Don’t let machine downtime ruin your throughput
Do you ever experience unscheduled downtime of production-critical machinery and equipment?
Downtime often lasts too long and casts a long shadow. Frequently, you need to locate a skilled specialist who can analyze the problem and bring that expert to the site where the repair is needed. You may also need to source parts or tools. For many companies, sudden downtime without any associated penalties cannot be longer than a few minutes. After that, it turns into an escalating headache.
Quickly expanding quagmires of unplanned downtime
Most immediately, unplanned downtime affects machine operators, who cannot continue working their shift. The maintenance manager jumps into action and rushes somebody to the stopped machine.
If downtime lasts, production managers also have reason to worry. They may have to reassign production to another machine, reschedule materials shipments or pause other machines that run within the same workflow as the one that went down.
An operations manager may need to get involved, especially when other resources and activities are impacted by machine downtime. Shortly after that, the people responsible for sales and services may need to talk to customers and renegotiate delivery times.
When downtime occurs, some companies will carry on producing, at least for a while. If production is not entirely in sync and run on a just-in-time basis, downstream machinery may continue running with the backlog produced by the machine that failed.
Machines in the production process leading up to the disrupted asset may continue operating as well. In these situations, you might produce items that are not needed at the moment and can go into inventory.
That may result in unproductive employee activities and inventory movements, adding to downtime penalties. Sooner or later, intermediate products will pile up or the downstream process is out of material, and production has to halt.
In lean manufacturing, the production process stops when a critical machine fails; you don’t produce unneeded items for inventory and you don’t encourage your people to look busy. Instead, you resolve the problem as efficiently and quickly as you can.
The downtime scenario may be more dramatic if it affects a machine you installed at a customer site. If the machine is under warranty or if you provide maintenance services, you have to act quickly, or you might compromise the quality of the customer experience. If the event reoccurs, you put customer retention at risk.
The kind of downtime many companies overlook
Unplanned machine failure is not the only cause of downtime. There is also the more silent downtime that may not alarm anybody.
Companies take machines or entire production lines down to make adjustments for different products, materials, or specifications. Perhaps most employees don’t think of such changeovers as downtime, but it cuts into the productivity of people and industrial assets.
Scheduled maintenance also can be considered downtime when it happens during periods when normally a machine would be running.
At the least, silent downtime increases your overhead and costs. In the worst case, it may also endanger your customer relationships, especially when a competitor manages planned downtime differently or avoids it entirely.
Downtime is not a simple phenomenon. Its impact can spread from one machine to a production line, across the operation and on to your customers. To precisely measure downtime damage to your business, you need to consider all the consequences.
Downtime correction and prevention depends on real-time data
Almost all manufacturers will do everything in their power to avoid unplanned downtime, and many also aim to minimize scheduled downtime.
They review machine records to analyze the root causes of downtime and understand why breakdowns occur. Companies initiate total productive maintenance (TPM) programs to ensure productive operation of their machinery throughout its lifecycle.
Instead of performing reactive maintenance, they transition to proactive maintenance in an effort to address any equipment issues before downtime can happen. They then have to perform maintenance at the best moment, because doing so before it’s required may result in other, unwanted costs and productivity drains.
When it comes to minimizing the productivity hits from changeovers and recalibrations, they review events closely, identify the losses, prioritize and resolve them.
These are all worthwhile activities that share one important trait: Each requires data to be well-planned and successful. Manufacturers often have detailed historical records of machine throughputs, downtimes, performance impacts, remedial actions, scheduled maintenance and more. But when conditions change, that data may be no longer meaningful.
Recognizing this, companies connect machines and other industrial assets to the internet of things (IoT), which makes it possible to gather and review data in real time. They may use a solution that makes this effort efficient and connects it directly with industry metrics like Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE).
Learn how condition-based monitoring improves throughput