Reducing manufacturing downtime has long been a critical goal of manufacturing units everywhere. Everyone knows that downtime is a problem, but some recent studies have helped illustrate exactly how costly – and devastating – it can be if left unchecked.
According to one recent study, the average cost of downtime in various manufacturing environments is an enormous $17,000 per incident. The issue is that most people just don’t have an accurate idea of how deep this rabbit hole goes. Some consultants believe that as many as 80% of manufacturing businesses are unable to accurately estimate how much unplanned downtime they’re experiencing. They know they have a problem on the shop floor, but they don’t know exactly what to do about it. Not only that, but human error is also the cause for an estimate of 23% of all unplanned downtime incidents – an issue that can’t be adequately addressed unless you fully understand it to begin with.
In an effort to reduce downtime as much as possible – and to increase performance across the board – many organizations have embraced Six Sigma processes and Lean Manufacturing. Yet at the same time, many manufacturing units are still failing to achieve a good OEE score.
Several factors contribute to this problem, but the lesson is clear – the focus must be laid on bringing efficiency and performance gains to the manufacturing process. Process optimization is the first step in this ever-critical direction.
The Power of Process Optimization
Process optimization requires the adoption of various steps that all add up to something far bigger and more important than any one of them could be on their own. Plant managers must do rigorous monitoring of the plant and machinery, for example. They must unify the quality data access and ensure better tracking and reporting of said problems. This will ensure quick, remedial action whenever possible.
Note that the key phrase in “process optimization” here involves the better monitoring and reporting of the processes themselves. A better understanding of the machine performance will help in avoidance of sudden surprises in form of manufacturing downtime.
Some of the important steps that you can take to help in terms of process optimization include ones like:
Capture Quality Data Across the Unit
Knowledge is power. It helps in making informed decisions and takes preventive measures. The biggest reason for most of the unplanned downtimes is a failure to get accurate data. The manufacturing units work as one entity but the various processes within the unit work separately. It is important that the data of these processes is accessible at one point. This helps in taking preventive steps in case the point of problems fails to recognize the issues. Downtime tracking mechanisms help in gathering the data at one point. It makes optimization of the process easy. The control unit can recognize the need for preventive mechanism even if the machine operator fails to recognize it. This central mechanism can initiate planned maintenance to reduce manufacturing downtime. It will make the process smooth and help in running it optimally. The important thing is to figure out the problem before it blows out of proportion.
Improve Process Evaluation by Understanding the Machines
The biggest problem of the riddle is to understand the machines. Continuous work, overload and ignoring the maintenance breaks lead to problems. They can be avoided if the process evaluation is carried out from time to time. This will help in understanding the machine and avoiding surprises. A better understanding of the machines facilitates Manufacturing Process Optimization. Sudden failures can be avoided and the process can be made smooth.
Optimal performance of the machines is crucial for optimizing the process. Frequent machine failures and unplanned breakdowns lead to inefficiency. You can avoid these problems by monitoring the performance of the machines. If any machine is facing frequent breakdowns then you need to get down to the root of the problem. Low performance of even a single unit in the assembly will drag down the performance of the dependent processes. Machine tracking can help you in understanding this important indicator. It gives you historical assessment of the performance of the individual processes.
Accelerate Data Analysis
The faster you gather and analyze the data the sooner proactive steps can be taken. It is a crucial part of process optimization. Downtime tracking gives you instant access to the machine data. It also gives you specific analysis of the problems. The area facing the issue or needing maintenance breaks also get highlighted. You are able to understand the need for maintenance better and schedule it accordingly. This will help you in running the processes much smoothly where other processes don’t get affected by any other machine’s breakdown.
Minimize Maintenance Disruptions
Maintenance is a crucial part of running a plant smoothly. It can get undermined when a plant is running at full capacity. This can lead to problems ahead. Ignoring the maintenance schedules and overusing the machines can lead to bigger failures. It must be avoided in all circumstances. Planned maintenance is a part of process optimization and it helps in avoiding unplanned downtimes.
Unify Quality Data Access
Leaving the analysis of cause and problems on the individual units can prove to be a big challenge in the way of process optimization. Mistakes may get overlooked and problems may be ignored under pressure situations. This can spell a lot of problems where there may be a complete breakdown of the system. Access to quality data must be unified. This helps in maintaining the check and balance of the system. Even if a problem gets ignored at one point it will get noticed at another. This will give a great boost to process optimization and help in minimizing downtime. The process can be run smoothly and without disruptions. If there is no unified access to the quality data then you will have to depend upon the reporting of the individual machine operators. This may delay action and lead to undue stops. Downtime monitoring gives you real-time access to the quality data. You are always in the loop and in a better position to make an informed decision when there is still time to do so. You can also take proactive steps through preventive maintenance to avoid the problems or reduce the reaction time.
Better Tracking and Reporting
Better tracking and reporting of the problems is the key to process optimization. It always keeps you in the driver’s seat. You have better control over the flow of the process and you can take steps to make it better without the fear of many unpleasant surprises. Downtime Tracking software programs help you by efficiently tracking and reporting issues. You have better access to the key parameters in form of color-coded signals so that you can easily identify the urgency. The data is available to you in real time. This solves the biggest part of the equation for you.
You can reduce your downtime by process optimization. When the process is moving smoothly there are very few chances of disruptions. Problems can be handled easily and effectively. Downtimes can prove to be a drag on the resources and put a lot of strain on other dependent processes. They must be avoided at all costs.