Downward trend chart representing the cost of planned downtime in manufacturing.

How Planned Downtime in Manufacturing is Killing Your Profits

Planned Downtime in Manufacturing Kills Efficiency

The truth is, planned downtime in manufacturing could be hurting your bottom line just as much as unplanned downtime in manufacturing. One thing is for sure, downtime in manufacturing is a serious problem that constantly needs to be addressed. A large number of manufacturers are dealing with this on a reactive basis. This is not the right approach for companies who want to continue to grow.

Being reactive with downtime occurrences and stoppages on the plant floor might work at times with unplanned downtime, in situations such as a machine going down, or an expected failure. However, how would a reactive approach assist you with planned downtime? When you are dealing with things such as slow changeover times, slow maintenance, upgrades, or unnecessarily slow machine testing, when would a reactive approach ever improve these inefficient processes, if there is nothing really standing out to react to?

The odds are if you are not tracking these processes, you likely do not even realize how slow and inefficient they might be. This is where you can find a lot of value in tracking everything that happens on the plant floor, as well as having a proactive mindset. When you are dealing with these processes that “aren’t broken” they simply will not get addressed with a reactive mindset, although there is always room for improvement.

The Importance of Tracking Data

In today’s world, analytics in the manufacturing sector is more important than ever. There are a few reasons for this. One reason is simply that IIoT and manufacturing analytics systems are much more widely available. The connected factory is not exactly a new idea anymore, and it is not out of reach for small-medium-sized manufacturers. The fact that manufacturing analytics solutions are more widely available today, means that it is slowly becoming more of a standard in the sector, rather than a luxury. Furthermore, the results that manufacturers are seeing from these systems make it just that much more enticing. It isn’t just a nice extra little bonus on the plant floor and across the company, it’s a complete game-changer.

Things that get tracked get improved. Unplanned downtime gets a lot more attention because it is very visibly costly, and hurting the overall production on the plant floor. However, inefficient planned downtime in manufacturing can be quietly eating into your revenue and profits.

A recent study shows that consultants believe that 80% of factories can’t accurately estimate their downtime (source). This is an astonishing number. 4 out of 5 factories are not able to accurately estimate their downtime. The keyword there is accurately. That does not mean 80% aren’t putting in any effort. But why might the numbers be so far off and inaccurate? It’s fair to say the method in which they are gathering data could very inefficient, and of course, inaccurate. How can you get the most efficient, most accurate data so that you can properly estimate your downtime (and start making the proper adjustments to improve)?

The Most Efficient and Accurate way of Gathering Data from the Plant Floor

The traditional way of gathering data on the plant floor is to have somebody manually walk around the plant floor with a notepad and a pencil recording basic information. Not too long ago, there was a time when this was the standard in the manufacturing sector. That time is up. Technology in recent years has advanced at a rapid pace. Everything we do throughout the day has gotten more convenient or more efficient from technology, likely both. We can order groceries with a few clicks delivered right to our front door, we can use FaceTime to check in on a family member across the world at any moment, in real-time. Why would it be any different in the manufacturing sector?

The answer is, it’s not. Still, many manufactures are willingly choosing to ignore it. IIoT solutions can extract data directly from the machines on your plant floor and deliver that information to anybody that needs it, in real-time. There is no room for human error and inaccurate data when the data is extracted directly from the source of truth. Furthermore, it is relevant data, real-time information. Whereas information that someone manually gathers on the plant floor likely will not get into any decision maker’s hands for at least a couple of days.

How to Put it all Together to Create the Most Efficient Planned Downtime in Manufacturing

Once you can accurately track your downtime so will see just how inefficient your planned downtime might be. With changeover times, you could start to notice too large of a gap where nothing is running. You could start making adjustments and shorten that gap of downtime and increase production. The data will start to show patterns and reveal tendencies you can work with.

With this new detailed information, you might see that your maintenance schedules are way off. This could go both ways. Either you are over maintaining, scheduling maintenance on machines and equipment prematurely. This adds up quickly to a lot of unnecessary downtime.  Or, you are under-maintaining, and your equipment is losing a lot of life from not getting the proper attention it needs. These are just a couple of scenarios, the overall point is that downtime gets expensive fast, and is a leading cause for lost revenue.

Accurate Data

Don’t get stuck in the past. Take advantage of the technology available today. IIoT, and manufacturing analytics systems provide the quickest, most accurate data available for you. Utilize this data to decrease planned and unplanned downtime, improve manufacturing processes, lead times, and overall production.

Proactive Continuous Improvement Mindset

Create a strong company culture, include your employees. Your operators want to be efficient and improve their process, give them access to the data so that they can be involved and get better. Make sure you have a continuous improvement mindset. Don’t wait for something to go wrong to make a change, actively look for areas to improve. No process is ever completely optimal, you never stop improving.

Become Data-Driven

You have the right data, and you have the right mindset. Now you need to make sure that you are actually using the data. If you have the mindset to continually improve, and you have the data to make the right decisions, you are positioning yourself to become an industry leader. Numbers don’t lie. Pull the data, get it to the right people efficiently, and the results will come.

Concluding Thoughts on Planned Downtime in Manufacturing

Don’t let the unforeseen, unplanned downtime overshadow the money that planned downtime in manufacturing is costing you. Planned events have lots of room for improvement. Set yourself up with the right tools, and you will be on your way to running the most efficient factory possible. Don’t get stuck in the past using old and outdated methods. Take advantage of the technology available today and climb past the competition.