Manufacturers must continually look for ways to drive efficiency in their operations. In doing so, these efforts shed light on the amount of time your operations are not actually in production. Downtime in manufacturing can be costly, whether it is planned or unplanned. Here are some of the top causes of interruptions in production and ways your business can reduce downtime in its manufacturing operations. 

Top Causes of Manufacturing Downtime

One of the top concerns of many manufacturers is downtime. Before your business can find ways to improve efficiency, it needs to identify the common causes of production stoppages. These include:

  • Material Shortages — You’ll likely experience downtime if you can’t obtain the materials you need due to ordering or supply chain issues. 
  • Equipment Servicing — Too little or too much maintenance can lead to equipment failures and planned or unplanned downtime
  • Process Inefficiency — Internal processes, such as material changes or machine setup, might be so inefficient that it leads to downtime.  
  • Operator Error — Workers can be poorly trained or overworked, which can impact manufacturing results. 
  • Mechanical Breakdown — Unexpected downtime happens when your manufacturing equipment fails without contingencies in place.

9 Ways to Reduce Downtime in Manufacturing

The classic saying “time is money” certainly rings true in the manufacturing industry, but how much money? According to research firm Aberdeen Group, the cost of manufacturing downtime can be as high as $260,000 per hour! If you want to save these costs and reduce downtime in manufacturing, here are some best practices you can follow. 

1. Conduct Risk Audits

Auditing yourself is never fun, but the most efficient and successful operations are fully aware of their risks and have plans to mitigate them. 

Maybe you have some unreliable suppliers that are causing manufacturing downtime, or you might have some machinery that is not only outdated but also hazardous. A risk audit can identify where you should focus your efforts, improving uptime and efficiency.

2. Install Early Warning Sensors

Whether your manufacturing equipment is only a few months old or has been with you for decades, things can go wrong. However, equipment breakdown often happens only after some telltale signs like increased temperatures, higher pressure, or stronger vibrations. 

Consider installing early-warning sensors on your equipment to monitor their performance. You can set thresholds for normal operating parameters. If something happens outside those parameters, the system will either send you an alert or shut down to prevent a catastrophic failure which could lead to even longer downtime. 

3. Train and Evaluate Your Workers

Employee errors are some of the top causes of downtime on production lines. Many manufacturers don’t dedicate enough time and resources to worker training. Proper education is vital for equipment operators if you want to achieve the best results and reduce downtime

Teach your employees the proper and safe procedures for machine operation. Include frequent refresher training for your staff so that these principles remain top of mind, and evaluate your employees based on their error rates and safety performance at work. 

4. Set Specific Manufacturing Goals

Another way to reduce downtime in your manufacturing operations is to set specific manufacturing goals. Choose daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals to improve productivity and reduce errors. With an inspired and motivated staff, you will see efficiency improve throughout your operation. 

Create a program for employee suggestions to improve production. Implement the best ideas to reduce downtime and improve overall efficiency. You can also create incentives for hitting those goals to get your workers more invested in the results. 

5. Conduct Regular Equipment Maintenance

As a manufacturer, you must have a proactive mindset when it comes to preventing downtime. Instead of waiting for your machinery to break or slow down, follow a strict maintenance schedule to ensure it stays operating as it should. 

Even if you’re busy or in the middle of peak season, you can increase safety and productivity by setting aside some valuable time for routine maintenance. Whether it is changing oil, lubricating seals, or some other task, these services can prevent a catastrophic and costly failure. 

6. Beef Up Your Documentation

Part of training your workers and regularly maintaining your equipment is having sufficient documentation about your policies, procedures, and machinery. Workers should know where to look if they have questions about how to do something or a specific safety protocol. After all, high injury rates will lead to manufacturing downtime and delays. 

When you have ample documentation, this also makes machine repair and maintenance easier and lessens downtime. An employee can pull the proper manual to complete a fast repair or maintenance task and get your operations back underway without costly delays. 

7. Upgrade Your Manufacturing Equipment

If some of your manufacturing equipment is outdated, it might be time to replace and modernize it. Older and antiquated machinery can break down more often and lead to unexpected downtime. Further, older equipment might be harder to repair and source replacement parts for when it breaks. 

Some of the most common causes of efficiency loss in manufacturing equipment include reduced speed, start-up issues, setup delays, and breakdowns. When you upgrade your equipment, you can also reduce or eliminate many of these common problems. 

8. Leverage Available Data

In these modern times, it’s no longer sufficient to collect data and create reports manually. If you do, it’s a guarantee that any downtime you experience will last longer. Today’s manufacturing companies use connected systems that provide real-time access to data about their operations. 

You will be able to analyze the uptime and downtime of your operations, different segments, and even individual machines. Make sure you leverage this available data to create better processes and address any minor issues before they become major problems. 

9. Consider Some Contingencies

If supply chain issues are potential causes of downtime, think about how you can mitigate these risks. Maybe your business will need to get its manufacturing materials from more than one source, or if a shipper is causing delays, you can find an alternative partner to prevent unnecessary downtime. 

Taking these steps to reduce planned and unplanned downtime in manufacturing might seem overwhelming, but the time you save will translate into additional profits and make your efforts worthwhile.

Take Your Manufacturing Business to the Next Level!

Hertzler’s GainSeeker Platform can take your business to the next level by helping you make smarter manufacturing decisions and address challenges like rising costs and delivering quality products on time. You can integrate GainSeeker with systems and data you already own, get actionable data about your operations, and achieve more visibility throughout your business.

GainSeeker can be run either locally or on the cloud, allowing you to maximize every facet of your manufacturing business for better overall results. Schedule a demo to experience firsthand how this solution can benefit your business, or check out these case studies to learn how GainSeeker has increased productivity, efficiency, and savings for our customers.