5 Ways to Avoid Plant Downtime as You Restart After COVID-19
Unexpected downtime is something every manufacturer tries to avoid. It’s a detriment to operations at any time, but even more so as factories re-open and ramp up after COVID-19. Setbacks now mean more than downtime and disruption to the value stream — they mean loss of opportunities in a time when it’s critical to stay the course and get ahead. Plant managers need to pay special attention to potential problems and nip them in the bud before they result in downtime.
The paradox is this: if you could foresee unplanned downtime, it wouldn’t be unplanned. Unplanned downtime occurs due to unexpected circumstances, often due to an oversight. For example, X machine wasn’t properly maintained. Y process wasn’t started on time. Z action wasn’t executed correctly. Mitigating plant downtime starts by addressing these catalysts. Here’s a look at five ways to keep them from resulting in plant downtime.
- Keep up on maintenance and repairs. A direct contributor to plant downtime is defective equipment. Simply making it a point to properly maintain and repair equipment along a proactive or preventive schedule will keep operations humming. Weigh the cost of scheduled downtime for maintenance vs. unscheduled plant downtime for a clear incentive.
- Set specific goals and measurables. Red-lining production to rush things back to pre-COVID-19 levels as fast as possible is a quick way to run your operations into the ground. Instead, set incremental goals that ramp up into resumed production. Going from couch-to-marathon so-to-speak is a recipe for avoidable plant downtime and burnout among recently recalled staff.
- Use this time to better-train staff. As you ramp into normal production, now’s an opportune time to train or re-train employees on best practices and essential tasks. Doing things the right way is always important, but it’s even more important now as factories come back online. As you look to entrench your factory for future successes, make sure it’s on the back of a well-trained labor force.
- Optimize value streams and workflows. It’s the wastes and inefficiencies that will kill a value stream faster than anything else. Often, these issues manifest in unexpected downtime. Seek out and eliminate wastes and inefficiencies within value streams to keep them lean. The leaner the value stream, the easier it is to control the variables that keep it running and avoid those that may derail it.
- Strengthen partnerships. Partnerships are the best way to hedge the success of your business against downturn, and to leverage the abilities of a partner into the reliability of your operations. Whether it’s a third-party maintenance (TPM) partner or a distributor partnership for parts, enhancing the reliability of these relationships will help you avoid downtime by optimizing your operations.
These tips for post-COVID-19 stability all have one important thing in common: they cost manufacturers next to nothing. At a time when it’s important to be aggressive in seizing opportunities, yet conservative when it comes to the balance sheet, these solutions fulfill both. Take them into consideration as you push for growth and stability after the pandemic.