There are a lot of things that companies plan for. They plan to fill orders, make record sales, operate efficiently, and otherwise stay on top of things. What companies don’t plan for is unscheduled downtime. A machine breaks down, and all of a sudden operations come to a screeching halt. Maybe this time the company was lucky. They find an available technician and the problem is solved a few hours later. Production continues. No harm done.
But, what was the true cost of this downtime? Some sources say that downtime can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour. Does this seem excessive to you? Think about the costs. There’s the cost to repair equipment, the cost of the repair technician, the labor cost of employees who stood and waited for repairs to happen, the indirect labor cost of managers who took the time to deal with the issue, the opportunity cost of fewer goods produced for sale, and the cost of decreased customer satisfaction because orders were delayed.
The costs keep adding up. Pretty soon, this can become an ugly cycle. Lucky for you, downtime should not be a problem if you follow Graco’s five simple suggestions.
1. Select Proper Equipment
Many companies make the mistake of purchasing improper or incorrectly sized equipment because they are trying to save on the upfront cost. For example, business owners are often tempted to buy a smaller pump rather than the pump that is correctly sized to meet their operational needs. While this may seem like a great way to save money, this can end up costing a lot more. The small pump has a smaller cycle, which will have to fight to keep up with the large load. The result is a frequent need for servicing and repairs on this pump. Likely, this leads to unplanned downtime.
Rather than looking purely at the upfront cost, try to determine the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). This way, your analysis will include direct and indirect costs across the product’s lifespan, and an accurate cost analysis can be made. Calculating the TCO can include many different variables: estimated useful life, estimated maintenance needs, setup and installation costs, training expenses, production efficiency, etc. Don’t forget to consider estimated downtime as one of the biggest additions to TCO.
2. Estimate Efficiency
In addition to calculating the TCO, determine the Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) to help assess whether your equipment is up to your efficiency standards. It can help target where the problem lies: downtime, speed, or quality.
OEE = A x P x Q
A = Availability; the actual uptime divided by the scheduled production time. This equals down time loss.
P = Performance; the percentage of time that the equipment is performing at the ideal speed for production. This equals the speed loss.
Q = Quality; the percentage of total output that passes quality inspections. This estimates quality loss.
3. Assess Procedures
Reflect on the ways that your company approaches maintenance and what its typical procedures are.
If you are like most companies, you probably approach maintenance from a reactive standpoint, also known as “firefighting.” In other words, you tend to fix equipment after it is already broken. After all, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!” Unfortunately, this is not the most efficient method. Waiting to service machinery until it is inoperable often results in crisis situations that could have been avoided by more frequent checkups. All too easily, you are facing unplanned downtime and draining the bank to repair equipment as a rush job.
The next step up from the reactive approach is the preventative, or scheduled, approach, which means replacing and repairing equipment at fixed intervals. Regular cleaning, inspecting, lubricating, and adjusting can expand the equipment’s life and ensure that problems are caught in a timely manner. But, this system is still not perfect. The problem with preventative maintenance is that sometimes these routine measures are unnecessary because they do not meet the exact need and timing of the equipment’s condition. This means that preventative repairs are effective only a percentage of the time that they are used, and the rest of the time they are just an expense.
4. Combine Efforts
The solution to these costly maintenance procedures is to combine preventative maintenance with a predictive approach. This would involve the fusion of necessary scheduled maintenance with flexible repair schedules based on educated predictions of the equipment’s future state. That way, the company can continue to routinely service the areas that require extra attention but also predict the larger, overarching issues. Of course, it isn’t easy to find a healthy balance between which repairs should be scheduled and which repairs should be flexible, but the payoff is worth the careful analysis. The owner’s manual will provide essential advice for preventative maintenance to help prolong the equipment’s life.
There are many benefits to adding predictive elements to your system:
- Minimize Downtime: Flexible predictions of problems before they occur means that production is rarely impacted in a negative way.
- Avoid Unnecessary Repairs: Equipment will be serviced exactly when needed, not after it breaks down or when it is still perfectly fine.
- Optimize Performance: Machines will consistently function at the optimal level because imperfections will be noticed and resolved right away.
- Reduce Extra Costs: There are many costs associated with inefficient repairs such as spare parts inventories, energy efficiency, and depreciation. Keeping up the condition of valuable equipment can eliminate these extras.
5. Customers First
If you think that your machinery is your most valuable asset, you’re wrong. Your customers are always your most valuable asset, which is why it is so important to make sure that your machinery is working properly. If downtime is causing you to miss deadlines or compromise your quality, your customers are not going to be satisfied. This could lead to negative word of mouth. With today’s accessibility of the Internet, it only takes one really bad review to make your company’s hard work fall through the cracks.
Your customers deserve the best. That is why it is important to take all the necessary measures to reduce downtime and costs.