Taking a Proactive Approach to Manufacturing Downtime

Downtime is expensive and frustrating. The cost of downtime can be as much as $260,000 per hour, according to Aberdeen. More than 80 percent of companies have had at least one unplanned downtime outage in the past three years, according to a Vanson Bourne research study. To make the most of your manufacturing organization, it’s critical to take a proactive approach to preventing manufacturing downtime. Here are six tips for moving from a reactive stance to a proactive one.

1. Perform an audit

The first step to becoming proactive is knowing what you need to be proactive about. To do that, you need to complete a risk audit. Take a close look at your current equipment. Many manufacturers are working with equipment that’s 15 years old or more. Older equipment may no longer be supported by the original manufacturer, making parts difficult, if not impossible, to find.

Newer equipment offers newer technology such as enhanced data and improved safety features. If you’re not in a position to upgrade your equipment, knowing what you have and what it will take to repair it if something goes wrong will leave you more prepared if the worst-case scenario occurs.

 

As you audit your manufacturing operation, keep in mind:

 

  • Security—Manufacturing operations are becoming increasingly popular targets for cybersecurity threats.
  • Quality— Is your current equipment able to consistently maintain the level of quality that you need to manufacture your product?
  • Safety— Obsolete equipment may pose safety risks to your employees.

 

Performing an audit ensures that you’re making informed decisions about your equipment before it becomes problematic.

 

2. Be vigilant when it comes to your preventative maintenance schedule

Most manufacturing firms have a preventative maintenance schedule and place, although some still go with the “will fix it when it breaks” maintenance schedule. Is sticking to your maintenance schedule a priority? To reduce downtime, preventative maintenance needs to be done on schedule all the time. This allows your equipment to run at maximum capacity and extends its potential lifespan.

The data you collect from your equipment should inform your maintenance schedule and whether certain tasks need to be moved up on the schedule. A good data collection system will help you pinpoint exactly what went wrong if there was an outage and what could go wrong.

Sensors can also provide valuable data that can inform your maintenance schedule. These relatively low-cost devices can detect vibration, changes in temperature, heat, and other factors that could signal a potential equipment failure.

3. Train (and retrain) your employees

Your line operators are the ones most directly impacted by downtime. Operator error is one of the main causes of downtime. Take the time to train your line operators on maintenance and problem-solving. Many firms are combining the roles of operator and maintenance technician to further empower their employees to diagnose and proactively maintain their equipment.

Updated documentation is critical to taking a proactive stance to downtime prevention. It’s easy to let your documentation get out of date, but keeping up to date drawings of equipment and a thorough machine history on hand can make it easier to address problems when they arise and prevent downtime.

 

4. Have a backup and recovery plan

Manufacturing firms need to have site-wide backups of their control systems. Although it’s unlikely that you will need it, circumstances do sometimes occur that require a full backup. It’s not just enough to have a backup though; you need to have a good backup. Your backups periodically need to be tested to ensure that if there needed, their usable and able to bring your systems back online.

 

5. Change your culture to a proactive one

Everyone on the manufacturing floor plays a part in minimizing downtime. Manufacturing managers should lead the way in adopting proactive habits and ensuring maintenance is done on a regular, consistent schedule. This may be a big change in thinking, but it can be done.

 

6. Consider outsourcing your maintenance

Proactive maintenance takes time. It’s critical to minimizing downtime, but it still takes time and dedication from your employees. If you’re concerned about the burden that maintenance places on your team, or if you want a dedicated team that focuses exclusively on maintenance, considering outsourcing to an IT firm that specializes in manufacturing.

At DC Plus, we’ve worked extensively with manufacturing firms. We know the importance of minimizing downtime and will partner with you to audit your equipment, complete upgrades, and proactively maintain your network and control systems. Our staff is there to support your staff and ensure your plant floor is performing at its peak. To find out how we can support you, contact us today.

 

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