5 Tips for Reducing Downtime

How to Reduce Downtime in Your Facility

When managing any facility, one of the biggest problems you need to overcome is downtime. Whether it is a full work stoppage where nothing is getting done, or just one machine that isn’t working properly, downtime can cause a wide range of different problems throughout the facility.

Of course, downtime will also affect the bottom line of the facility, since if you can’t product your products, you’ll never make any money. While it may be impossible to eliminate 100% of all downtime, there are many things you can do to reduce it throughout the facility.

“Downtime is the time from the first equipment breakdown to full running production. Clearly any time production is not producing quality product profits are being lost. That alone is good reason to address the issues that cause downtime and it’s not difficult to do. Simply exposing downtime when it occurs is a great start.” – Vorne Industries

Review the following five tips to help prevent any unnecessary downtime wherever possible.

Tip #1 – Visualize Your Downtime

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When a machine goes down, it should be immediately apparent to as many people as possible within the facility. The more people who are aware of the issue, the more likely someone will know how to fix it.

Setting up a system of notifications that will alert people to system problems is a great way to quickly get the right people working on the problem. Depending upon which machine is experiencing issues, you may be able to have the machine automatically send out a broadcast email to the management and maintenance team. Or you may want to install an LED Andon light (such as the ones found here). Andon lights are a great communication tool that can help reduce downtime and communicate quickly throughout an entire facility. Click HERE for more information on Andon lights.

In addition to letting people know about the problem, the people at the machine should know exactly what to do to fix issues, and what they should do if they can’t. For example, if a part gets stuck in a machine, they will know to follow an escalation process similar to this:

  • Power down the machine, and try to remove the part manually.
  • If that doesn’t work, immediately escalate the issue to the floor maintenance manager.
  • If they can’t fix the issue within 15 minutes, the facility manager should be notified.
  • If it is not fixed within one hour, the facility manager is notified.

Obviously the specific escalation process will need to be customized based on your specific facility, but the idea is to ensure the right people know about all issues as quickly as possible, to minimize downtime.

Tip #2 – Identify Optimal Settings

When a job is performed by multiple people each day, they often each have their own way of doing things. This means that settings and configurations are constantly being changed on the machine, which may result in downtime. Even if downtime doesn’t occur, it will certainly result in less than optimal performance.

To avoid this type of problem, take the time to learn what settings allow for maximum efficiency on the machine, and teach everyone to work based on those settings. Even though some people might not like it at first, it will lead to less downtime and increased productivity.

In the event that someone has a recommendation as to how to improve on the agreed upon settings, testing should take place to see whether or not their suggestion is a good one. If it is, the new settings can become the standard.

This is one tip that you will likely get a lot of complaints about from the employees. This is because you will be forcing everyone to do something the same way, even if they don’t agree with it. In most cases, however, if you can get them to give it a good try, they will realize just how helpful it can be.

The important thing with this is to make sure you are tracking the results carefully so you can show how beneficial it has been for the facility, and the employees as well. Also, keep in mind that it may actually result in more problems for the first few days, but over time it will be very beneficial.

Tip #3 – Individual Changes

One of the biggest things that causes downtime in any business is change. While change itself is often a good thing, it also introduces the opportunity for problems that can cause things to go down. This is why you should only ever allow one change to occur at a time.

This makes it easier to back the change out, if necessary, and it also makes it possible to immediately identify the cause of the downtime. No matter how big or small a change is, it is best to make it on its own so it can be properly tested and confirmed to be working before anything else is altered.

You’ll likely find that this one tip on its own can dramatically reduce not only the total number of work stoppages in your facility, but also the average length of each one that does occur.

While individual changes are ideal, many facilities do get to a certain size where this begins to become unrealistic. For larger facilities, this tip could be rephrased to say one impacted area per change at a time. This simply means that you should never have more than one change that can impact a certain area going on at any given time.

For example, you can make an update to a line that creates product A, and another change that will affect a line that creates product B. You should, however, avoid making any two changes that will both affect the same product line. While this may seem like an overly cautious way of doing business, it will actually help keep everything running smoothly.

Tip #4 – Perform Maintenance & Set a schedule

Another major contributor to downtime in most factories is parts that wear out over time. Whether it is lubrication, belts, rollers, or anything else that is needed for a machine, these things will eventually wear out. If they aren’t replaced prior to that point, it will result in the machine being out of commission until it is fixed.

If it has been a while since this type of maintenance has taken place, you should hold a major update event. Rather than allowing this type of downtime to occur, you should replace all of these parts so your machines are operating like new again. Once these parts are replaced, set a schedule for when they should be inspected and replaced again in the future.

Keep in mind that each part will have a different estimated lifespan, so you normally don’t want to replace them all at once. Instead, schedule a little bit of time each week, or month, to go through and replace the parts that are getting close to their end of life. This will keep machines running smoothly, and cut way back on unscheduled down time.

Tip #5 – Sort, Set & Shine

Using three of the 5 S’s from the 5S methodology, you can help eliminate many of the things that lead to downtime in your facility. Performing these items on a regular basis will not only prevent many outages, but it will also contribute to a more efficient facility overall.

Look at how each of these three S’s can help keep your facility up and running as much as possible:

  • Sort – Eliminating everything from an area that is not needed. This doesn’t just mean physical items that could be thrown away, it also means any steps in the manufacturing process. If an item doesn’t need to go through a particular machine, for example, than it shouldn’t. The less wear on the machines, the longer they will last without any problems.
  • Set – Organizing everything so it is where it belongs is a great way to reduce downtime. This begins with keeping all the inventory and products where they need in the facility, and continues on with making sure the machines are performing the right jobs, in the best possible order for maximum efficiency, and minimized downtime.
  • Shine – Keeping machines and equipment clean and well maintained will go a long way toward eliminating many types of downtime. This step will include keeping lubricants changed, coolants filled, and the whole machine generally looking its best at all times.

You can see how each of these three S strategies can help to cut back on downtime quite dramatically. Depending on the facility, you can have these S’s inspected daily, weekly, monthly, or at any interval that works for your business. Whatever you do, just make sure you do it with downtime elimination in mind.

Maintaining Changes

As you implement one or more of the above five tips for eliminating downtime in your facility, you will always want to remember that these tips only work if you keep up with them. Doing them each just once may have a short term positive effect, but over the years it would result in virtually no impact at all.

Instead, set each of these tips up to occur on a constant basis so you’re always maintaining the improvements of your facility, and even improving them over time. It may be unrealistic to expect any facility to operate with no downtime at all, but you can always do something to reduce it a little more all the time.

Just keep in mind, downtime isn’t just an inconvenience, it truly reflects directly on your overall profit margin. In today’s highly competitive world, anything you can do to improve your profits will help ensure your facility is here today, and long into the future.

Creative Safety Supply is ready to help boost and enhance the efficiency of your facility. Contact Creative Safety Supply at 1-866-777-1360 for all your 5s and safety product needs.

Source: Downtime Tips – by Vorne Industries

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