Reducing Unplanned Downtime in Manufacturing

If there is one word that fills the owner or manager of a manufacturing plant with fear it’s probably “downtime.”

Downtime throws the entire schedule out of whack. It disrupts workflow, throws schedules into chaos and, worst of all, costs money. What are the causes of downtime in manufacturing, and what are some effective downtime reduction strategies to employ?

How to Manage Downtime

The primary cause of downtime in manufacturing is machine failure. If a particular machine is critical to your continuous production, then when that machine is not working, your factory is not working. There are many ways you can avoid or significantly reduce the circumstance of being in this scenario — here are five of them.

1. Set up a Regular Maintenance Schedule

Making sure you have a regular maintenance schedule for all your machines — and ensuring that plan is followed — is one of the easiest ways to reduce downtime. All machines wear down eventually, and making sure regular maintenance is performed on each one can extend the life of your machine’s parts and let you know when a part needs to be replaced. This way, you can do it before the machine shuts down and costs you valuable time.

2. Have Redundant Machines

It’s not always feasible or cost-effective for you to have a backup for every single machine in your manufacturing plant, but you should have some machines that can do the jobs your most important machines do — at least temporarily — until you can have those machines repaired.

3. Work With a Fast Repair Company

Make sure you know who to turn to if one or more of your machines need an immediate repair. If your machine has to go out, you want to know it is going to come back in a couple of days — not weeks. If you’re not confident you’re going to get your machine back fully-repaired right away, you’re not working with the right repair company.

4. Properly Train Employees

Another reason machines break down more quickly than they should is that employees don’t always know how to use them correctly. You may not even notice how they cut corners or misuse a machine until it breaks down. You should be sure to train your employees not only in the proper use of their equipment, but also in any quick and effective fixes they can use when they encounter a problem rather than just shutting everything down.

5. Conduct Regular Employee Evaluations

Take care to periodically make sure your employees are properly following their training when it comes to operating their machines and sticking to the maintenance schedule. Be sure to offer positive feedback when they are doing these things properly — as well as a gentle correction when they are not — reminding them it is in everyone’s best interest to reduce downtime as much as possible.

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