There are many ways to increase productivity, but the one that likely gives you the biggest boost is simply reducing downtime. Think of it this way: if you want to spend more time on the road, you need to get better at avoiding flat tires.
But because there’s more than one cause for downtime, you need more than one way to minimize it.
Before looking at the causes, it’s important to look at the types. There’s more than one, and not all of them are bad.
What is downtime?
Generally, downtime is when assets and equipment are offline or unavailable. So, you can say that downtime is when you’re not running or can’t run your assets and equipment.
But not all downtime is bad, and a lot of it is there to boost productivity and increase asset life cycles. It all depends on why the asset is down and if you saw that reason coming.
At the end of the day, you drive your car home and park it for the night. All night long, right up until you start it up to head out the next morning, that’s downtime. But because you knew about it, it’s planned downtime.
In this example, the car is just sitting there, doing nothing. And you’re not doing anything to it. It’s the same as a press or conveyor belt in a manufacturing plant. At the end of the shift, when the last of the crew turns off the lights and leaves for the night, your assets and equipment sit idle. Just like you planned.
But planned downtime also includes the times you set aside for maintenance, repairs, inspections, and tests. So, when you’re changing the oil on your car, that’s planned downtime. When the maintenance team is inspecting the press, testing the hydraulic lines, and adding lubricant, that’s planned downtime, too.
And it’s easy to see the benefits of this type of downtime. By taking assets offline, you are ensuring they eventually stay online longer, with fewer hassles.
Here’s the bad kind. When an asset or piece of equipment falls all the way down the p-f curve into a full-blown failure, you’re dealing with unplanned downtime. Because you didn’t expect it, there’s a much greater chance that you’re not prepared for it.
Why is unplanned downtime so expensive?
Here’s the headline: According to Aberdeen Research, across industries, the average cost of downtime is $260,000 per hour.
And here’s how that’s possible.
Catching up costs money
First, when an asset is offline, the organization is losing the value it should be producing. If a forklift suddenly dies, the inventory that should have moved from Point A to Point B is stuck. At some point, the organization must find a way to make up for that lost work, which likely means calling in extra help or paying for overtime.
Staying on the theme of missed opportunities, when something fails, you have to move maintenance resources away from what you hoped they would do to what you need them to do right away. So, the tech who was inspecting the fans by the wielding stations has to stop and head over to the loading docks to help work on that dead forklift. Later, because you still need someone to finish the fan inspection, you might end up having to pay extra in overtime.
Unplanned downtime puts you behind, and catching up costs money, which is coming straight out of your department’s budget.
Rushing parts is pricy
In a perfect world, your maintenance techs show up onsite with a neatly packed bag full of all the MRO inventory they need to repair the asset, allowing them to work efficiently, without having to wait before starting.
The problem is that what often happens is assets or equipment fail unexpectedly and you don’t have what you need to get them back up and running right away. Instead, you find yourself having to rush order parts, which costs a lot of money, which is, again, coming straight out of your budget.
What are the causes of unplanned downtime?
You can think of a failure as the result of your asset having slid all the way down the p-f curve, which means there were many points along the way where you could have seen the early warning signs, scheduled some quick and easy fix, and avoided the downtime completely.
What you needed was a scheduled set of inspections and tasks that the maintenance department could use to consistently find and fix small issues before they had enough time and inattention to grow into giant problems.
What you needed was a preventive maintenance plan, and we can work backward from that fact and say one of the causes of unplanned downtime is a lack of preventive maintenance.
But that’s not the only cause of downtime. In fact, the world’s all-time best PM program is no match for solid operator error. It doesn’t matter how perfectly that asset is purring along if the operator can’t run it right. You could have a perfectly tuned manual transmission engine, but it won’t last long if the driver keeps changing gears without bothering to use the clutch.
So, that’s another cause of downtime: operator error.
Other causes include poor quality MRO inventory and poor or non-existent SOPs for the maintenance techs. Assets fail both when the team uses bad parts and when they use them the wrong way.
How can you reduce downtime?
Because there are many causes, you need multiple solutions.
Scheduling preventive maintenance
Setting up and running a solid preventive maintenance program gets you out ahead of the maintenance curve, where you can see and fix small issues early, before they grow into budget-busting failures.
Your program can have two main focuses, inspections and tasks. For inspections, you can include everything from the classic facility walkthroughs looking for puddles under assets to a fully developed leak detection and repair (LDAR) program to minimize the emissions of fugitive volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).
For tasks, you can set them up based on time or usage. So, you can have the maintenance team check the roof for leaks every spring and the hydraulic press for wear every 10,000 cycles.
Tracking maintenance metrics and KPIs
It’s impossible to reduce unplanned downtime to absolute zero. With all those people and moving parts, there are just too many things that can go wrong.
But you can always get better, and one of the ways to do that is tracking how you’re doing now. By looking at your maintenance metrics and KPIs related to failures, you can find ways to more consistently avoid downtime and make each instance of downtime shorter.
How does a CMMS help you reduce downtime?
One of the biggest challenges of modern maintenance management is data. You need ways to capture it, keep it safe and up to date, share it, and then leverage it into actionable insights.
With paper and spreadsheets, all of those are so hard they’re basically impossible. Because you’re relying on everyone to manually enter the data, you’re guaranteed errors. And even if you could get perfect data, there’s no way to easily share it. You might have all the right numbers, but they’re not doing the team any good trapped on a piece of paper or in a spreadsheet back at the office.
Modern CMMS solutions make your life easier. All your data lives on a central database, so you know it’s accurate and accessible. Everyone is working from the same sets of data, and everyone has instant access from any Internet-connected device.
You can use the software solution to set up, schedule, and track PMs. And once you have enough data, you can use the autogenerate reports to calculate critical metrics and KPIs for insights into how the team tackles failures and how they could improve.
Although there are different ways to increase productivity, the maintenance department should focus its efforts on reducing unplanned downtime, where assets and equipment are unexpectedly offline or unavailable. A simple analogy is a car. If you want to drive more, one way is to avoid flat tires. Downtime is expensive, with the average hourly cost across industries at $260,000. But because there are multiple causes for downtime, you need a multi-prong solution.
Maintenance teams can set up and schedule preventive maintenance programs that help them find small issues before they have a chance to develop into large problems. Also, they can track related metrics and KPIs to better understand how they deal with failures, eventually using these insights to develop better workflows. But both implementing preventive maintenance and tracking maintenance data is difficult without a modern CMMS software solution that helps capture good data, keep it up to date, and make it easy to share and leverage into actionable insights.