Downtime happens — often when we least expect it, and frequently at the most inconvenient times. In fact, nothing about downtime is convenient! It’s a mess, but it happens nonetheless. It’s best to make the most of a bad situation. The next time you’re dealing with unanticipated downtime, take a minute to look for the silver lining.
The dark side of downtime
Zero downtime is every manufacturer’s dream. The ability to either prevent all downtime or at the very least schedule it comes with numerous cost-saving benefits. Unfortunately, it’s still not entirely feasible — even with today’s modern maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) technologies. There’s still the ever-present threat of unscheduled downtime.
Every minute of unscheduled downtime costs money. There’s the cost of wasted labor and the cost of ceased production — plus the cost of inventory depletion, the cost of overburdening other equipment to keep production going in some capacity, and so on. The dollar figure per minute of downtime could easily be double-digit multiples.
Smart manufacturers will have a plan in place to deal with downtime. But even with a plan, it’s easy for things to go awry. No two breakdowns are the same, which leaves room for new challenges to arise.
Finding the silver lining
Unscheduled downtime brings enough doom and gloom in and of itself. Operations managers may not be in the mood to look at things with a sunny disposition, but they should try nevertheless. Downtime may be a messy situation, but making the most of it can help prevent similar messes in the future.
Take a look at five ways downtime can force positive change in your plant and why it pays to look at these tasks optimistically, instead of with exasperation:
1. SOP auditing — During a breakdown, you can audit standard operating procedures (SOPs) in real time. Maintenance techs working full-bore are relying on these SOPs to help them do their best work. Putting these documents and protocols through a trial by fire will help you see where improvements are necessary.
2. Cross training — There’s no time like the present to get your techs trained! Have experienced techs take the lead on critical repairs, but pair them with someone who needs training to help them learn on the job. Assisting the lead tech will give a trainee valuable experience and familiarize them with the critical nature of a downtime procedure.
3. Equipment evaluations — Equipment undergoing emergency repairs needs full maintenance logs pulled. This forces maintenance managers to thoroughly evaluate the logs and the equipment, to assess the reason for failure. Scrutiny of this caliber puts eyes on a machine and forces critical evaluation of its condition, maintenance schedule, and more.
4. Stress testing — This is not a drill! Unplanned downtime is a stress test for maintenance and repair departments. Assessing how they respond, what the result is, and where problems arise means being able to put a better response together the next time something goes awry.
5. Inventory control — Your inventory system will play its part during unscheduled downtime. The quickness of part sourcing, method of inventory management, and level of cooperation with other departments are all subject to scrutiny.
Unplanned downtime can drive positive change in your facilities if you take the time to see the opportunities it affords. It may not be pretty, but downtime teaches lessons not easily learned elsewhere. And the more you learn about your response to unplanned downtime, the more worthwhile an investment in predictive or preventive maintenance becomes.