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Reduce Downtime, Increase Productivity

Five maintenance department rules for fighting asset downtime 

Unscheduled asset downtime is among the top concerns of manufacturing plants and can be detrimental to an organization’s productivity, efficiency and profitability. When critical machinery or assets are out of service, it can easily create a bottleneck in the manufacturing plant or even completely shut down operations.

According to Aspentech, every hour of manufacturing downtime costs businesses about $260,000. Implementing smart manufacturing in a production plant can avoid or reduce the costly consequences of asset downtime. Shifting paper records or spreadsheets to a digital platform can make it simpler and quicker to track, analyze, record and plan maintenance activities.

The following five strategies can help reduce asset downtime and increase overall productivity on the manufacturing floor.

1 - Use efficiency evaluation reports

Multiple factors can contribute to equipment downtime in a manufacturing facility. When designing an effective maintenance management program for assets and machinery, conduct a comprehensive investigation of related departments by running regular evaluation reports to examine various facility functions. Recording all equipment and maintenance data in a secure, cloud-based system makes running accurate reports quicker and easier. 

These reports will enable manufacturers to study and assess which departments are facing the majority of asset or equipment failures, which can reveal external sources of defects manufacturers have to address. For example, an asset or a piece of equipment might be overused beyond its useful hours, and this may cause increased downtime. 

2 - Install sensors and prioritize preventive maintenance

Some equipment and asset failures, such as those involving a tempering line, can cause a shutdown of an entire factory. This is where preventive maintenance comes into play.

Preventive maintenance helps prevent potential and costly equipment failures before they occur. Investing more effort and time into a strong preventive maintenance program can increase the productivity and longevity of manufacturing equipment and simultaneously reduce risk to both people and assets. 

In a data-driven world, many manufacturers are using low-cost sensors to detect, prevent and lower downtime on factory floors. Sensors can easily detect various inputs, such as vibration, heat and light, and temperature.

Sensors then send data back to a central point, alerting production or plant managers if anything is amiss. This prompts operators to change the conditions to avoid or reduce equipment damage and stop downtime before it happens.

3 - Centralize maintenance data

Although basic data tracking systems or other downtime analysis may determine how often asset downtime occurs in a manufacturing facility, it does not always give information about how to lower asset downtime in the first place. A digital platform can help as it allows maintenance teams to log and easily sort historical data for various assets.

Cloud-based software can store all asset data with barcode labels and enable the use of real-time asset tags to retrieve maintenance information. Also, labels make it simpler to check equipment and assets for service and maintenance records for each service session.

Having a comprehensive overview of various maintenance activities and routines for an asset’s whole life allows technicians and managers to fine-tune their approach to preventive maintenance. 

4 - Have backup equipment for crucial operations

In the majority of manufacturing operations, backup equipment for critical business operations can eliminate excess asset downtime or idle time. A comprehensive analysis of the past examples of asset downtime events will help determine which operations are more prone to malfunction. 

5 - Improve inventory records

If adequate and timely tracking of parts and components onsite is not possible, or if it takes too long to find the appropriate piece, it can set both repairs and planned maintenance back considerably. In these situations, paper-based records or spreadsheet systems can become a problem.

Upgrading to a reliable digital platform makes it simple to update inventory and give insights into which parts and components are onsite without having to visit the stockroom. In addition, it is possible to set minimum levels so that you will never be out of a crucial component or part.

Manufacturers can also collect and analyze data from asset breakdowns to determine if a defective part is causing downtime and explore alternatives.

Final thoughts

Robust maintenance management and preventive maintenance combine the right tools, rules and practices to lower asset and equipment downtime. However, without the correct system, it can be quite challenging to control asset downtime. Equipment-tracking software tools, along with the right digital platform, enable manufacturers to easily run automated maintenance schedules and service tickets from one centralized platform.

Prioritizing preventive asset maintenance and establishing more effective and efficient ways to tackle asset downtime can help pave the way to a better and more balanced maintenance strategy.


Eric Whitley

Eric Whitley

Eric Whitley is the director of smart manufacturing at L2L, where he helps clients learn and implement the company’s approach to corporate digital transformation. He has also led the Total Productive Maintenance effort at Autoliv ASP and was involved with the management certification programs at The Ohio State University, where he served as an adjunct faculty member.