Reduce Unplanned Downtime: 3 Things You Must Do


How to reduce unplanned downtime?

Unplanned downtime is one of the biggest industrial money drainers. Industries should take the time to implement actions to avoid downtime.

Eliminating downtime completely is impossible, for the simple reason that some equipment downtime is necessary. However, an ambitious but achievable goal would be to eliminate unplanned downtime. Unexpected downtime is what costs the most money. When a machine that is critical to your production breaks down the costs keep adding up and the total amount can become significant. However, by planning these shutdowns at the right time, you can avoid high and unpredictable costs.

Fortunately, there are actions you can take to avoid this loss of time and money. Here is how to reduce unplanned downtime in 3 actionable steps.

Reduce unplanned downtime

Have an overview of your production downtime

Know where you stand! It seems obvious and yet a lot of companies don’t know where they stand in terms of downtime: How many hours per year? How much are downtime costs? Which pieces of equipment are the most affected? What is the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure)? etc. 

There are a lot of questions to ask and finding precise answers is far from easy. It is often complicated to calculate your downtime and to have an overview if you don’t have regular or continuous monitoring of your assets. Try to put a figure on:

  • The direct loss in production: what you could not produce because the line was stopped.
  • Number of extra working hours it took to rectify the problem.
  • The cost of this unexpected emergency repair.
  • The impact on customer satisfaction and on your reputation (e.g. If you miss deadlines or compromise quality). This is an indirect cost that is very difficult to evaluate but should not be neglected. Negative word of mouth can be very damaging.

Knowing what happened in the past and which machinery were the most affected will help you anticipate future problems. Moreover, knowing the total cost allows you to know how much you are willing to invest in a maintenance program. It also helps justify the need for a maintenance management strategy to all stakeholders.

Before taking actions, it’s important for manufacturers to know more about what’s disrupting their uptime. Learn more about the causes of unscheduled downtime and the differences between planned downtime and unplanned downtime here

Train employees thoroughly

We don’t have much to elaborate on here, but once again, don’t overlook the importance of training your employees. By training your employees minimally you may feel like you’re saving time and money, but the opposite is actually true.

A large portion of failures are related to human error. Taking the time to train your employees will save you money in the long run. By knowing how to use the machinery in the most optimal way or how to react to problems, these employees will produce more efficient results.  Accordingly, your equipment will also stay up-and-running longer and machine donwtime will be reduced.

Implement a good maintenance strategy

There exists many types of maintenance so how can you know which one is the right one. First, choose a proactive rather than reactive approach. Don’t wait until there is a breakdown to react! Reactive or corrective maintenance waits until a defect occurs to react. This maintenance management indeed leads to frequent and long breakdowns. On the other hand, a proactive maintenance strategy can be implemented to identify early developping failures, either with a preventive or predictive maintenance program.

  • Preventive: This type of maintenance works with a very precise maintenance schedule to regularly check that a problem is not developing. Setting up a preventive maintenance program allows to reduce downtime by scheduling regular check-ups
  • PredictiveInstead of following a fixed schedule, the maintenance technicians can then organize a maintenance schedule adapted to the condition of the machines. Setting up a powerful predictive maintenance program allows you to continuously monitor the evolution of your equipment and therefore plan their maintenance at the most appropriate times. 
icon or manage equipment failure

In any case, the two maintenance management strategies mentioned above can reduce unplanned downtime by assessing the condition of equipment, identifying problems as early as possible when they are still small and manageable, scheduling maintenance work, and even planning downtime when it is inevitable. Although these programs represent an investment, they are well worth it. They are cost-effective and should give a high ROI in a short period of time.

Reducing unplanned downtimes, is only possible with a clear maintenance schedule. You must monitor your equipment regularly or continuously to avoid unpleasant surprises and to organize the best maintenance plan. Inevitable downtimes can be planned at the right time. When necessary, you should also plan production shutdowns but you can do it at the time that suits you best and that minimizes your costs.

You should also identify and address chronic failures. Provide a backup plan for machines that lead to frequent failures. Identify the parts that break most often and keep them in stock. 

Finally, if the breakdown could not be avoided, try to remedy the machine downtime as quickly as possible. Work with suppliers and maintenance teams that can fix problems well and quickly. With good suppliers you might be able to solve problems in days, or even hours, rather than weeks.

In summary, to reduce unplanned downtime, don’t try to save money up front, it could cost more in the end. Whether it’s employee training, equipment quality, maintenance programs, etc., they are worth being invested in. Although these costs may sometimes seem high, they are nothing compared to the costs of unplanned downtime.

At Insens, we help you reduce your unplanned downtimes by offering a predictive maintenance solution that allows you to continuously monitor the condition of your machines and be alerted to emerging downtime risks.

why is our solution a powerful machine monitoring system?

RED is more than just a predictive maintenance system. Most condition monitoring solutions focus only on machine health diagnosis and detecting upcoming failures (e.g. thanks to vibration analysis, lubricant analysis or infrared thermography). Our cutting-edge technology allows us, with the same solution, to provide predictive maintenance diagnostics with high reliability but also to monitor energy consumption, offer optimization suggestions and report the savings made.

predictive maintenance icon

We help you eliminate unplanned downtime by predicting machine failure several months in advance.

Energy saving icon

We can detect sources of energy ineffficiencies and therefore help you minimize those losses to reduce you energy consumption.

reduce environmental impact icon

We help you through your transition to a more sustainable approach. We can measure and quantify your efforts and therefore help you demonstrate them to your customers.