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The Mistake of Trying to Track Downtime By Hand

According to one recent study, the average cost of downtime across all businesses in 2016 came in at an enormous $260,000 per hour. Not only is that an incredible figure, but it was also a 60% jump from just a few years earlier in 2014 – a trend that unfortunately shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Unplanned downtime is the bane of manufacturers everywhere, and organizational leaders are always looking for opportunities to eliminate it wherever possible. Some do this by prioritizing proactive and preventative maintenance measures. Others choose to focus on productivity benchmarks like OEE, or Overall Equipment Effectiveness. Many do all of these things at the exact same time in an effort to collect as much actionable information as possible.

Tracking downtime is always recommended – but far too many organizations are still making the mistake of trying to do so by hand. Not only does this make it more difficult to understand the real situation you’re dealing with, but it brings with it a number of other distinct disadvantages, too.

Why Manual Downtime Tracking is a Mistake

Even small businesses these days have manufacturing processes that are becoming increasingly sophisticated as the result of not only their own digital transformations, but also due to factors like increased automation and the global reach of the supply chain. Because of this, adequately collecting downtime data by hand isn’t just difficult – in most cases, it’s truly impossible.

If machine operators are still manually reporting downtime instances on paper, it creates a situation where inaccuracies can easily develop. They’ve been trained to make sure that their machine stays online and that they keep producing – they’re not experts in documentation, nor should they be.

What you’re left with is a situation where unplanned downtime is still happening, but you don’t understand it nearly as much as you think you do. You’re making decisions based on inaccurate information and you’re ultimately just treating the symptom, not the disease.

With an automated downtime tracking solution like the one available from Thrive, on the other hand, you can rest easy knowing you truly understand your manufacturing floor better than ever. These solutions are often plug and play, meaning there is no server or PLC required and absolutely no software to install. Within mere seconds of activation, you can access a dashboard with real-time information about your equipment from any computer or device on Earth with an Internet connection.

Plus, you don’t have to worry about maintaining paper records that can A) be lost, or B) may not get into the hands of the people who need them. With automated downtime tracking software and built-in reporting tools, you can export your data directly to your ERP to make sure that the people who need that information to do their jobs have it. Information is flowing freely across your enterprise and you can capitalize on opportunities for improvement faster than ever, which in and of itself you can’t do if you’re still operating in a world of paper.


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Why Your Workers Have an Important Role to Play in the OEE Process  

Overall Equipment Effectiveness, also commonly referred to as OEE for short, isn’t just a way to measure manufacturing productivity – it is perhaps the gold standard for doing so available today. On the surface, it’s a viable way to better understand the percentage of all your manufacturing time that is as productive as possible. But diving deeper, it’s also about so much more than that, too.

If you know how many quality parts you’re manufacturing, how fast you’re manufacturing them and how much stop time you’re dealing with, you suddenly have all the actionable information you need to understand what parts of your processes are working – and, more importantly, which ones aren’t. At that point, you have what you need to double down on the former and get rid of the latter at every opportunity.

Yet at the same time, when implementing OEE far too many organizations still make the mistake of excluding perhaps the most crucial element of all:

Your people.

The Role of Employees in the OEE Process: An Overview

Remember that OEE is a metric for not only identifying productivity, but also losses as well. It’s designed to help you improve your manufacturing processes by, among other things, eliminating waste wherever it can be located.

It would be an absolute shame not to include your employees in these calculations, especially given the fact that they obviously play a central role in the production process.

Think about it like this. Your employees operate your equipment every single day. Nobody understands specific machines better than they do. When you identify losses and even opportunities for improvement during the OEE process, they need to be the ones who take ownership of implementing whatever measures you decide on.

Doing so accomplishes a number of critical things, all at the exact same time. For starters, it improves the chances that these optimization measures will be successful by bringing in the people who are actually working on the factory floor every day. Beyond that, it reaffirms in their mind that they’re playing such a big role in your manufacturing process. That you couldn’t have gotten to this point without them and you won’t be able to achieve success in the future without them, either.

This is a perfect chance to cement both their commitment to your organization and their motivation to help you accomplish your goals. If you cut them out of the process and continue to make changes with little more than cold, hard data, you’re essentially doing the opposite – they become disconnected from their tasks.

Therefore, it is essential that you have open lines of communication among all people who are interacting with the processes being tracked with OEE. This includes not only your machine operators, but your entire production team.

Not only that, but by tapping into people with different experiences who work in different areas, your improvements can be made quicker and more efficiently than ever – which may in and of itself be the most important benefit of all.

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Your OEE Score is On the Decline. Here Are Some of the Reasons Why  

Overall Equipment Effectiveness, or OEE, has long been considered one of the best metrics for benchmarking productivity available to manufacturers today.

With 100% being a perfect score, it allows you to take a look at quality, performance and availability. As you inch closer to that high score, it means that you’re manufacturing A) only high quality parts, B) as quickly as you can, with C) little to no stop time to speak of. As you implement measures for improvement and optimization, you can see that score improve in real-time – thus allowing you to see exactly which of your efforts are working as soon as possible.

Which, of course, demands the question – what happens if that score isn’t actually increasing? What if you’re making strategic moves, only to see it start to slide in the other direction? All told, there are a number of reasons why your OEE score may be on the decline – and reversing these trends requires you to understand as much about them as possible.

Understanding Declining OEE Scores: An Overview

By far, two of the biggest reasons why OEE scores may be declining have to do with both planned and unplanned stops. Planned stops include things like changeovers and inspections, while unplanned stops are obviously related to unexpected periods of downtime.

To be fair, some type of stoppage is inevitable – it’s a big part of the reason why nobody ever achieves a true OEE score of 100%. But if planned stops are taking too long, and they’re getting longer all the time, it could cause your OEE score to decline. Likewise, even if you don’t think unplanned stops are taking too long, if they’re increasing in frequency it could create the same trend.

Another major reason why OEE scores tend to decline has to do with slow speeds of the equipment being measured. In order to increase your score, particularly in terms of availability, a machine or system needs to be hitting its maximum productivity. If it isn’t, it could point to a number of different issues.

Sometimes, machines begin to slow down because they’re being feed poor quality materials. Other times, its human error – operators simply need more training or access to resources that they don’t have. However, it could also be due to the machine’s age – illustrating the dangers of inadequate maintenance programs.

Ultimately, it’s relatively easy for your OEE score to start to decline – especially if you’re not paying attention to the data you’re getting. Prioritizing maintenance for equipment and ongoing training and education for employees is one way to combat this, but there are many others. If nothing else, this serves as a reminder of the fact that OEE is not something you “do once and forget about.” There are always opportunities for improvement and if you don’t start to capitalize on them, you could start to see a negative trend that is much, much harder to correct than it otherwise should be.


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Downtime Tracking: How to Reduce Performance Losses Across the Board  

Overall Equipment Effectiveness, also referred to as OEE for short, is more than just another best practice. Thanks to the fact that it gives you insight into the quality of the parts you’re manufacturing, the rate at which you’re manufacturing them, and the amount of stop time you’re dealing with, it’s literally the gold standing for measuring the productivity of your organization – and it’s one that you need to pay close attention to moving forward.

Quality, performance, availability – these are the three major sources of losses that you’re likely dealing with and understanding WHY those issues are happening is the key to learning WHAT you must do to correct them.

Which, of course, demands the question – if you’re dealing with significant performance losses that are harming your OEE score, how do you put a stop to them once and for all?

Thankfully, getting to this point isn’t necessarily as difficult as you might be fearing. It simply requires you to remember a few key tips and tricks along the way.

Your Guide to Reducing Performance Losses

One of the best ways to reduce your performance losses – and thus improve your OEE score – involves gaining a better understanding of where they’re actually coming from. More often than not, it’s less the product of any one major issue and is more about a series of smaller ones that add up to something far greater than you realize.

Case in point: idling and minor stops. At a glance, they’re seemingly insignificant events given the fact that they usually last just minutes. But when you consider the frequency at which they’re happening, they can add up to major lost time by the end of the day.

To help reduce these instances of idling and minor stops, you would want to use a solution like Thrive’s downtime tracking to prompt instant notification when they occur. Instead of waiting on an operator to notice a problem and then manually report it, at which point they then probably have to wait for authorization to fix it, a downtime tracking solution can immediately notify the right people – all so that they can immediately do something about it.

Not only does this go a long way towards reducing the time that idling and minor stops take as much as possible, it also frees up the time of operators so that they can focus on matters that actually need their attention.

Another great way to reduce performance losses is to track patterns of loss moving forward. This, too, is something that a solution like Thrive can help you with. If you know which types of issues are recurring, you know everything you need to get to the root cause – at which point you can eliminate them in the future.

To learn more about how to reduce the unique types of performance losses that you face in your industry, or to get more specific answers to any other questions you may have, please don’t delay – contact Thrive today.



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The Major Ways to Reduce Equipment Downtime: Your Guide  

If you had to make a list of some of the things that keep manufacturers up at night, equipment downtime would undoubtedly be right at the top.

One minute, you have a production line that is operating at peak efficiency – or at least as close to it as you can get. The next minute, a critical piece of machinery has gone offline and you have no idea when it’s coming back. Is it an issue with the operator? Were the settings correct? Do you need a part that you don’t necessarily have on-hand? These are questions that don’t have easy answers and every minute that machine is offline is a minute you’re losing money.

Thankfully, with a downtime tracking solution like Thrive, eliminating (or at least reducing) these types of issues is a relatively straightforward process. All you have to do is follow a few basic steps, and keep a number of important pointers in mind along the way.

Best Practices for Reducing Equipment Downtime

By far, one of the best ways to reduce equipment downtime is to categorize the reasons for any losses that you’re experiencing. In other words, you need to understand WHY your equipment is shutting down so that you can learn more about WHAT you need to do about it.

This is one of those areas where a downtime tracking solution like Thrive will come in handy. Not only will you be able to capture the length of all downtime events that you experience, but operators will also be able to categorize exactly why those events are happening. Over the long-term, this will help you uncover trends and patterns that likely would have gone undiscovered – all so that you can make whatever adjustments you need to stop them from happening again.

Along the same lines, another one of the best ways to reduce equipment downtime involves performing regular maintenance as often as you can. On the one hand, this may seem contradictory as maintenance always requires a particular machine to go offline.

But when you’re using a downtime tracking tool that also helps you regularly inspect the mission critical assets on your production floor, you also get access to insight that will help you identify when demand for those assets drops. In other words, you know both when it would be the least disruptive to perform maintenance and what you need to do in order to keep that asset running at peak efficiency.

Preventative maintenance is the perfect way to both stop small problems now before they have a chance to become bigger (and costlier) ones later, and to minimize equipment failure moving forward. Both of those factors save your business a tremendous amount of money, which is why this is one area you should always be paying attention to.

If you’re interested in learning about even more effective ways to reduce equipment downtime for your business, or if you’d just like to see what machine downtime and OEE tracking can do for you, please don’t hesitate to contact Thrive today.


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How to Reduce Quality Losses: A Straightforward Guide

Although the trends and patterns that OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) helps you discover may be complicated, the concept at the heart of it is anything but. You’re simply talking about the rate at which you’re manufacturing A) high-quality parts, B) as quickly as possible, C) with as little stop time as you can manage.

An OEE score of 100% would mean that you were manufacturing ONLY those quality parts, as quickly as you can, with total availability across the board. Obviously, no business is ever going to get to that point – but it’s still important that you continue to try.

Naturally, a big part of that issue involves quality losses. Defective products make up a big percentage of lost revenue for any organization, so naturally you want to put a stop to it wherever you can. Getting to that point isn’t necessarily difficult, but it does require you to keep a few key things in mind.

Reducing Quality Losses the Actionable Way

One of the best ways to reduce quality losses – and thus improve your OEE score – involves lowering startup rejects wherever possible.

Startup rejects are actually a great place to begin to that end, because they’re fairly easy to track. They tend to rear their ugly heads during that gap between project startup and steady production, where you have a better idea of what you’re dealing with. These tend to be a result of not only errors in the setup process, but also changeovers, equipment readiness issues and more.

One way to reduce these types of startup rejects involves actually ramping back your initial production. The first batch of products to go across your production lines will naturally have some issues. But instead of throwing out a large volume of products and restarting, instead produce a much smaller amount to spot any potential problems early before they have a chance to become much bigger (and more expensive) ones later on.

You could also try reducing variation – which is a term used to describe situations where you may have perfectly fine quality products one day, only to experience significant issues the next. Variation is caused by an unfortunately large list of issues, including inconsistent settings from one machine to the next and inconsistencies in terms of material quality.

To avoid this, figure out why you’re experiencing issues in variation and do whatever you can to solve them. Typically, this involves getting even more strict in terms of those factors outlined above. Not only does this allow you to achieve much more consistent results across the board, but it also goes a long way towards saving your organization as much money as possible.

If you’d like to find out more information about the actionable steps that you can take to reduce quality losses, or if you’d just like to experiment more with how downtime tracking can benefit your organization, please don’t delay – contact the team at Thrive today.


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You Can’t Improve What You’re Not Measuring: Why OEE Will Always Matter  

As a manufacturing professional, continuous improvement is obviously a concept that is always at the forefront of your mind.

Even if you’re completely happy with the way things are going today… there are always opportunities for improvement. Capitalizing on those opportunities is one of the best ways to not only increase revenue, but to also remain competitive in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

That, in essence, is why OEE tracking will always matter. Also commonly referred to as Overall Equipment Effectiveness for short, OEE tracking is all about gaining a deeper understanding of the quality, availability and performance of your production lines. Not just in terms of your overall business, but down to things like the shift, the piece of equipment in question and even the individual operator.

The Power of OEE

One of the major reasons why OEE will always matter has to do with the six big types of losses that will constantly be present across your operations. These include things like:

  • Unplanned stops, that are likely the result of issues like equipment failure.
  • Planned stops, which may be necessary but can always be improved by taking a closer look at things like setups and adjustments.
  • Small stops, which are usually caused by idling and minor stops that may not be so minor under closer examination.
  • Slow cycles, which are the result of reduced speed, among other factors.
  • Production rejects, which may point to an issue in your production process somewhere.
  • Startup rejects, which typically always translate to reduced yield.

OEE takes a look at all of these issues within the context of fully productive time. This in turn also gives you insight into how much of your operator’s time they’re able to maximize on a daily basis.

A lot of these things can be exacerbated – and on the flip side, corrected – by equipment maintenance. If you’re still practicing a reactive maintenance plan – meaning that you’re simply waiting for something to break so you can fix it – you’ll likely see increased instances of those six big losses outlined above.

On the contrary, if you’re practicing predictive maintenance – meaning that you’re stopping small issues before they have a chance to become much larger ones – you’ll eliminate these problems across the board.

Remember that machines that break down frequently are nearly impossible to optimize for that reason. This creates a ripple effect in the worst possible way. Not only does this reduce your ideal cycle time, but it also probably contributes to an increased number of product defects as well.

OEE can help you better understand where your issues lie within the context of all of this, putting you in the best possible position to do something about it.

To find out more information about why OEE is always going to be an important metric for your organization, or to speak to someone about your own situation in a bit more detail, please don’t delay – contact Thrive today.



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The Relationship Between OEE and Your Operators  

As mentioned in the past, OEE (or Overall Equipment Effectiveness) is all about measuring the true productivity of your manufacturing lines. If you’re able to achieve an OEE score of 100%, it means that you’re dealing with no stop time, that you’re working as quickly as possible and that you’re only manufacturing high quality parts.

A lot of organizations use OEE (in association with things like downtime tracking tools) to pay closer attention to the actual equipment being used on their factory floors every day. Indeed, this is a great way to identify small issues with things like equipment maintenance now so that you can stop them from becoming much bigger (and potentially more costly) ones down the road.

But at the same time, one must not overlook another key component that has a direct impact on your OEE score: the operators themselves.

OEE and Your Operators: An Overview

One situation where your OEE score can absolutely be impacted by your operators has to do with those times when you may be short a worker on the factory floor.

Remember that OEE is all about identifying equipment-based losses. In the event that you’re short an operator for whatever reason, you can’t run your equipment at its fully intended speed – meaning that your OEE score would absolutely be lower than it otherwise would.

The only way OEE works is if you use it to identify all losses, regardless of where they’re coming from. If you’re short someone on the floor, that is preventing you from unlocking the maximum potential of your equipment – meaning that you need to include it in your calculations. At the very least, it’ll give you a much-needed context to understand where those losses are coming from.

This is especially true in situations where you may be down an operator but you’re still dealing with full customer demand. In that situation, the lack of an operator would absolutely be treated as an OEE issue.

If you’re short an operator and it’s during a time when you’re not dealing with full customer demand, however, you wouldn’t necessarily need to look at things the exact same way. Sure, your ideal cycle time may change given the current conditions that you’re working with – but it won’t immediately impact your overall OEE score for that particular shift.

Along the same lines, if you’re ever in a situation where you can’t run a process due to a lack of operator that, too, is an OEE issue. More specifically, it impacts your availability score – because you’re dealing with a manufacturing process that should have been executed but that wasn’t.

In the end, never forget that OEE is designed to help you do one thing above all others: identify your losses so that you can put a stop to them as much as possible. Obviously, you probably aren’t caught off guard by the fact that you’re short an operator. But you still need to include this fact in your calculations anyway so that you can continue to trust your larger scores moving forward.