Machine Downtime in Manufacturing

Knowing the top causes of unplanned machine downtime is essential for manufacturers looking to increase production capacity. Let's deep dive into how Epicor ERP can reduce downtime.
June 24, 2024 by
Uyen Duong

Reducing unexpected downtime should be a key focus for every manufacturing facility. It’s not only disruptive and costly, but it can also result in accidents and significant waste. This blog delves into the issue of machine downtime, providing insights on how to address it. It examines the methods and reasons for measuring downtime, highlights the advantages of minimizing it (particularly unplanned downtime), and outlines the potential benefits to be gained.

What is Machine Downtime?

Machine downtime refers to periods when a machine is unavailable for production. There are two types of machine downtime: planned (productive) downtime, and unplanned (unproductive) downtime.

  • Planned downtime: This is where time is made available in the production schedule for tasks such as machine inspections and maintenance. Cleaning and operator training are other reasons for planning downtime. The key point is that this time is predictable and agreed in advance.
  • Unplanned downtime: This is when a machine or other piece of equipment stops unexpectedly. It’s always disruptive. It leaves workers and other machines standing idle, and it delays orders. As a result, it’s also expensive.

Common causes of unplanned machine downtime

The root cause of most instances of unplanned downtime can be assigned to one of four categories:

Equipment Failure
Lack of maintenance
Lack of training or operator erorrs
Supply chain issues

1. Equipment failures: This is when a key component stops working. It could be because of dirt or contamination, overheating, seizing, or breakage. Causes can include clogged filters and breaking belts.

2. Lack of maintenance: Machine components typically show warning signs or detectable degradation before failing. An effective preventive maintenance program includes scheduled inspections, servicing, and component replacements to avert failures.

3. Operator errors and lack of training:  A significant number of machine breakdowns are caused by operator errors. These can include incorrectly loading parts, misplacing tools or materials, pressing buttons at incorrect times, or pressing the wrong buttons. Work instructions, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and operator training aim to prevent these types of mistakes.

4. Supply chain issues:  The absence of spare parts can lead to and extend unplanned downtime. When a needed part isn't stocked and ready during inspection, the likelihood of unexpected equipment downtime increases. Ordering the part can further prolong this downtime. This underscores the importance of establishing an effective spare parts inventory management system.

How to reduce downtime with Epicor ERP

Waste is the primary challenge for manufacturers and distributors. Be it surplus inventory and raw materials, time spent on routine tasks, or funds wasted on failed projects, every unnecessary expense or minute wasted results in losing customers and revenue. While we have frequently discussed the significance of lean manufacturing on our blog, today we are specifically addressing downtime and examining the Epicor ERP tools that assist businesses in maintaining continuous operations.

1. Automate Production Monitoring

Understanding where downtime occurs is essential for reducing it. Implementing automatic trackers is crucial for monitoring each cycle and machine for both downtime and runtime. The Epicor Manufacturing Execution System (MES) facilitates this by using trackers that identify downtime in real time and send alerts to the factory floor, pinpointing the exact problem location.

Cost reporting for scrap and machine downtime also offers valuable financial insights, enabling smarter decision-making. Automated production monitoring is key to enhancing overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and plant productivity while minimizing machine downtime.

2. Motivate Employees

Employee motivation is critical to maintaining production schedules. Workers on the production lines have important insights into machine performance and manufacturing processes that are often overlooked.

Frequent communication between managers and employees helps employees feel appreciated, which boosts morale and productivity. Supervisors can explain how downtime impacts business profits and encourage workers to share their concerns. These discussions help employees understand their roles better and alert supervisors to issues on the production line they might not notice. Setting daily and quarterly downtime reduction goals and offering incentives can further motivate employees.

Epicor ERP supports effective communication by providing real-time data, enhancing accuracy and efficiency, and enabling effortless collaboration. Epicor Social Enterprise (ESE) uses familiar social platform tools like instant notifications, hashtags, and sharing to facilitate collaboration. This ensures that any updates in the product lifecycle are communicated among production managers and team members, ensuring smooth operations and client satisfaction. Collaboration fosters a more efficient, motivated team, driving companies toward success.

3. Perform Regular Maintenance

Neglecting regular maintenance on shop floor machinery can jeopardize your business. Unexpected jams or breakdowns can significantly impact downtime and costs. Regular maintenance minimizes machinery malfunctions, prolongs machine life, and indicates when upgrades are necessary.

Epicor MES provides machine and tool preventative maintenance (PM) along with automated alarms and notices for PM, helping operators maintain optimal machine performance. Epicor ensures adherence to maintenance schedules, equipment performance monitoring, and quality statistics, keeping production lines running efficiently.

Impact of downtime in manufacturing

Planned downtime reduces production capacity and should be minimized as much as possible. However, the more detrimental issue is unplanned downtime, which is inherently unpredictable. This type of downtime has several significant impacts:

  1. Financial Impacts
  2. Productivity Impacts
  3. Long-term Effects on Operations

Financial Impacts: Unplanned downtime leads to lost revenue and increased costs. These financial penalties come from paying employees who have no work to do, covering overtime to make up for lost output, and dealing with lost or wasted materials.

Productivity Impacts: Production is disrupted as employees are left idle and materials are often discarded. Maintenance productivity also suffers because technicians are diverted from preventive maintenance to address breakdowns.

Long-term Effects: These include decreased employee morale, leading to higher turnover and increased training costs, as well as a reduced lifespan for assets. There is also a heightened risk of accidents when employees attempt to fix problems themselves without proper precautions. Additionally, lower ROI means less money is available for investing in new equipment.

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