What is Machine Downtime, and How can Production Managers Reduce it?

According to an article posted by the International Society of Automation, the total cost of unplanned downtime for all the process industries worldwide is “easily in the range of $1 trillion.” This figure doesn’t even account for dollars lost during planned downtime, so manufacturers must continuously seek ways to improve labor productivity, equipment efficiency and processes. In this post, we’ll consider, “what is machine downtime?” and then we’ll discuss some ways to calculate and reduce it.

What is machine downtime?

Simply put, machine downtime is any period of time (planned or unplanned) during which an equipment or machine is not functional or cannot work. Unplanned downtime often is a result of human error and inefficiency such as slow changeover and lack of knowledge or ability to complete tasks. Poor processes and inadequate maintenance are also common causes of unplanned downtime. On the other hand, planned machine downtime is frequently attributed to maintenance, cleaning, and upgrading equipment. Because it is a known and controlled type of downtime, planned downtime won’t be part of our focus.

How do you calculate unplanned machine downtime? 

Most production managers can tell you their downtime in hours, but not all think through how much it actually costs. Getting buy-in from key stakeholders to make your recommended changes often requires informing them what is being lost in terms of dollars and not overlooking any costs. To consider the true cost of downtime, you should consider a number of factors such as lost revenue from not producing actual goods, loss in labor productivity, costs devoted to rescheduling runs and repairing equipment, and intangible costs like public relations (time spent setting things right with customers and managing your reputation). Taking these items into account, your formula for downtime would be:

Lost Revenue $ + Lost Productivity $ + Recovery Cost $ + Intangible Cost $ = Cost of Downtime

How can production managers reduce unplanned machine downtime?

  1. Know your equipment. When you are doing regular maintenance, check for the following:
    • Do you have spare parts readily available along with drawings and instructions on fixing common breakdowns? 
    • Is the equipment obsolete? If you can no longer fix it quickly (e.g. replacement parts are no longer in production or you have to order parts and/or tooling that will take any significant amount of time), plan to replace that equipment as soon as is feasible.
  2. Provide a safe working environment. Injuries mean lost productivity. Check for the following on your shop floor:
    • Are employees wearing proper attire and working protective equipment? 
    • Are machines equipped with protective mechanisms, and are they in good working order? Are they being properly maintained?
    • Do workers know and follow standard safety and best practices and protocol?
  3. Reduce cycle time. Reducing cycle time in manufacturing not only prevents downtime, but it also makes sure your customers are happy, getting what they need when they need it. Here are some ways you can reduce cycle time:
    • Make sure the working space is properly organized. By reducing the distance needed to retrieve something, eliminating unnecessary equipment, and clearly labeling all tools, workers eliminate wasted time trying to retrieve a tool. Use the 5S lean manufacturing technique to ensure your work areas are set for optimal performance.
    • Make sure best practices and standard procedures are established, followed, and regularly reviewed. Once a new procedure is discovered to have better results, it becomes the baseline so that continuous improvement is always possible.
    • Get insights into your shop floor. Using a shop floor management platform will help you to locate problem areas and make adjustments that will reduce and prevent future downtime. Look for a cloud-based platform with production pace timers, andon systems, dispatch features, rules engines and integration capabilities.  

While there is a lot about machines that are out of your control, the factors that humans play in downtime can and should be managed. Check out our resources for more shop floor management and manufacturing tips and information. And if you would like to get all the tools you need to reduce downtime and increase efficiency in one easy-to-use system, contact us today.


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