5 Effective Downtime Reduction Strategies for Optimized Operations
Unplanned downtime is detrimental for any given organization – it leads to production disruptions, bottlenecks, hassle, idle time, and losses. While organizations experience downtime for various reasons, the most problematic one is unplanned downtime – it hits organizations out of the blue. In contrast, planned downtime doesn’t hamper production and is considered harmless as it is typically scheduled when the equipment is idle. That being said, let’s look at some unplanned downtime reduction strategies that modern organizations and maintenance managers rely on.
Five effective strategies that help with downtime reduction
Encourage automation when possible
Automation can mean several things; however, many organizations still use pen and paper for most of their daily operations. For instance, maintenance managers are still restricted to pen and paper systems, spreadsheets, or obsolete maintenance management systems. While these might have worked years ago, they are ineffective now. For instance, identifying the work history of a malfunctioning machine can take up much time, especially if these are maintained using pen and paper. These inefficiencies add to unplanned downtime.
Ditching such ancient practices for modern CMMS software solutions simplifies maintenance management significantly. Regular employees can simply report malfunctioning equipment. After the maintenance manager sends technician(s) for inspections, they can simply scan the barcode on the machine to quickly retrieve the work history in seconds, helping with downtime reduction in the process.
Identify underlying problems and address them
Having an effective preventive maintenance plan is just one part of maintenance management – carrying it out successfully and tweaking it whenever necessary is the more crucial aspect. To reduce unplanned downtime, maintenance managers need to identify and address risks, something that’s possible via inspections.
With proper inspections, maintenance technicians can identify potential problems that might cause equipment failure, overheating, or performance issues down the line. Once the problems are reported, the responsible parties can address them based on their priority, helping optimize the business processes and reducing unplanned downtime.
Make resources easily accessible
This doesn’t refer to only spare parts and inventory – maintenance technicians need easily accessible resources if the organization wants to reduce unexpected equipment downtime. While most would think of spare parts and inventory as the most apparent resources in this scenario, many overlook other important aspects such as the work history, vendor information, spare parts information, manufacturer’s manuals, and other relevant materials. The organization and the maintenance manager must ensure that these pieces of information are readily available to the maintenance technicians. A maintenance management system helps with this as it houses all of the information and provides it to authorized personnel, helping with downtime reduction.
Work with the machine operators
One of the biggest misconceptions about downtime reduction is that it entirely depends on the maintenance team. While the maintenance team does have that responsibility, they can’t do it on their own – they need the help of the machine operators. Since these operators directly work with the machinery, how they handle the equipment and respond to malfunctions can affect downtime significantly.
Maintenance managers can include the machine operators in a few ways.
Firstly, they can ensure that the machine operators know how to operate it properly via hands-on training. In these training sessions, maintenance managers can also include basic maintenance knowledge, such as keeping the machine clean and free from dirt and debris after use.
Secondly, since the machine operators work with the equipment, they know it quite well. Responsible maintenance managers would utilize the operators’ knowledge about the machines and optimize maintenance plans accordingly, helping the equipment run smoothly and reduce equipment downtime in the process.
Using preventive maintenance
We’ve touched upon preventive maintenance briefly in one of the points above, but it deserves a separate point in itself. That’s because, even now, many organizations are still using reactive maintenance. The different pieces of machinery keep running until they malfunction or break down. This naturally leads to more frequent downtime, disruptions, and inefficiencies in the facilities.
While no machine will last forever or run without problems, a preventive maintenance plan can drastically reduce downtime. Preventive maintenance means that the equipment will receive regular maintenance, inspections, and emergency repairs, leading to reliable performance and fewer breakdowns, which will reduce unplanned downtime.
Different organizations utilize different strategies to reduce downtime within their facilities. While the results vary on several factors, most would agree that ensuring preventive maintenance, effective collaboration, and addressing the problems proactively reduce unplanned downtime. While these are not the only strategies for reducing downtime, they are common approaches used by responsible organizations and maintenance managers.