8 Strategies to Prevent Unplanned Downtime

Jun 15, 2023 | Manufacturing

In manufacturing, downtime is a four-letter word, while unplanned downtime is an unforgivable curse. You know it’s terrible, but do you know how bad?

Unplanned manufacturing downtime can significantly negatively affect overall operations and profitability. In this article, we cover how unplanned downtime adversely affects manufacturing companies and how to mitigate it.

How Unplanned DownTime Impacts Manufacturing

  1. Production disruptions: Downtime directly interrupts the production process, leading to a temporary halt or slowdown in manufacturing operations. This can result in reduced output and productivity, causing delays in meeting production targets and customer orders. The longer the downtime persists, the greater the impact on the production schedule, resulting in potential backlogs, missed deadlines, and dissatisfied customers.
  2. Increased costs: Downtime can lead to increased costs for manufacturers. When production lines are down, raw materials, work in progress, and energy consumption may be wasted without corresponding output. Additional costs may arise from overtime wages, expedited shipping to fulfill delayed orders, or outsourcing production to other facilities. Repair and maintenance expenses to fix the cause of the downtime and restore equipment functionality also add to the financial burden.
  3. Supply chain disruptions: Manufacturing downtime can have ripple effects throughout the supply chain. If a manufacturer cannot produce and deliver products as scheduled, it can lead to downstream disruptions. Suppliers may face delays in receiving components or materials, impacting their production schedules and potentially causing bottlenecks. Such disruptions can affect the entire supply chain, leading to cascading effects on other businesses and customers.
  4. Quality control issues: When production systems experience downtime, it can result in a loss of process control and quality assurance. Restarting equipment after downtime may introduce variability or inconsistencies in the manufacturing process, leading to defects or substandard products. Quality control protocols may not be adequately followed during rushed restarts, further compromising product quality. This can result in customer complaints, returns, warranty claims, and brand reputation damage.
  5. Lost opportunities and competitive disadvantage: Extended or frequent downtime can put manufacturing businesses at a competitive disadvantage. It may result in missed opportunities to fulfill customer orders, take advantage of market demands, or capitalize on time-sensitive contracts. Competitors with more reliable operations may seize these opportunities, gaining market share and leaving the affected manufacturer struggling to recover.
  6. Workforce morale and safety concerns: Downtime can negatively impact employee morale and motivation. Extended periods of idle time or uncertainty about job security can lead to frustration, demotivation, and decreased job satisfaction among the workforce. Sudden equipment failures or unexpected downtime also pose safety risks if not properly addressed or communicated. Employee safety may be compromised during maintenance or repair activities, and inadequate training or rushed restarts can lead to accidents or injuries.

Methods to Stop Unplanned Downtime

Every company has its own process for manufacturing, but implementing these strategies can help prevent downtime and improve throughput.

  1. Preventive maintenance: Manufacturers implement regular maintenance schedules to inspect, clean, and service equipment and machinery. This proactive approach helps identify and address potential issues before they cause unexpected breakdowns. Preventive maintenance includes lubrication, calibration, parts replacement, and system checks. By adhering to a preventative maintenance program like Garvey’s, manufacturers can minimize the risk of equipment failures and extend the lifespan of their assets.
  2. Predictive maintenance: Predictive maintenance involves using advanced technologies, such as sensors, data analytics, and machine learning, to monitor equipment conditions and predict failures. By analyzing real-time data and patterns, manufacturers can identify signs of impending equipment failures and take corrective action before downtime occurs. Predictive maintenance can help optimize maintenance schedules, reduce unplanned downtime, and prevent costly breakdowns.
  3. Real-time monitoring and diagnostics: Manufacturers use monitoring systems to capture and analyze real-time data from equipment, machinery, and production processes. This allows them to identify anomalies, performance deviations, or potential failures. Continuous monitoring helps manufacturers detect issues early, enabling timely intervention and preventing downtime. Additionally, remote monitoring capabilities enable maintenance teams to receive alerts and diagnostics remotely, allowing faster response times.
  4. Spare parts inventory management: Maintaining an adequate inventory of critical spare parts minimizes downtime. Manufacturers identify key components or parts prone to failure or have longer lead times and ensure they have an appropriate stock available. This allows for quicker replacement and repair, reducing the time required to get equipment back online.
  5. Training and skills development: Properly trained operators and maintenance personnel can significantly prevent and mitigate downtime. Manufacturers invest in comprehensive training programs to ensure their workforce is knowledgeable about equipment operations, maintenance procedures, and troubleshooting techniques. Well-trained employees can detect early warning signs, perform basic maintenance tasks, and respond effectively to equipment issues, minimizing downtime and improving overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
  6. Redundancy and backup systems: To mitigate the impact of equipment failures, manufacturers may incorporate redundancy or backup systems where feasible. Redundancy involves duplicating critical components, systems, or processes, so the backup can seamlessly take over if one fails. This redundancy helps maintain operations continuity and minimizes failures’ downtime. Accumulation is a great example of how redundancy can keep products moving while one or more critical pieces of equipment are down.
  7. Continuous process improvement: Manufacturers adopt continuous improvement methodologies, such as Lean, Six Sigma, or Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), to optimize processes and minimize downtime. These approaches focus on eliminating waste, streamlining operations, and improving equipment reliability. By analyzing data, identifying bottlenecks, and implementing efficiency measures, manufacturers can reduce unplanned downtime and enhance productivity.
  8. Disaster recovery and business continuity plans: Manufacturers develop comprehensive strategies to address potential disruptions caused by natural disasters, power outages, or cyberattacks. These plans include backup power solutions, data backup and recovery procedures, alternative production sites, and communication protocols. Manufacturers can minimize the impact of unexpected events and expedite the recovery process by having robust disaster recovery and business continuity plans.

By implementing these strategies, manufacturers can proactively stop or mitigate unplanned downtime, optimize equipment performance, improve operational efficiency, and ensure consistent production output.

For more information about preventative maintenance or spare parts and equipment, contact us today.