Unplanned Downtime And Its Causes


What is unplanned downtime in production?

Unplanned downtime is opposed to planned downtime. One is necessary, the other is catastrophic. There are many causes of downtime in production, we will try to understand them here in order to know how to reduce it afterwards.

Equipment downtime means that the asset cannot remain up-and-running for a certain period of time. Assets can be put offline voluntarily or not. Therefore, downtime means that the production line has to be stopped completely or partially. 

Downtime can be voluntary, and therefore planned, or unexpected, also called unplanned downtime or unscheduled downtime. The downtime is sometimes necessary as we will develop later, but by scheduling it, we can limit the damage.

What is planned dowtime?

Planned downtime means that yes, equipment has to be shut down, but you know this in advance. You are prepared for it and you know how long it should last. Planned downtime is completely normal and necessary.

These downtimes are needed to ensure a longer equipment uptime and a higher reliability of the machinery. Moreover, since they are planned, they can be implemented at the most suitable and least expensive time.

What are planned downtime reasons?

The main reasons are as follows:

Turning equipment off because it is the end of a shift. For example, you turn off the machines during the night to avoid wearing out the equipment and losing energy while nobody is working on it. Not all assets need to work 24 hours a day, so it makes sense to shut them down when they are not needed.
Performing planned maintenance. Some repairs or replacements require a shutdown. For some maintenance and repair you can't avoid it, but if you get there far enough in advance you can schedule it at a time that is convenient for you. This maintenance work is useful to increase the lifespan of the machinery.
Performing routine inspections or tests. Much of machine health diagnosis can now be done by IoT sensors, which allow continuous monitoring without requiring a production shutdown. But you may not have a maintenance program that equips all your motors with sensors. In this case, regular manual inspections will be necessary. Moreover, even if you have sensors, some assets require a human verification to reach a better accuracy.

The main causes of unplanned downtime are the lack of monitoring of your equipment and an unreliable and inefficient maintenance strategy!

What is unplanned dowtime?

This is the one that is really problematic and that you must absolutely try to reduce. Since by definition you didn’t anticipate it, you are not prepared for it. It creates monumental costs and could even damage your reputation if you are not able to deliver the product reliably to your customers.

Cost of unplanned downtime

$50 billion per year is the estimated total cost of unplanned downtime for industrial manufacturers. 82% of companies have experienced at least one unscheduled downtime in the past three years. Most organizations have experienced more than one. Furthermore, unplanned downtime often lasts long,  with the average manufacturer having 800 hours of downtime per year, which can amount to thousands of dollars per minute. Industries should try to avoid these unplanned downtimes at all costs.

Unplanned downtime generates such high costs because the overall cost is the sum of several things:

First of all, we have to take into account what should have been produced but could not because of the breakdown. We therefore loose the value of what could have been produced if it was running. Moreover, as seen previously, unplanned downtime often lasts a long time and therefore represents a considerable loss of production capacity.
At some point it will be necessary to make up for lost time (e.g. because of perishable stock or open orders that need to be delivered on time). To catch up on your production schedule you will have to hire extra help or ask your employees to do overtime. In both cases this is quite expensive and adds to your costs.
It also increases your maintenance costs. Emergency maintenance work and repairs cost you more for several reasons:

The maintenance technicians were probably busy on something else before being interrupted. They will have to shift the maintenance schedule to perform the tasks they had to leave in the middle. Moreover, waiting until the piece of equipment is completely compromised to repair it costs more than fixing the first issues. Finally, since nothing was planned, it is likely that you did not have the parts in stock or that they were reserved for another use. Having to perform a rushing order is in any case much more expensive and can be complicated.

What are unplanned donwtime reasons?

These unplanned downtimes are caused by unanticipated failures or breakages.
These end-of-life parts or parts in need of repair are not the real cause of the machine downtime. The real cause is rather that these malfunctions were not identified in advance. Mechanical and electrical failures are indeed not inevitable, they are part of the normal life cycle of equipment. But if these are monitored and managed properly, one can anticipate problems and avoid being caught out. It is usually possible to identify a failure before it leads to an unplanned downtime. When the right maintenance is porformed, reducing downtime becomes possible.

How to reduce unplanned downtime?

We just learned that implementing a strong equipment maintenance program can avoid catastrophic situations. How can we do that? And what else can be done to reduce unplanned downtime?

Reactive or corrective maintenance waits until a defect occurs to react. This maintenance management indeed leads to frequent and long breakdowns. On the contrary, a proactive maintenance strategy can be implemented to identify more quickly the appearance of failures, either with a preventive maintenance program or a predictive maintenance program.


At Insens, we help you identify and predict electrical and mechanical failures to minimize your unplanned downtime. We offer a cutting-edge predictive maintenance solution that will help you organize your maintenance planning in the most effective way.

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.

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

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

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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.