5 tips to reduce downtime in manufacturing

What you will find in this text:

  1. Types of industrial maintenance
  2. What is downtime and what are its causes?
  3. 5 ways to reduce downtime in manufacturing

Downtime may seem inevitable, and when it happens, it can cause massive problems, affecting production, and causing a whole lot of stress. But downtime doesn’t have to be such a headache if you implement some strategies to keep downtime to a minimum and allow for scheduling your downtime to a time that suits you. Read on to discover how to reduce downtime in your manufacturing business…

Types of industrial maintenance

Whether you have a formal plan in place or not, maintenance in a manufacturing setting is inevitable. Industrial maintenance strategies generally fall into one of the following categories…

Corrective maintenance

The simplest form of maintenance is a system with little formal maintenance management. Quite simply, when something breaks or a fault with a piece of equipment is reported, it is then fixed. In an ideal world, corrective maintenance would always be avoided with a good preventative maintenance system, but in the real world, corrective maintenance is still sometimes required as it’s very difficult to predict every single eventuality that could cause a failure. 

Preventative maintenance 

Preventative maintenance involves putting plans in place to stop problems from occurring. This could be a schedule for lubricating machinery, understanding the lifespan of parts so an estimate of the time of expiry can be deduced, or simply replacing all the lightbulbs on the premises on a regular basis. By utilising preventative maintenance techniques, you could avoid unexpected failures, which can happen at the most inopportune moments, causing downtime and potentially dangerous situations. 

Condition-based maintenance 

Condition-based maintenance requires the monitoring of equipment to ensure everything is operating within the correct parameters. In the past, this could be a time-consuming task involving physically checking all machinery to monitor temperature, vibration levels, etc., but nowadays smart sensors in IoT devices can transmit this data in real time to be analysed, with alerts being issued for anything found to be out of the ordinary and requiring further attention.

It’s a particularly useful system when a fault could cause severe risk, such as extreme heat causing a risk of explosion. Alarms can be automatically sounded, and machinery automatically shut down when an intelligent system finds a problem.  

Predictive maintenance 

Predictive maintenance takes everything one step further, by using data from several sources to make accurate predictions regarding asset maintenance and management. The more data, the better the forecasts, and so a combination of sources is most beneficial.

This could be data from smart IoT sensors, historical data regarding the machines and other assets, as well as data from the manufacturers or other external sources. All this data is fed into a computer system such as Predictto, for predictive maintenance in manufacturing, where Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are expertly utilised to create an Intelligent Maintenance Platform that gives easy and intuitive access to a range of reports that can transform your maintenance routines. 

What is downtime and what are its causes?

Downtime refers to any time within which the production processes of your business come to a halt. This could be planned downtime, a scheduled production line halt for the purpose of repair or upgrade, or it may be unplanned downtime caused by a power failure, machinery fault, or even a natural disaster. 

The results of downtime can be far-reaching. Of course, every minute your business isn’t running it’s costing you money. Your staff members are standing around doing nothing, and you may miss deadlines. This certainly doesn’t help your reputation, and clients depending on you may look elsewhere should they feel that they can no longer depend on you. 

Unplanned downtime can occur for so many reasons, it can hard to mitigate for so many circumstances. Human error is perhaps one of the most common causes of downtime. Something as simple as the accidental cutting of the power to a machine, or using a piece of equipment incorrectly can result in downtime. There may be a fault with the system itself. A machine may have a faulty part, a software system may be flawed, or be configured incorrectly. The business could be brought to a standstill by a cyber attack, there may be a power cut, a flood, or a fire.   

Types of downtime

When you begin to look more closely at the impact of downtime, you discover even more consequences. The tangible effects are those that we realise most readily. When a production line halts, nothing is being manufactured and so there’s a loss of income. Staff won’t be working, but they’ll still want their wages. If any time-sensitive materials are being used, such as short-life food products, there could be some wastage here.

However, there are intangible costs of downtime too, the impact on your reputation, the adverse effect on staff morale, and the increase in stress levels for everyone involved.  

5 ways to reduce downtime in manufacturing

It’s obvious that downtime has a severe negative effect on any manufacturing business, so let’s take a look at some of the ways in which you could reduce the amount of downtime your business has to deal with…

Ensure staff are well trained 

Human error is one of the biggest causes of downtime. Many large manufacturing companies employ thousands of people, and it only takes one of those employees to make a mistake and the whole business can be brought to a standstill. Good, thorough, and regular training is the key. Staff evaluations can be highly beneficial, and giving staff the opportunity to speak openly regarding any concerns regarding their training, or the maintenance systems in place can bring about some real insights.

Use a good preventative maintenance system

Using an advanced preventative maintenance management system that can accurately predict maintenance issues ahead of time, can make the world of difference. When you can pre-empt a failure you can prepare for it, or even prevent it. Choose a well-known system used by large corporations worldwide, such as Predictto, and you can rest assured you’ve made the best choice, giving you the greatest, most accurate insights, thanks to the advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies utilised by the system.   

Keep to your maintenance schedule

It’s all well and good having a plan in place for regular maintenance tasks, but it needs to be adhered to rigidly. Veering from the path, and taking shortcuts, will eventually result in failure, and no one will know why when the plan appeared to be so robust. Plans and schedules should be very clear, and staff conducting maintenance must be well informed with regard to their duties. Work should be checked and verified so nothing is ever missed or neglected. 

Utilise IoT monitoring devices 

You can gain a lot of extra insight with the use of IoT devices that place sensors within the machinery itself to monitor factors such as heat, vibration, flow rate, and more. By monitoring this data over time, any fluctuations can be detected, and a normal operating range will be established. A sudden change, bringing measurements outside of the norm can be instantly flagged, but also, any longer-term changes due to part degradation can also be monitored, and used for future predictive maintenance.

Schedule downtime at the right time 

Of course, there may well be times when you absolutely need to shut down the production line. For repairs, upgrades, or any manner of regular maintenance procedures. It may be simple to schedule downtime for evenings or weekends, but many manufacturing businesses operate round the clock, making scheduling downtime more complex. In this instance, data regarding production levels and order deadlines can be used to calculate the most appropriate time for a shutdown, that will have the least impact.