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5 Causes of Manufacturing Downtime

5 minute read - Posted by Daniel Wagstaff on Jan 22, 2019 6:00:00 AM

Assuring business continuity is of utmost importance for companies, regardless of the industry they are operating in. Fortunately, in today’s times, the means through which you can keep your business running are numerous, and easier to implement than years ago, when technological innovations were not as advanced as they are now. Yet interruptions in activity are still one of the most common causes of financial loss not only in the U.S. but for businesses all over the world. According to studies, unplanned downtime can cost companies as much as $260,000 per hour. In fact, 82% of companies who participated in that study had experienced downtime.

In the manufacturing industry, the impact that downtime has on business continuity and on the overall success of manufacturers is raising concerns, as companies are struggling to reduce downtime. Yet sometimes even with the help of modern technologies, the effects of downtime and an interruption in business continuity can be highly impactful. There are many causes behind a downtime, and the manner in which you deal with them will severely bear it mark on whether or not you will handle the situation with success.

The Significance of Downtime in The Manufacturing Industry

In order to successfully reduce the effects of manufacturing downtime, you will need to be properly aware of what causes a downtime throughout the structures and departments of your company. But before establishing the causes, manufactures should make sure that they are in complete understanding as to what a downtime is and how it impacts not just your company, but the entire manufacturing industry.

Having a definition of what downtime is will help you measure it and find solutions for all situations, and that definition involves knowing the difference between events that stop planned production and equipment-based productivity loss. You should look at downtime as an interruption in activity that is longer than five minutes and that has a reason behind its occurrence. In the manufacturing industry, downtime is the biggest case of lost production time. And with metrics provided by the National Association of Manufactures showing that for every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.89 is added to the economy of the Unites States, finding a way to successfully handle downtime helps not just your company or the industry you are operating in, but also the national economy.

5 Causes of Manufacturing Downtime

Improving the impact that manufacturing downtime has on your productivity needs to be done in accordance to the main causes you are encountering in your manufacturing facility but also with industry guides and regulations. The worst thing you can do for your business is to take measures and implement strategies based on guesses or presuppositions, which is why we are going to showcase the main 5 causes of manufacturing downtime and how to handle them.

Ambiguous Working Instructions

If your manufacturing facility does not follow strict work instructions, chances are that the downtime you are experiencing and that you don’t know what to link it with has something to do with that. Working instructing that are ambiguous or worse, drafted by personnel not belonging to the production departments will end up causing a downtime that can be hard to identify, if you didn’t see this as a problem to begin with. Therefore, if you are going over the causes of manufacturing downtime, make sure you are checking that all working instructions and procedures are clear, comprehensive, and up-to-date.

The Lack of Crisis Strategies

In the event of a crisis or a hazardous situation, having measures in place for dealing with it and for communicating with your employees will significantly reduce the duration of a downtime. Having a crisis communication strategy in place and using a modern solution such as a mass notification system will help your manufacturing facility better manage the outcomes of any crisis or emergency situation. And even if you can’t avoid a downtime, you can still significantly reduce it by being prepared for any situation.

Improper Manufacturing Equipment Maintenance

When it comes to equipment-based productivity loss in the manufacturing industry, its main causes are listed as improper equipment maintenance – in some cases even the lack of maintenance altogether – and human error. If your company does not have a comprehensive plan in use for the maintenance of all equipment, you will experience downtime on a large scale than competitors who implemented a proper manufacturing equipment maintenance. Also, make sure to always replace or modernize all outdated machinery and keep track of when you are doing so.

Human Error

As aforementioned, human error is one of the most common causes of downtime in the manufacturing industry. One of the most famous cases of human error in history is that of the Mars Climate Orbiter, with a cost of $327.6 million. Failure to properly convert between units of measures lead to the breakdown of the mission and the impossibility of recovering any of the financial losses. And although human errors are found in all industry, when it comes to manufacturing, their impact on downtime can be serve, especially when equipment is involved or when they happen during a major project.

Make sure that all your employees are constantly trained in regards to all aspects of your manufacturing facility, and that those training programs are up-to-date with new technological development or changes in the legislation.

Lack of Gathering Downtime Feedback

Working on reducing the downtime experienced by your manufacturing facility should be a continuous process, one that can’t be successful with gathering and analyzing feedback upon which to make the required changes. If you are not collecting feedback from all your downtime experiences, you might soon end up going through the same situation yet perhaps with even worse outcomes. Make sure that you always have an in-depth database with technical feedback but also with feedback from your employees.

In fact, you should gather feedback from all your processes, strategies or training programs. Having that information at hand will help you better understand how the overall activity of your manufacturing facility is progressing. Also, feedback plays the role of a useful resource for when you need to update or improve your business decisions.

The causes of manufacturing downtime vary from one facility to the other, yet knowing what the main causes are helps you come up with a plan for reducing the damages of downtime and assuring business continuity. Don’t forget to always be in compliance with industry regulators, update your obsolete equipment and your training programs, but also utilize full-featured solutions for all your communication needs.