Production Downtime

Production downtime – both planned and unplanned – costs manufacturers billions of dollars a year.

According to figures from Deloitte, even pre-Covid unplanned downtime cost industrial manufacturers around $50 billion each year, with the average manufacturer experiencing an estimated 800 hours of equipment downtime annually, or over 15 hours each week.

Manufacturers are rapidly discovering the importance of reducing production line failures and keeping plants running, particularly with production downtime costs significantly higher post-Covid, as inflation rates continue to rise and lines run at higher capacity. Indeed, the costs of production downtime can top $2 million for large-scale manufacturers.

What is Production Downtime?

Production Downtime is a manufacturing term that refers to any period of time when a machine or work-station is not in production, which can result in a delay to production. The total amount of downtime a factory experiences includes any stops during production that cause a loss of revenue for the company.

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Downtime in production is separated into two different categories: planned and unplanned. ‘Planned downtimes’ are scheduled and budgeted stops during production such as scheduled maintenance and product changeovers. ‘Unplanned downtime’ in manufacturing occurs when an unexpected event such as equipment failures or running out of material occurs to equipment that is scheduled to be in operation. It can happen at any time and without notice, with disruptions lasting any length of time.

Production line downtime places additional costs on companies, with unplanned downtime proving much costlier than planned stoppages. Businesses that take action to track and minimize the cost of downtime, therefore, reap the benefits. 

Common Causes of Production Downtime

  • Inadequate maintenance is regularly cited as a regular and easily addressed cause of production downtime. Knowing when maintenance and inspection is best carried out and using an AI-based solution to provide analysis and recommendations can have a substantial impact on both planned and unplanned downtime.
  • Process or hardware failures often result in production downtime. Components such as sensors, fans, belts, pumps or motors can fail, causing the need for unplanned maintenance and the subsequent production downtime. If the parts are not immediately available or there are no qualified maintenance technicians to hand, this can extend the stoppage period.
  • Component jams are another common cause of unplanned production downtime, with safety and training essential to ensure these can be quickly remedied. Having to call in operators from off-site can add significant delays.
  • Leaks of oil, water or other chemicals can affect safety and so need to be handled carefully, as well as being contained so that they do not damage other parts of the production line.
  • Planned maintenance and adjustments, while scheduled in by manufacturers, can also lead to additional costs as a result of stopping the production line, which often takes time to get back up to speed again.

    Understanding the Costs of Production Downtime

To understand the true costs and reduce downtime in production, manufacturers must be able to track, categorize and analyze every aspect of the cost factors associated with each stop or delay in the production process.

By tracking downtime in production and identifying the true costs of downtime (TCD), including tangible and intangible costs, it is possible to start addressing the problem and developing strategies to combat the most significant causes. Tangible costs include labor, lost production, lost capacity and inventory, while intangible costs could be stress, for employees and machines, loss of responsiveness or flex in production, or a distraction from innovation programs.

Utilizing technology to carry out the analysis needed to identify the TCD and its causes, by looking at all the cost factors associated with disruptions, can also provide the evidence needed to build a case for expenditure on solutions such as predictive maintenance and analytics.

Minimizing Production Downtime

 Minimizing downtime in manufacturing is just as imperative as maximizing quality and output to maintain contribution margins. Production downtime can result in delays all the way along the line, having an impact on maximized hours, and consequently on optimized revenue.

 Companies are starting to see the benefits of reducing production line failures as much as possible, with costs continuing to soar in the face of global economic challenges. Predictive maintenance and analytics solutions have received a huge boost from AI and Industrial IoT, with predictive maintenance proving increasingly popular across the manufacturing sector.

Regularly servicing machines is, in itself, a form of prevention, but modern AI-based solutions can provide essential data on the optimal time to carry this out, as well as information about potential failures before they occur.

Next-generation advanced sensors and algorithms are capable of going a step further and enabling manufacturers to predict future equipment faults more accurately, detecting conditions that can lead to unplanned downtime or diagnosing specific components that have a higher failure risk.

The Future is Production Downtime Tracking and Predictive Maintenance

Minimizing production delays was a key concern of respondents to the 2022 SME unique industry survey and AI solutions have moved manufacturing beyond preventative maintenance into the realm of production downtime tracking and predictive maintenance. This enables companies to respond early to risks that could cause unplanned production line downtime. Having a clear understanding of what causes production downtime and implementing technology to minimize it can potentially lead to cost savings worth billions of dollars a year, in addition to less tangible benefits in areas such as staff morale and innovation.

You can learn more about how to identify and reduce the costs of disruption in our guide here.

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