Reducing Downtime: How Proper Maintenance Boosts Productivity

October 10, 2023

Unplanned downtime can be extremely costly for manufacturers. According to recent statistics from the Aberdeen Group, the average manufacturer in the United States loses over $260,000 per year due to unplanned downtime, which amounts to a loss of 5% of annual revenues.

For a mid-sized manufacturer with $50 million in yearly sales, that equates to $2.5 million annually wasted due to disruptions and failures.

Downtime not only takes a financial toll but also hinders operations. When critical production equipment goes offline unexpectedly, it brings manufacturing to a standstill. Assembly lines shut down, employees sit idle, in-process materials are delayed, and orders fall behind schedule.

The downstream effects carry even greater costs in the form of expedited shipping fees, overtime labor, and damaged customer relationships.

Proper maintenance is the key to minimizing unplanned downtime events and their substantial impacts. Keeping equipment running smoothly involves proactively servicing assets on a regular, preventative basis to find potential issues before they cause major failure.

With rigorous preventive maintenance procedures in place, manufacturers can avoid many unexpected breakdowns and keep productivity high. This article will explore maintenance best practices and how they can help maximize uptime and reduce disruptive downtime.

The High Cost of Downtime

When machinery goes down unexpectedly, it brings production to a halt. Employees sit idle, the output is lost, and orders fall behind. The resulting costs can add up quickly:

  • Lost Production Time: Facilities lose the ability to manufacture goods while equipment is non-functional. This reduces overall output and capacity.
  • Labor Costs: While machinery is down, employees may not be able to work. However, manufacturers still have to pay workers wages during the downtime.
  • Ruined Materials: In-process materials can be damaged or scrapped when equipment fails unexpectedly.
  • Expedited Shipping: Once back up and running, manufacturers often have to pay extra to expedite shipments and make up for lost time.
  • Reputation Damage: Frequent downtime makes it difficult to meet customer orders on time, harming brand reputation.

Research by the Aberdeen Group found that manufacturers lose an average of 5% of their annual revenues to unplanned downtime. For a company earning $50 million per year, that equates to $2.5 million in lost revenue annually.

Numerous companies in the industry provide fuel based reliability services to help manufacturers in identifying and proactively addressing problems that could cause downtime, thereby ensuring smoother and more efficient operations.

Preventative Maintenance Best Practices

The most effective way to reduce downtime is through rigorous preventative maintenance. This involves proactively servicing equipment on a regular schedule to prevent breakdowns and failures before they occur.

One study by ReliabilityWeb looked at the leading causes of downtime and found the following:

Data Source: ReliabilityWeb

Here are some best practices for an effective preventive maintenance program:

Schedule Regular Maintenance Intervals

The foundation of preventative maintenance is scheduling regular service intervals based on running hours, calendar days, or usage rates.

Critical equipment may need maintenance as often as every two weeks, while less vital assets can go months between service. Work orders should be created and parts ordered ahead of time for each maintenance task.

Perform Inspections and Tests

Maintenance personnel should perform inspections and tests to identify potential problems before they cause breakdowns.

This includes checking fluid levels, lubrication, filters, gaskets, wiring, leaks, vibration, alignment, and more. For critical equipment, infrared imaging and vibration analysis can identify issues early.

Replace Worn Parts

When parts show signs of wear, they should be replaced preemptively during maintenance intervals.

Examples include bearings, belts, gaskets, seals, hoses, and other components subject to friction. Waiting for them to fail unexpectedly leads to catastrophic breakdowns.

Improve Maintenance Accessibility

Equipment should be designed and installed with maintenance tasks in mind. Adequate access space around assets allows technicians to easily reach components for service.

Installation should also keep lubrication points, drains, and fills conveniently located.

Track Downtime Causes

Each instance of downtime should be tracked and documented, along with root causes. Over time, failure patterns become apparent. The biggest sources of downtime can then be targeted to prevent reoccurrence.

Perform Proactive Equipment Upgrades

Upgrading to more reliable equipment can reduce downtime. For example, newer model CNC machines often experience fewer unexpected failures than older ones.

The higher upfront cost of upgrades should be weighed against their long-term downtime reduction benefits.

The Benefits of Increased Uptime

While proper maintenance requires an investment of time and resources, it pays major dividends through increased uptime and productivity:

  • More Production Capacity: With less downtime, facilities can operate closer to maximum production capacity and meet higher output targets.
  • Lower Labor Costs: Production workers can stay fully utilized even when some equipment is down for scheduled maintenance. There is less wasted time waiting for repairs.
  • Reduced Overtime: Less need for urgent repairs means less overtime required to make up for lost production after failures.
  • Higher Product Quality: With well-maintained equipment, manufacturers experience fewer defects, rejects, and quality issues.
  • Improved Customer Service: Consistent uptime makes it easier to deliver orders to customers on schedule and build long-term relationships.
  • Maximized Revenues: Ultimately, by losing less production time to downtime, manufacturers can produce and sell more goods and maximize revenues.

According to an IndustryWeek survey, manufacturers that improve maintenance practices and increase uptime by just 10% gain approximately $25,000 more output annually for every $1 million in production. Proper maintenance truly pays off on the bottom line.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should preventative maintenance be performed?

Preventative maintenance frequencies vary based on equipment criticality, but most assets should be serviced at least every 6 months. Critical equipment may need maintenance as often as weekly. Maintenance schedules should follow OEM guidelines.

What maintenance tasks can reduce downtime?

Key tasks like equipment inspections, fluid changes, component replacement, lubrication, cleaning, calibration, and testing all help minimize downtime. The software can automate scheduling and work order creation.

How does preventative maintenance improve safety?

By finding issues ahead of time, maintenance reduces the risk of dangerous equipment failures that lead to injuries and environmental spills. It also improves alarm and safety system reliability.

What are the benefits of maintenance access design?

Proper access space, installation layout, and component placement make it faster, easier, and safer for technicians to complete maintenance tasks. This improves productivity.

How can manufacturers track downtime causes?

Maintenance software and computerized maintenance management systems give visibility into downtime trends. They help identify problem areas to target and prevent recurrence.

Key Takeaways

Unplanned downtime is tremendously expensive and reduces productivity for manufacturers. By investing in rigorous preventative maintenance, facilities can minimize disruptive equipment failures and improve uptime.

This boosts production capacity, cuts costs, increases revenues, and strengthens customer relationships. Following modern maintenance best practices is crucial for maximizing equipment lifespan, output, and profits.


Carlos Diaz
I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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