Eliminating or reducing downtime in manufacturing can make the difference between having a profitable period and having an unprofitable period. It is essential for any business that downtime be managed properly and lost production kept to a minimum. Keeping production flowing is always a top priority.
However, one of the most challenging aspects of managing downtime is knowing the source and amount of time lost. This knowledge is critical in order to correct problems quickly. Random events such as equipment failures or unexpected material jams can turn what starts as a successful production run into a disaster. Being prepared for these sorts of stoppages can help reduce the frequency and length of time lines go down.
Planning for Unplanned Downtime
Unplanned downtime can be the most difficult type of downtime to manage. These events occur unexpectedly and often at the worst possible times. Developing an approach to downtime management begins with analyzing each production line to identify the most likely places downtime might occur. Records and production history can be used to identify those operations with a high frequency of downtime. With this information, supervisors can design plans to manage stoppages when they occur. Here are four tips to help anticipate and reduce or eliminate downtime in manufacturing.
1. Provide redundancy for critical operations.
Having backup equipment for critical operations can help reduce or eliminate excess downtime in manufacturing. For example, backup packaging equipment can be brought online to package products should packagers fail. This keeps critical production equipment running, even if the backup equipment is less efficient than the primary packaging equipment. Analyze past downtime events to determine if certain operations go down frequently, and then focus on providing alternatives.
2. Establish a rapid response maintenance team to quickly return equipment to full function.
Applying good preventative maintenance practices over time has been shown to reduce manufacturing downtime. However, equipment may still fail unexpectedly. When this occurs, the maintenance team should be able to respond quickly and efficiently.
Pareto analysis of downtime causes can identify those areas most likely to cause a downtime event. Analyzing equipment maintenance requirements, developing standard procedures, and training maintenance crews to perform these tasks efficiently can dramatically reduce the amount of lost production time. Developing accurate downtime records, preparing accurate procedures, providing proper training, and creating a sense of urgency are all effective ways to minimize downtime in manufacturing.
3. Continuously monitor line operations to respond quickly to downtime issues.
Data capture technology allows all employees to monitor downtime and see equipment status at all times. Effective software tracks downtime events and ongoing operating KPIs in real time and presents them on monitors located throughout the factory. Tracking downtime and its causes is critical to reducing time lost during production. Being able to identify a line stoppage immediately and take action can eliminate minutes or even hours of downtime.
4. Train and cross-train all line operators in clearing jams, making minor adjustments or repairs, and communicating operating conditions.
It is important not to allow minor disruptions to turn into extended downtime. If employees are trained ahead of time and ready to react if something happens, they can quickly correct these interruptions. A thorough analysis of downtime events and causes can highlight the areas of training employees most need.
Managing Planned Downtime
Planned downtime is any downtime that is required for operations and is on the calendar in advance. Line changeovers and scheduled maintenance are examples. Establishing methods and procedures along with training and “rehearsals'' can help accelerate completion of the downtime activity. Additionally, careful preplanning can minimize the amount of downtime needed. Preplanning can include locating tools and spare parts for the equipment to be maintained and procuring a copy of the needed maintenance procedure(s) to be used should a question arise. Thinking through the procedure and the steps and parts required eliminates second-guessing and unnecessary trips to the parts storeroom during the maintenance activity.
Also, working with the production planning department to set the optimal schedule for completing the downtime procedure can minimize its impact. For example, scheduling product changeovers to take advantage of raw material and packaging types and sizes can help minimize downtime in manufacturing.
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