Manufacturing downtime is one of the biggest problems in manufacturing.

In today’s blog, we’ll be discussing what manufacturing downtime is and how you can reduce manufacturing downtime to ensure you optimize your operations. 

What is Manufacturing Downtime?

Manufacturing downtime refers to any period of time when a machine is not in production. In essence, the machine is out of order and as a result, the factory is not producing product. Manufacturing downtime interrupts operations and can negatively impact margins. Moreover, when left unchecked, it can affect employee efficiency, inventory planning, and cycle and lead time.

Two Types of Manufacturing Downtime

There are two main categories of manufacturing downtime: planned and unplanned.

Comparison of two types of manufacturing downtime
1. Planned Downtime

Planned downtime occurs when a machine is scheduled to be down. While planned downtime is definitely more ideal than unplanned downtime, it still affects revenue. So, the goal is to get the machine up and running again as soon as possible. But, sometimes this isn’t the case and delays affect a company’s overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and contribution margins. Some examples of planned downtime include:

  • Routine maintenance activities: this can include cleaning, lubricating, inspecting, and detecting minor problems before they become bigger problems and causing the production line to shut down.
  • Product changeover: this is a process that occurs when a manufacturing plant, or factory, switches from producing one product to a different one during a planned downtime. 
2. Unplanned Downtime

Unplanned downtime occurs when a machine stops operating due to an unexpected event. Stops can occur at any time without notice, and can last any length of time as well. Consequently, this creates massive backups along the production line. Some examples of unplanned downtime include:

  • Hardware failure: this refers to when a part of a machine breaks or malfunctions and therefore, a machine has to unexpectedly stop
  • Material shortages: materials are essential for any and every manufacturing business. So, when a machine is experiencing material shortages, it means production cannot continue.
  • Missing operator: depending on the circumstances, a missing operator can be seen as planned or unplanned downtime. If an operator is not scheduled to be at work during a certain time or day, then this would be considered as planned downtime as the company did not expect the operator to be there. But, if an operator was expected to work, but is absent, then this is obviously seen as unplanned downtime. 

The Impact of Downtime in Manufacturing

Just like there are various reasons for manufacturing downtime, there are various impacts it can have on a company. 

Planned downtime that isn’t supported by optimized production processes, such as proactive preventive maintenance and for product changeovers, drains resources. Similarly, unplanned downtime due to equipment failures and material shortages reduces efficiency and productivity, and threatens the ability to complete orders. The impact of manufacturing downtime include:

  • Cost: manufacturing downtime can be costly. This is because there is lower efficiency and throughput, costs for replacement parts are higher as you’ll need expedited delivery, and you have an increase in spare parts. 
  • Decreased productivity: whenever an equipment failure occurs or an operator is unable to work, this stops the production flow and leaves the business with an unproductive workflow.
  • Lower service levels: if a manufacturing downtime event threatens repeat orders, the completion of current orders, or longer lead times, then it can reach a crises level. Each time manufacturing downtime occurs, it accumulates to create a loss that could negatively affect orders. 
  • Lower employee morale: manufacturing downtime, especially unplanned downtime, can be stressful for employees. This is because impacted teams are going to feel the blow of such a critical error, while other teams may doubt the competence of the overall company as well as the teams involved.

How to Reduce Manufacturing Downtime

In addition to scheduling planned downtime regularly, there are several other things you can do reduce manufacturing downtime in your operations. These include:

1. Implement Preventive Maintenance

One of the most proactive things you can do to reduce manufacturing downtime is to implement preventive maintenance into your organization. Preventive maintenance should be an important aspect of any manufacturing plant or factory’s maintenance routine. But, scheduling preventive maintenance activities requires a lot of manual work. So, you can simplify this by digitally logging each machine’s maintenance history. For example, you can record how often maintenance has been completed for each machine, when it has been completed, what was completed, and which steps of the maintenance activity took the longest. 

2. Perform Risk Audits

Performing risk audits helps you identify which equipment needs service, poses a safety risk, is outdated, or needs replacing. What’s more, it can help you identify problems before they actually happen, which can ultimately reduce manufacturing downtime. 

3. Upgrading Hardware and Software

A machine is only as good as its parts. So, once you’ve audited your equipment, ensure that every aspect of your manufacturing machinery is the best. Moreover, you should consider bringing your machines online if you want to efficiently reduce manufacturing downtime. The easiest way to prevent unplanned downtime is to start simple by monitoring uptime and downtime objectively. By using machine monitoring applications, you automatically receive an objective read of downtime so that you’re not left wondering about any errors. You’ll also be able to automatically track machine status and create a huge database. 

4. Employee Training

Training your employees is essential if you want to reduce manufacturing downtime that is caused by human errors. If an error occurs and results in unplanned downtime, taking the time to properly identify and determine the root cause of the error can result in meaningful learning. In short, keep all your employees up-to-date with any relevant technical expertise. 

5. Plan for the Unexpected

Planning for the unexpected may be another lengthy process. However, to reduce manufacturing downtime, ensure that you have contingency plans that can help you mitigate the consequences from an unexpected event. Doing this can help you get your manufacturing processes up and running again with minimal worries. 

6. Ensure Visibility

Reduce manufacturing downtime by having complete visibility over your operations. Nowadays, most companies are able to do so with the help of a manufacturing software that can track sales trends and accurately forecast product demand.