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March 14, 2024

10 Ways Manufacturers Can Reduce Machine Downtime

Machine downtime is one of the largest causes of production loss for manufacturers. Every minute that your machines aren’t working, you are losing out on money. As such, it’s important to try and reduce machine downtime as much as possible. This blog will give you 10 easy ways to improve efficiency and reduce downtime. 

Implementing Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance involves the use of advanced analytics and monitoring technologies to predict equipment failure. By analysing data trends such as vibration, temperature, and operational parameters, businesses can identify when a machine is likely to fail, and perform maintenance before the failure occurs. This ensures that the number of unplanned stoppages is significantly reduced, and can often extend the life of the equipment, as parts are no longer being worn down to a point where further damage occurs. 

It also minimises unnecessary maintenance activities, such as having operators checking parts on a daily basis, as the maintenance schedule will tell you exactly when activities are required. All of these factors thereby reduce operational costs, reduce downtime and improve profit margins.

Automating Downtime Tracking

Automated downtime tracking systems record when and why equipment stops operating. This real-time data collection helps identify recurring problems and their root causes. Root cause analysis is an extremely timely and expensive activity, so having a system do it for you is extremely useful. Busroot, our manufacturing analytics platform, provides manufacturers with detailed reports and analytics regarding machine downtime. Management can then use this to make informed decisions on improving machine reliability and streamlining maintenance processes. This ultimately reduces downtime and increases production efficiency.

Operator Training and Empowerment

Operator training should go beyond basic operation and include detailed understanding of machine mechanics, preventive maintenance, and early detection of issues. Empowering operators with this knowledge and the authority to take preventive actions or halt operations when a fault is detected can prevent minor issues from becoming major breakdowns. Regular training updates and simulations can keep skills sharp and response times quick. All of these factors will ultimately reduce downtime, but will also improve job satisfaction, which is very important for having a cohesive and happy workforce. 

Optimise Changeovers

Changeovers happen every day within manufacturing, and is a key area of planned downtime that could be improved. Having efficient changeovers processes reduces the time that machines are not in operation, therefore increasing production efficiency. Ways in which you can improve changeovers includes reducing them altogether by increasing the length of production shifts, or cross training your employees to ensure that multiple employees are capable of performing changeovers and operating different machines.

This flexibility means that the absence of a particular operator doesn't delay changeovers. It also allows for a more dynamic allocation of resources, where employees can be moved around based on the demands of the production schedule, thereby reducing waiting times and improving overall efficiency.

This doesn’t just apply to staffing changeovers, this applies to materials changeovers also. Using techniques like the Single-Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) can help to make material changeovers more efficient. SMED is a systematic approach that aims to reduce the time it takes to complete equipment changeovers to under 10 minutes. The method involves documenting and analysing each step of the changeover process to identify and eliminate unnecessary steps and streamline necessary ones. By combining all of the aforementioned techniques, you can significantly reduce the length of changeovers and improve planned downtime. 

Scheduling Maintenance Blitzes

A maintenance blitz is an intensive maintenance period where multiple machines undergo scheduled maintenance simultaneously. This strategy requires thorough planning and coordination but results in a significant reduction in overall downtime. By bundling maintenance tasks, businesses can also reduce the setup and cleanup time associated with individual maintenance activities, further improving efficiency.

Busroot provides this information instantly, offering the most efficient times and bundles in which maintenance should occur. Maintenance blitzes also means that the production is halted just once instead of multiple times, increasing the length of time that units are being produced for which ultimately helps profits margins. 

Establishing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

SOPs provide a standardised approach to both routine operations and maintenance tasks. By training your staff with very specific processes, you are ensuring that each process is performed consistently and correctly. This reduces the variability in operation and maintenance quality, minimising the risk of machine failure due to human error. Regularly reviewing and updating SOPs to reflect best practices and lessons learned is also essential for continuous improvement.

Optimising Spare Parts Inventory Management

An effective inventory management system ensures that essential spare parts are always available without overstocking. This involves analysing machine usage and failure rates to predict which parts are likely to be needed and in what quantity. Advanced inventory management systems can automate reordering processes and predict future needs based on historical data, ensuring that parts are available when needed without tying up excessive capital in inventory.

Regular Team Meetings 

Establishing robust, clear communication channels between the production, maintenance, and inventory management teams is crucial for ensuring production is seamless and uninterrupted. To facilitate this, implementing regular meetings is essential. These meetings should not only address current issues but also plan for future operations.

They also provide your team with a platform for sharing insights, discussing potential challenges, and devising strategic solutions in a collaborative setting. For example, if there is an issue that is impacting the efficiency of changeovers, then these meetings are a great place to iron this out and implement a strategy to fix the issue. Consistent communication is key to a unified and happy workforce (with reduced downtime!). 

Utilising Shared Dashboards

Shared dashboards can also play a big role in enhancing transparency across departments. Busroot has an intuitive dashboard that displays real-time data on machine performance, maintenance schedules, and inventory levels, accessible by all relevant teams. By providing a centralised view of critical operational metrics, shared dashboards enable quick decision-making and allow teams to proactively address potential issues before they escalate into significant problems, which in turn reduces downtime. 

Conducting Regular Equipment Audits

Equipment audits involve a comprehensive examination of machinery and systems to assess their condition, efficiency, and compliance with safety standards. These audits can identify wear and tear, misalignment, and other issues that might not be evident during daily operations. Regular audits allow for the early detection of potential problems, enabling preventive maintenance or equipment upgrades that can prevent future downtime.

By implementing the above tactics, you can ensure that your machine downtime is kept to an absolute minimum, and your production schedule is as efficient as possible. For more information on Busroot, get in touch today and we can show you the power of manufacturing analytics software!