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reduce workplace downtime

Why do you need to reduce machine downtime in manufacturing?

Unplanned downtime can cost a manufacturing company thousands of dollars every hour, which over the years, can add up to a substantial avoidable cost to a manufacturer and a loss of competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Downtime events such as production line failure can impact the entire manufacturing supply line. According to the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), the cost of downtime events can cost anywhere between $2300 and $9000 a minute, depending on the size of the factory and the industry. These figures might seem high, however, the cost of equipment failures compounds the other costs of doing business as we will discuss later.

Companies typically underestimate the costs of downtime and its impact on capacity.

Manufacturers’ improvement in efficiency has meant that time on machines and outputs has increased dramatically in modern manufacturing, so unscheduled downtime with equipment failure is an increasing cost to manufacturers.

Those companies who have a reduced downtime over the long term have a competitive advantage over companies who regularly need to halt production unexpectedly.

Why do manufacturers experience downtime?

There are two types of downtime events that most manufacturers experience; unplanned downtime and planned downtime.

Studies have suggested that more than 80% of manufacturing companies experience some form of unplanned downtime in three years of operation. This is a very high number since scheduled downtime is designed to reduce the risk of unplanned stoppages.

Unplanned downtime

A downtime event can be caused by multiple factors, such as machine or software failure, industrial accident, human error or power outages. In fact, according to research, the most common cause of unplanned downtime is equipment failure.

Equipment failure can fall under the 4M model; man; methods, materials, and machine. As we will discuss later, the solutions to reducing downtime and reaching production goals address at least one or more of the causes of downtime issues in the 4M model.

A recent study examined the cause of machine failure in the manufacturing industry, and identified four main causes: fatigue (44%), corrosion (18%), overload (15%), corrosion fatigue (13%) and wear out (10%).

Wear out is the lowest cause of unplanned downtime because signs of wear and tear should be noticeable during routine maintenance and planned downtime.

Reducing wear and tear (fatigue) has a direct effect on machine downtime at manufacturing plants.

Planned downtime

Planned downtime is usually for scheduled maintenance of machinery and aims to reduce the more expensive and potentially devastating impact of unplanned downtime. There is also downtime for repairs on wearing components, upgrades and reset of machinery.

An efficient manufacturing plant can minimize downtime through an effective maintenance schedule.

Measuring downtime costs in the manufacturing process?

For accurate measurement of manufacturing downtime, it is important to include when machines are not operating optimally. When machinery is not running optimally, production value loss must be accounted for as a cost.

One of the key measures of downtime cost is the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) model. The OEE looks at the operation, maintenance and management of manufacturing equipment and the resources available, against the availability of the machinery, performance rates, and quality of the machinery. It can be a complex formula across a whole factory or production floor. However, it can be simplified when looking at the components of what make up the downtime events’ cost.

The difference between the optimal operation of the machinery against the actual availability (unplanned and scheduled maintenance downtime), performance rates (non-optimal operation), and quality of the machinery (wear) contribute to the cost of manufacturing a unit.

When downtime occurs the costs get further complicated. When assessing the cost of a downtime event, a manufacturer needs to consider the hours of operation in the production line, the time of the downtime, the number of units produced at optimal performance, the profit per unit, and the expense of labour lost due to downtime. All these factors contribute to cost.

It’s easy to see how downtime costs can blow out to thousands of dollars a minute.

overall equipment effectiveness

The biggest contributor to cost

According to a Forbes article on downtime at manufacturing plants, the biggest problem is that manufacturing process and plant floor operations run to a reactive or run-to-fail model where machine maintenance is only done after a failure of the system. Manufacturers that work with this system usually lack real-time visibility in manufacturing, rely on manuals or paper-based assessments of performance indicators instead of using production monitoring software, have information silos where concerns are not shared, experience poor equipment reliability, and have to work machines harder the optimal levels to get orders completed.

Reducing downtime requires a high level of awareness of the wear and tear of machines.

How to reduce downtime in manufacturing

When looking at reducing downtime in manufacturing it’s important to maintain awareness of how wear and tear affect man and machine.

Keep a log of downtime events

Ineffective maintenance is a key contributor to downtime for the manufacturing plant. To reduce downtime in manufacturing, businesses need to maintain a log of downtime in the workplace. Understand where stresses occur in the production line and how to reduce their impact. The log should give managers and workers a clear picture of what areas to monitor and inspect regularly to reduce downtime.

With comprehensive notes on downtime, a plan can be implemented to train factory floor workers at stress points, upgrade equipment, and/or work out a process solution that helps the sections to run more effectively.

Maintain strong schedule maintenance and downtime preventative processes

Routine maintenance is not something that should be done at the point when systems are stressed as each component suffers wear and tear at different rates. Routine preventive maintenance should be part of the process, and those staff involved in the maintenance should have the skills necessary to properly assess the equipment.

There should also be comprehensive reporting from workers conducting the maintenance to ensure maintenance is done comprehensively and to flag any concerns on wear and tear.

Floor cleaning in manufacturing

Unsurprisingly, a clean workspace can reduce unplanned stoppages in factories and manufacturing plants. For example, Magnetech is a magnetic sweeping product that removes even small fragments of metal from a workspace. It ensures that metal fragments are removed from near vital moving components and provides a safe working environment for workers. It helps to minimise wear and tear in machinery and can help in reducing running costs by reducing downtime.

Staff training

As discussed earlier, Man is one of the four causes of unplanned stoppages. Maintaining machinery and training the maintenance team to identify stresses in machinery can go a long way to addressing a problem before it leads to a catastrophic failure of equipment. Production line employees should have knowledge about how to identify stress, and when their equipment is showing signs of inefficiency. This helps to decrease downtime.

Assessing processes

There is a lot of software available to help assess the inputs and outputs to help reduce manufacturing downtime. It can also provide real-time data on areas of productivity to quickly identify where machinery is starting to fail or is being overworked when stress becomes a concern.

Set goals for the capabilities of the manufacturing process

Machinery, work effectiveness and materials available give managers a clear idea of the capabilities of a plant. One of the major causes of breakdown and machinery failure is overworking the equipment to meet demand, rather than managing demand to the capabilities of a plant.

Improve communication between the production line employees and the management

Managers need to champion communication that helps to reduce the risk to workers and to the manufacturing process. If the focus is squarely on outputs and meeting external expectations great than the capacity of the materials or equipment then this is a dangerous environment that is prone to unplanned stoppages and breakdowns.

Reduce downtime is the goal

While it might be impossible to eliminate downtime, a manufacturing plant should aim to eliminate unplanned stoppages through effective communication, training, maintenance, and identification of vulnerable processes to downtime.

While the is an increased amount of software available to manage and monitor outputs from a manufacturing plant, the backbone of any successful downtime reduction plan is through developing the right culture and to champion processes that reduce wear and tear on machinery.

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