7 Ways to Minimize Manufacturing Downtime

7 Ways to Minimize Manufacturing Downtime

All hell breaks loose when delivery deadlines are getting close and the plant is fighting with frequent manufacturing downtime. Profit’s not the only thing at stake. Your professional reputation and employee morale are on the line, too. Can downtime be fought without major changeover every time?

Professionally speaking, manufacturing downtime is a manager’s worst nightmare. The scarier part is that it’s a regular phenomenon. The good news? While it may not be possible to entirely eliminate downtime, it is possible to greatly reduce manufacturing downtime. Downtime tracking, along with proper understanding of the root causes and subsidiary issues, is an essential piece.

1. Machinery breakdown: This is a fairly common scenario, especially on shop floors of busy industrial units utilizing their full potential and running 3 shifts a day. New orders have to be filled, but it doesn’t make sense to keep expanding the shop area. In these cases, the best solution is to maximize the performance of existing machinery.

The race to increase production can often lead to neglecting routine maintenance like oiling, greasing and dusting machines. Small and simple checks like looking for overheating and adequate production can greatly help in downtime tracking. However, these checks aren’t the responsibility of the operator alone. Working with a machine day in and day out can make it easy to miss the little signs that it’s about to break down. This is one task that should be externally managed by the people who are going to get hurt by it the most, the management.

2. Skilled, trained and updated employees: Every establishment evaluates and interviews new recruits at all levels. Employees come, and the loyal and hardworking ones remain with the company for the long haul. But is it the same with machines? In this age of competitiveness it isn’t really possible to maintain necessary speed with outdated machines. So, the management does the right thing by upgrading to new machines as necessary.

What about the employees? Were they retrained and upgraded with same sincerity? This is a factor that is very beneficial in reducing manufacturing downtime. Downtime may be a result of many factors like professional inefficiency due to lack of proper training or even stubbornness of the employees to update their skills. Many times, senior employees don’t show the same drive to learn new things because of ego, overconfidence or even sheer laziness. It’s important that regular, mandatory training sessions are scheduled and employees are evaluated relative to the machines they regularly use. Downtime tracking helps in finding the potential candidates, showing inefficiency so that employees can be retrained.

3. Efficient manufacturing processes: Assembly line production systems have proven to be a big boon to the industrialized manufacturing processes. These systems tend to make a person specialized to do a particular job by continuous repetition. But, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. What if there is a snag in one process, or it isn’t working at its full potential? It will put extra burden on both the equipment and operators of subsequent processes, leading to a greater danger of manufacturing downtime.

Downtime tracking helps one examine these snags and bottlenecks in detail. The faulty process can be tracked and mended before the greater damage is done, leading to a streamlined version of the entire process.

4. Advance spares and tools: Business is all about profit. A penny saved is a penny earned, so there will always be a tussle between requirement and procurement. Although it may seem wise to only keep necessary parts on hand, can a standard shop floor really predict which breakdowns will happen?

This is where downtime tracking plays a major role. It helps you to understand the regular causes of mechanical breakdowns. It helps you to analyze particular spare parts that malfunction, according to the frequency of occurrences. This will not only help in keeping the spares and knowledge handy, but also help eliminate idle employee time while parts are being procured.

5. User feedback and employee contribution: Most management decisions come from the top down, based on facts presented by people who aren’t on the shop floor. Although it’s a good idea in theory, the reality on the ground often differs from the scenario management thinks they see.

When professionals request new machinery or an upgrade, they often take it for granted that production projections are for ideal conditions, which don’t typically exist. Hence achievable output is usually less than the pitched output. Various factors like environmental conditions, ease of operation, and complicated functioning can all contribute.

It is very important to gather user feedback to fully understand a machine’s efficiency and handling. The issues could range from mechanical hindrances to handling difficulties or vulnerability of a machinery to function in a particular environment. Issue can only be solved properly if a proper approach is applied to measure the output and the potential hindrances. If employees are kept in the loop, not only can real-time problems could be solved, but they also feel encouraged and motivated to curb manufacturing downtime.

6. Careful tracking of downtime: Even if you’ve been taking all the right steps to reduce manufacturing downtime in your plant, there could still be some solutions that are just out of reach. Even when you are well-prepared for downtime, you could still find machines not running because employees are not starting on time. Such problems can only be effectively solved if your downtime tracking precisely pinpoints the issues. Manual downtime tracking always leave space for errors of judgment based on subjective analysis and delays.

Today, many downtime tracking software options are available that will cater to this exact requirement precisely and simply. The downtime tracking software prioritizes information and indicates in real time which machine needs repair and maintenance.

These tools also assess the potential productivity killers that stand in the way of your facility’s long-term production goals. For achieving ‘world class’ to ‘perfect’ overall equipment efficiency goals, downtime tracking could be a perfect solution. It will help you not only in finding the breakdowns as soon as they occur, but also in understand the reasons for frequently recurring problems. It will provide you with the advantage of taking preemptive measures.

7. Holistic approach: The work environment in big industrial units can be frustrating and overwhelming. It’s human nature to keep trying for more, especially when there are deadlines to meet. Machines, as well as employees, tend to break down or reach their boiling point when things get busy. Use a holistic approach for both employees and machines to help avoid extra pressure. If the system is perfectly oiled and greased, there are far fewer chances of developing friction.

Downtime tracking helps to keep the system oiled and greased for the greater good of both the people and the company. It keeps the communication channel open, shows the possible factors causing the downtime or snags, and avoids the unnecessary “blame game,” which is a fairly common scenario in high-pressure work environments. Creating a culture of accountability helps promote a work environment that is cordial, healthy and supportive.