A resource from the leaders in simulation training.

Happy New Year, Troubleshooters! We hope you had an awesome holiday season! 

In honor of the new decade, today we’re returning to our core topic—reducing manufacturing downtime. It’s why we exist. Unplanned downtime costs—big time—and anything that you can do to reduce it will make you the hero of your manufacturing enterprise. 

Manufacturing downtime is hugely expensive

Industry researchers have found that the average downtime episode lasts 1.5 to 4 hours and costs between $30,000 and $50,000 while production crews sit idle waiting for machines to come back online, and then earn overtime while the plant plays catch up to make its quotas. The costs are higher than that in many industries, for example the auto industry, where it has been estimated to cost $22,000 per minute.  Almost every factory loses at least 5% of production capacity due to unplanned downtime, and many lose as much as 20%.

Know your true cost of downtime

As shocking as the above numbers are, though, they don’t show the whole picture. There are also additional, hidden costs to downtime (such as reduced responsiveness, leading to lower customer satisfaction; stress on machines and employees; and loss of innovation because employees are putting out “fires”). Make sure you know how to calculate your true downtime costs, because you can use this information to persuade upper management that it’s worth taking action to limit it.

Top six ways to reduce downtime

  1. Track your downtime.

Know it, track it, own it. Record all instances of unplanned downtime and calculate much they cost, including intangibles so far as you can. Knowing the size of the problem is the first step in getting it under control.

  1. Have a risk audit done

A thorough manufacturing risk audit will point out potential issues that can be tackled proactively, such as aging equipment at risk for failure, systems that are no longer supported by their manufacturers, equipment with difficult-to-replace parts that can severely prolong downtime, potential issues along the supply chain, and the existence of technology upgrades that can help you manage your suppliers more effectively.

  1. Implement a plant modernization plan.

Have a plan and budget in place for upgrading equipment and processes proactively, beginning with the highest-risk targets outlined in the audit. 

  1. Ensure equipment operators are properly trained.

Improper use of equipment is a major cause of equipment failure. Employee ignorance of the limitations of a machine’s capabilities and environmental needs (such as good airflow, or protection from dust in the surrounding area) can result in costly downtime and equipment repair or even replacement. Employees need to be trained in the proper use of all equipment, and to recognize warning signals to watch for that machinery is nearing the point of breakdown.

  1. Develop and implement a comprehensive maintenance plan.

Having a comprehensive maintenance strategy is one of the most important things you can do to reduce downtime. A comprehensive strategy should include predictive, preventive, and condition-based maintenance. 

Predictive maintenance is considered the most efficient, because it uses IoT technology such as embedded temperature and vibration sensors to predict equipment failures before they happen, so they can be dealt with before production is disrupted. Predictive maintenance saves money because it is scheduled during planned downtime, and because repairs are done only when needed. 

Preventive maintenance, on the other hand, is regularly scheduled maintenance that is done whether the equipment needs it or not, during planned downtime. It’s not as efficient as predictive maintenance because you’re still performing some level of unnecessary maintenance, but it’s still more efficient than waiting for the line to go down and then attacking the problem. Eighty percent of maintenance professionals swear by preventive maintenance, so it should not be discounted. 

Condition-based maintenance, also known as reactive, refers to repairing failures once they’ve already happened. Unlike predictive and preventive maintenance, condition-based maintenance happens during unplanned downtime, so it is far more expensive. The only trouble is, it can’t be avoided. Neither predictive nor preventive maintenance can completely prevent equipment failure. So, when unplanned downtime does happen, it is still massively expensive and needs to be dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible. Which brings us to point 6…

  1. Train maintenance staff to diagnose and repair equipment failures quickly, efficiently, and safely.

Properly trained maintenance professionals can diagnose and repair electrical faults in production line machinery quickly and safely, reducing unplanned downtime. The Simutech Training System uses  realistic, computer-based, 3D simulations to teach a proven, systematic diagnostic method that prevents guesswork and needless replacing of expensive parts. Simutech also constantly reinforces best safety practices to reduce accidents, injuries, and damage to machinery. 

As you can see, half of the battle is thinking proactively to prevent equipment failure, and the other half is having properly trained staff who can troubleshoot equipment failures quickly and safely when they do happen.

Okay, Troubleshooters, that’s it for today. Hope you can join us again next week!

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