The true cost of downtime can be time-consuming and costly for businesses. Unplanned downtime is expensive, but most facilities may not be aware of exactly how much it costs their businesses. The following figures help illustrate the true cost of downtime.
This story was last updated in March 2020 with more detail and examples.
How much downtime do businesses face?
The amount of downtime businesses face annually is fairly high, as shown below:
How much does each hour of downtime cost?
With the large amounts of downtime businesses face, the costs stack up:
What goes into downtime costs?
The costs of equipment downtime stem from the ways broken-down equipment affect business productivity:
How are manufacturers cutting down unplanned downtime?
With the amount of productivity lost due to downtime, what are companies doing to cut down unexpected failures of equipment? In many cases, not much, as shown below:
To start cutting down equipment downtime, facilities need to start using more precise methods of diagnosing issues with their assets. Predictive analytics and careful maintenance planning can improve equipment uptime, saving your maintenance teams time and money.
What causes downtime?
In terms of what causes downtime, there are a few notable factors. In many cases, it comes down to failing equipment.
On top of new technologies and improved maintenance practices, handling aging equipment and improving training are key to reducing downtime costs.
Tips to reduce downtime
After taking a look at the true cost of downtime, it becomes very much apparent that it’s important to keep those costs to a minimum. But where do you start? The following tips can help you reduce downtime in your facility.
1. Train your crew
Since a significant portion of unplanned downtime events result from operator error, taking the time to train—and retrain—your employees is a step in the right direction when it comes to decreasing downtime.
Most operators and maintenance personnel have a wide range of equipment types, diagnostic equipment, and control systems to keep track of, so making sure they’re well versed on all of them will help prevent operator errors and expedite work tasks, including those intended to keep equipment running in good condition.
2. Analyze your risks
Risk assessment is key to preventing downtime since it allows you to know where your risks are and how to best tackle them. That way, you focus your efforts on the issues that matter most instead of taking a shotgun approach to facility management.
One tool used in risk assessment is failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA). FMEA involves taking a look at potential failure modes and what their impacts might be in terms of process downtime, safety risks, time to repair, and so forth.
Some of the risks you’ll want to analyze include:
As you examine each case, you’ll assign each one a risk priority number (RPN) based on the severity and probability of the failure mode. From there, you’ll be better able to focus your efforts on preventing the most important failure modes.
3. Focus on proactive maintenance strategies
If your facility currently takes a “firefighting” approach to maintenance, you’ll most likely benefit from a more proactive outlook. Proactive maintenance tactics such as preventive maintenance (PM) and predictive analytics both reduce equipment downtime by resolving minor issues before they develop into major breakdowns.
The most basic way to approach proactive maintenance is with preventive maintenance. These tasks involve regular tune-ups, lubrication, replacing worn parts, and performing inspections. It may take your crew some time to switch their mindset from a reactive to a proactive approach, so consistent training and maintenance planning are key.
It can help to start with just one asset in your facility. Pick one that seems high-risk, and see what types of breakdowns are most frequent. Determine which PM tasks would prevent those breakdowns and put them into regular practice. As your team performs those tasks—and reports them—you’ll be able to see the effects of your preventive maintenance and make adjustments as necessary.
Once you’ve mastered PM for one of your assets, roll it out to others and build up from there. Over time, your crew will get the hang for a proactive maintenance approach, making it a more natural part of your facility management.
4. Implement predictive analytics
If you already have some semblance of a preventive maintenance program in place, it may be time to upgrade to predictive maintenance (PdM). Predictive maintenance makes use of IIoT items like sensors that collect data from your equipment, such as its temperature or vibrations.
This data is processed by analytics software, which log data and track trends. If anything departs significantly from established trends and indicates a potential fault in the equipment, it triggers a work order. Advanced analytics systems can even prescribe the type of maintenance work needed, potentially saving time on diagnostic testing.
PdM has been shown to yield significant cost savings over PM, which often includes tasks that don’t actually address any real problems. With predictive analytics, you’re able to keep maintenance tasks laser-focused on problems that actually exist.
To get started with PdM, follow a similar process as you would with PM: choose an asset, fit it with some low-cost sensors, and monitor the data. When the data shifts significantly from normal trends, that’s your cue to go check on it. Over time, you’ll want to build up to a more sophisticated automated system.
5. Use your data
As you collect data from equipment sensors, work orders, and the like, make sure you actually put that data to use. At times, facilities invest thousands of dollars into fancy equipment and scarcely ever use the data they collect, ultimately defeating the purpose of their initial investment.
Your data needs to be worked into your maintenance planning and workflows in order to be truly effective. One way to do this is to make it more accessible through a CMMS and data visualization software. As the data from your maintenance processes is made available through software solutions, your team will be more likely to account for it when creating work orders and maintenance plans for each asset.
6. Streamline current PM practices
Not every solution to downtime necessarily involves advanced technology (which is good news for smaller businesses with limited resources). In addition, not all downtime is unplanned. Planned downtime can also be a drain, especially when it’s used on unnecessary tasks.
Often, optimizing current preventive maintenance tasks is what’s needed, especially given that 30% of maintenance activities are carried out too frequently. The tasks you have planned for your equipment may not be entirely necessary.
The key to optimizing preventive maintenance is to keep doing what works and do less of what doesn’t. Tracking maintenance data is vital to this process. If a given task doesn’t seem to have an impact on your equipment’s health, it’s likely time to reduce it. Doing so will mean less time needed to perform PMs, and thus less needlessly planned downtime.
7. Optimize maintenance workflows
In addition to optimizing preventive maintenance, it’s also important to make sure your maintenance workflows, in general, are as lean as they can reasonably get. That means cutting out all forms of waste, such as:
These forms of waste can be reduced by taking a look at your maintenance workflows and seeing what obstacles might come up. Your work order data can be helpful in this case, particularly when it comes to total time to complete each maintenance task. In addition, simply observing your technicians to see what their day looks like can be enlightening.
Your maintenance planner should take matters such as asset location, needed supplies and materials, and equipment accessibility into account when creating work orders for your technicians. Supplying equipment schematics and maintenance checklists to your crew via mobile access can also save time.
8. Organize your MRO inventory
A well-organized MRO inventory is key to your maintenance team’s efficiency, so you’ll want to make sure it’s handled as effectively as possible.
While you do need to restrict the amount of inventory you’re carrying—it does have it’s own associated costs, after all—it’s absolutely vital that you have enough of the right spare parts on hand to be able to tackle equipment outages quickly. Otherwise, you might be left waiting for a parts order to come in before you can repair downed equipment.
If you’re like most facilities, you’ll also have a wide range of brands from multiple vendors to keep track of, so organization is key.
Solid MRO inventory management is especially important if you need to keep old and outdated equipment in working condition. The parts you need may be difficult or costly to obtain, and that may mean weeks of waiting. As such, your inventory management strategy should allow for adequate lead times for replenishing hard-to-replace parts.
9. Backup your systems
Software systems, especially older ones, should be backed up in case your IT network goes down. PLCs, SCADA, and other control systems (not to mention other types of software) keep your facility running, and if you can’t get it back online after an outage, it can mean hours—or even weeks—of lost production.
Older systems are especially important to back up because they’re harder to replace. If the company that provided you with your current control systems is no longer in business, that can mean weeks of reprogramming your system from the ground up.
10. Update old equipment
Many facilities rely heavily on outdated machines and equipment. While that equipment may still function for the most part, it does pose a risk in the event that it breaks down—and aging equipment does tend to break down more often than newer machines. Repairs on older equipment can be expensive and difficult, and it could mean trying to source parts from distant locations.
If your older assets can be retrofitted with newer parts, that could save time and money by decreasing downtime in the event of an outage. It’ll also be less prone to breakdowns in the long run as well, further reducing downtime costs.
Total replacement may not be out of the question either. The cost savings in terms of energy and reliability may be well worth it.
11. Improve communication
Your maintenance and operations crews will only function as well as the lines of communication within their departments. Employees need to know where to go, what to do, and how to do it. In addition, communicating your goals can help promote acceptance of new policies and procedures.
In addition, communication from your employees to their superiors is key as well. They typically have a robust experiential knowledge of what goes on out on the floor, and that knowledge can be vital to decision-making processes.
Finally, communication between departments—particularly maintenance and operations—is key to preventing work from being delayed. For instance, if your maintenance crew needs to access a machine and operations wasn’t aware of that fact, it could take extra time for the work to be completed.
Downtime can be devastatingly expensive for manufacturers and other industries, which means your efforts to reduce it need to be targeted and effective. A combination of strategies tailor-fit to your facility can help you keep downtime to a minimum and boost reliability.