Strategies for reducing plant downtime

There are effective methods for reducing and even preventing unplanned downtime - maintenance and operational leaders just have to be willing to put in the work.

All manufacturers share one common enemy: unplanned downtime. Unfortunately, many experience this productivity-killing phenomenon regularly, according to research from the American Productivity and Quality Center published in Plant Engineering. In fact, the average firm sees roughly 4 percent of its scheduled annual runtime interrupted due to downed equipment or other unexpected production problems. These stoppages are, of course, immensely expensive, as the supply chain pauses and profits are left unrealized.

However, manufacturers are not doomed to suffer these financial losses. There are effective methods for reducing and even preventing unplanned downtime – maintenance and operational leaders just have to be willing to put in the work. Those prepared to embark on this journey can use the following strategies to meaningfully address the issue of unplanned downtime and avoid budgetary setbacks that accompany it.

Improve shop floor communications
Manufacturing involves an immense number of moving parts, both literal and figurative. This complexity can cause confusion – even among the senior-most staff. Consequently, workers can navigate their day-to-day duties without fully understanding the core concepts that lie at the heart of the business. Downtime is often one of these misinterpreted notions, according to Manufacturing.net. Many shop floor staffers fail to see how production stoppages relate to revenue and, therefore, do not approach them with the importance they deserve. It is on production managers to offer guidance here.

Providing top-down insight into the topic not only improves the operation, but also empowers workers as they gain a newfound awareness of their measurable impact. This could lead to further conversations between on-the-ground employees and executives that could produce workable solutions to reducing downtime.

Address equipment in need
Tackling problematic equipment head-on is one of the most obvious ways to reduce or prevent significant unplanned downtime. Retrofitting is the ideal solution for long-standing firms with decades-old shop floor fixtures, Reliable Plant reported.

"The average manufacturer sees roughly 4 percent of its scheduled annual runtime interrupted due to downed equipment."

Manufacturers willing to take on this task should focus on control and diagnostic systems, as swapping outdated versions of these components for modern models can immediately improve reliability. Computerized control systems offer immense new capabilities, while advanced diagnostics networks allow personnel to collect detailed data on machine performance – insights that can be used within a preventive maintenance program. This diagnostic approach, which usually involves the adoption of a computerized maintenance management system, can future-proof asset upkeep practices and led to long-term productivity gains that long outlive the effects of smaller tweaks, Plant Engineering reported. 

Bolster employee training programs
In addition to offering employees insight into business operations, manufacturers should also ensure that trade-related training programs are up to par. Why? Plant downtime can often be traced back to human error, as workers lacking proper working knowledge of shop floor assets make critical mistakes that lead to costly shutdowns. Regular training can prevent this sort of situation from developing. It can also benefit top performers who may be looking for ways to get more out of the machines they manage.

Of course, this training does not have to take place on plant property. Offsite events such as industry trade shows give manufacturing workers the opportunity to learn from their peers and pick up information on powerful new trends or operational methodologies.

With these strategies, organizations navigating the manufacturing space can shore up their processes, reduce unplanned and catalyze growth. Is you firm interested in achieving such feats? Connect with eRPortal Software today. We offer cutting computerized maintenance management solutions perfect for manufacturers in need of improved asset visibility. Contact us today to explore our product catalog and learn more about our work within the industry

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