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4 Methods to Reduce Unplanned Downtime in Manufacturing

By Intertek Alchemy   |   

Not all downtime is created equal. Traditional, standard downtime typically entails any scenario when a machine or piece of equipment is not in production, but unplanned downtime is different. This is when a machine breaks or fails or a worker is unexpectedly absent.  

Unplanned downtime has always been one of the largest challenges and greatest expenses for organizations in the manufacturing industry. In fact, recent studies indicate that unplanned downtime costs manufacturers an estimated $50 billion each year at an average of $260,000 per hour.

It’s imperative for manufacturers to understand all facets that disrupt their uptime to prevent unplanned downtime, and there are methods the industry can use maximize production and their bottom line.


Calculate Your Downtime Costs to Get Buy-In from Your Stakeholders

According to downtime consultants, 80% of industrial plants can’t accurately estimate their downtime costs and of those that can, it is under-calculated by up to 300%! Manufacturing companies that are not calculating their internal yearly cost of downtime are making a huge mistake:  Five minutes of downtime here and there throughout the facility continuously adds up, and the overall cost increases drastically. It’s imperative for organizations to calculate the amount of money lost whenever their lines stop running.

To do this accurately, make sure to obtain dollar amounts for:

  • Loss in staff productivity
  • Loss in production of actual goods
  • Number of labor hours devoted to rectifying the situation
  • Unexpected costs of repairing equipment
  • Damage to reputation due to not fulfilling customer’s expectations

Your Takeaway:
By having an actual dollar amount associated with downtime for your organization, you can help to focus and legitimize your prevention activities to relevant stakeholders and get their support.


Properly Train Frontline Employees

A recent Vanson Bourne global study notes that user error is one of the most common causes of unplanned downtime in manufacturing facilities. There are numerous ways that a frontline worker can cause a machine to break down, so it’s imperative that they are properly trained on how to most efficiently operate a machine within the facility.

One new mobile solution, Alchemy Playbook, allows for manufacturers to:

  • Record video of their best workers completing job-specific tasks in the facility and turn it into a training course.
  • Embed quiz questions to ensure comprehension and document understanding of competencies.
  • Prevent bad practices from spreading by standardizing on-the-job training for each type of equipment or machinery within the facility for all shifts, roles, and departments.

When manufacturers take the time to ensure that their workers are properly trained to perform a job, they can be confident that their staff will produce efficient results.

Your Takeaway:
By providing accurate on-the-job training, right at the spot where the work will be performed, you can ensure that your frontline staff is confident in how to properly operate the machines in your facility.


Conduct Regular Manufacturing Maintenance on Equipment

Another leading common cause of unplanned downtime is machinery malfunction. A Vanson Bourne global study revealed that more than 70% of respondents aren’t fully aware of when their equipment is due for maintenance, upgrade, or replacement. Many manufacturing companies rely on a purely reactive approach to maintenance issues, versus a more proactive approach that focuses on avoiding repairs through preventive and predictive methods.

Your Takeaway: Your equipment isn’t going to last forever, but regular maintenance on your equipment can help to extend your critical assets’ life, keep your staff productive, and drastically reduce unplanned downtime.

Have a Robust Plan for Unexpected Employee Absences

According to CareerBuilder, employee absenteeism is currently on the rise. Absence comes at a huge cost for the organization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that productivity losses due to employee absences cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee.  This cost drastically increases when you take into account the unique environment of manufacturing and how the loss of critical employees on the production line can cause production to come to a complete halt and costly unplanned downtime occurs.

Alchemy Playbook gives manufacturing leaders the ability to instantly see which employees are qualified to perform any task in the facility. This empowers the leaders to quickly reallocate workers as needed, effectively eliminating the costs from unforeseen absences or personnel gaps. Additionally, Playbook provides visibility to see training progress of each employee and makes it easy to build a deep bench of skilled workers.

Your Takeaway: It’s important to have a plan in place to limit the damage from unplanned employee absences. Alchemy Playbook helps manufacturers drastically reduce the time needed to fill gaps due to employee absenteeism — from hours to seconds.


Learn more about Alchemy Playbook.

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