culture plays a pivotal role in downtime dynamics. Stressful, high-pressure environments can inadvertently escalate machine downtimes, underscoring the importance of realistic expectations and worker well-being. This is why it’s imperative to have accurate cycle time data to ensure realistic expectations.

      How to Reduce Downtime?

      With a clearer understanding of downtime's nuances, it's time to transition from insights to action. The foundation for this journey is data-driven analytics. Before manufacturers can dream of fully autonomous facilities, they must embrace data as their north star, guiding them to areas necessitating attention.
      A production downtime tracking solution provides accurate, real-time machine data and allows workers to log and categorize the causes of downtime.
      Here are some strategies to help reduce unplanned downtime:

      Automated tracking

      Transitioning from manual to automated tracking systems can offer a more comprehensive view of downtime metrics. By integrating platforms like MachineMetrics, operators can seamlessly categorize and log downtime causes, bolstering decision-making processes at managerial levels.

      Categorizing Machine Downtime Events

      With MachineMetrics, operators can easily categorize downtime events on tablets placed at machines. All of this data is collected and propagated in pre-built and customized reports.


      Operator empowerment

      Equipping operators with tools and interfaces, like tablets integrated with machine systems, can hasten downtime categorization and resolution. This symbiotic relationship between man and machine fortifies the operational fabric.


      Taking Action with Your Data

      Many manufacturers don’t have accurate downtime data. They’re unsure of the exact reasons or how much downtime costs the company. Many manufacturers are experiencing a skills gap and stressed resources. Adding manual data collection, analysis, and reporting only strains employees and resources further. This is why enabling a downtime tracking solution is so important.
      With the high cost of production and lack of accurate data, managers can’t make effective decisions to reduce downtime. Manufacturers must hone processes, reduce waste, and maximize machine utilization.
      MachineMetrics makes this possible without increasing already strained employees and resources. Our production monitoring software can give you insight into your downtime issues to improve processes and reduce downtime.
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