Catch us at IFE. 25-27th March 2024, ExCel London. Stand 150
May 8, 2024

What is Machine Downtime? Definition, Examples and Impacts

If you’ve ever stepped foot into a factory, chances are you will have probably heard of the phrase machine downtime. It is one of the biggest causes of production loss, and one of the areas that manufacturers are constantly striving to improve.

So what does it mean? Machine downtime refers to any period in which a piece of equipment is not in operation. This downtime can significantly impact a company's ability to meet production targets and maintain profitability. Understanding the intricacies of machine downtime is the first step toward minimising its adverse effects and enhancing overall productivity.

Types of Machine Downtime

There are two different types of machine downtime; planned and unplanned. Planned downtime is any period where a machine isn’t in operation due to pre planned activities, such as maintenance, upgrades, or other necessary activities to keep machinery in optimal condition. Though it temporarily halts production, scheduled downtime is essential for preventing unscheduled outages.

Unplanned downtime refers to any period where a machine isn’t in operation due to factors that were unforeseen. This often involves equipment failure, operator errors or stock/inventory issues. These periods of downtime are often more disruptive than scheduled downtime and can lead to significant production and financial setbacks.

Impacts of Machine Downtime

As mentioned previously, the impacts of machine downtime can be substantial. Some of these impacts include:

  • Financially: The financial impact is arguably the biggest consequence of machine downtime. Increased periods of downtime results in less products produced, which results in less revenue. It also extends beyond the immediate costs of repairs and lost production time. Indirect costs, such as the cost of unproductive labour, overtime pay for catching up on delayed orders and the potential loss of future business due to reliability issues, can also be significant.
  • Psychologically: Machine downtime can lead to increased stress and decreased morale among workers, especially when it results in pressure to meet production targets. Addressing the psychological impacts of downtime is essential for maintaining a productive and motivated workforce.
  • Legally: Manufacturers must also consider the legal and compliance aspects related to machine downtime. For example, operators may be working with heavy and sharp machinery, and if these consistently break down then they could be putting themselves massively at risk. Similarly, the factory may be working with raw materials that if not processed correctly by their machines, could cause waste that damages that environment. Reducing the amount of downtime therefore increases the likelihood that the company is adhering to safety and environmental regulations.

Identifying Machine Downtime

Now that you’re aware of the definition and impacts of machine downtime, let’s look at the process of identifying and recording machine downtime

Identifying when a machine may be experiencing more periods of downtime than normal can be done by two ways; visually or through a piece of software. Visual indicators include excessive vibrations, unusual noises, or leaks. These can serve as early warnings of impending equipment failure, enabling proactive intervention. However, if you don't have an individual overseeing specific machines 24/7, then it’s easy to miss these little signs. Plus, manually recording and then analysing these issues will become a time-consuming nightmare.

As such, investing in a production monitoring software is a much more efficient way of identifying periods of downtime. These tools are connected to machines using IoT devices and can monitor every second of production activity. This allows you to monitor a range of metrics including OEE, cycle time, asset utilisation and machine downtime. It is particularly useful for technical machinery such as CNC machines. They are programmed using large amount of code, so finding the cause of the issue would be extremely difficult without the help of software.

We have developed exactly that, in our tool Busroot. Busroot maps your shop floor and can tell you exactly how many machines are in operation at any moment. If a machine goes down, alerts can be sent to the correct person who is responsible for fixing it. The software also automatically records and stores all of your historical data, which it then uses to put proactive maintenance schedules in place. This will 1. save your employees a significant amount of time, and 2. will significantly reduce your unplanned downtime. 

Strategies to Reduce Machine Downtime

Invest in Advanced Software

Reducing machine downtime requires a multi-faceted approach. As mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to track and reduce downtime is by investing in production monitoring software like Busroot. It will enable you to track every second of downtime, identify frequent causes of downtime, put in place workflows to swiftly fix issues, and create proactive maintenance schedules that will reduce the chance of future machine failures. Investing in other technology such as AI, robotics and IoT will also automate your processes and reduce the amount of human related downtime such as changeovers and errors. 

Training and Education

Training and educating staff on the proper use and maintenance of machines is essential to reduce downtime. If your staff aren’t properly trained then they will likely be using the machines wrong, and this can increase the chance of excessive wear and tear or failure. Similarly, providing extra training so that employees can identify the signs that machines need maintenance is a great way to 

Maintaining Inventory of Parts

There’s nothing more frustrating than finding an issue, realising you don’t have the part you need, and having to wait for it to be delivered. It can significantly impact your production and cause you to miss targets. As such, it’s important that you maintain a well-organised inventory of critical spare parts to avoid delays in repairs. Having the right parts on hand when a machine breaks down can drastically reduce the time it takes to get it back up and running. Implementing a system for tracking parts usage and reorder levels can help maintain an optimal inventory.

Establish Clear Communication and Documentation

Producing clear documentation and standard operating procedures can also help to reduce downtime. If your employees have a repeatable and documented process that they can carry out each time an issue arises, then the issue will be dealt with much quicker.  Clear communication channels among operators, maintenance teams, and management is critical. Similarly, documenting maintenance schedules, downtime incidents, and repair activities can provide valuable insights into common issues and potential improvements. This documentation can also help in developing best practices and training materials to prevent future downtime.

Machine downtime in manufacturing presents a significant challenge, impacting production efficiency, costs, and worker morale. However, through strategic planning, the adoption of new technologies, and a focus on preventive maintenance, manufacturers can minimise downtime and its associated costs. As the industry continues to evolve with the integration of AI, IoT, and lean manufacturing principles, the management of machine downtime will become more efficient, ensuring that manufacturing operations remain competitive and profitable in the global market.

If you'd like to see how Busroot can provide analytics that will power efficiency gains for your business, get in touch now and schedule your FREE demo!


What is machine downtime?

Machine downtime refers to periods when a machine is not operational and cannot perform production tasks, either due to scheduled maintenance or unexpected failures.

What are the causes of machine downtime?

The causes of machine downtime include; planned maintenance, machine failure, machine wear and tear, operator error, stock/inventory issues and inefficient changeovers.

How can machine downtime be reduced?

Reducing machine downtime involves preventive maintenance, quality control measures, staff training, proper documentation, and technology upgrades to prevent failures and ensure efficient operation.

What role does technology play in managing machine downtime?

Technology, including automation, IoT, and predictive maintenance, plays a crucial role in reducing machine downtime by enhancing efficiency and predicting potential failures before they occur.

How does machine downtime affect production costs?

Machine downtime directly affects production costs by halting production, leading to potential delays, increased labour costs, and wasted materials. Indirect costs can also arise from the impact on future business due to reliability issues.

Can predictive maintenance prevent machine downtime?

Yes, predictive maintenance can significantly prevent machine downtime by using data analysis and monitoring to predict equipment failures before they happen, allowing for timely repairs or adjustments.