How Much Downtime Do You Have?
May, 2006, Part 2
So how do you get a grip on your downtime reality? Tracking. Whether simple or complex, some form of tracking is necessary to get a true picture of your operation. Tracking doesn’t have to be expensive software or teams of consultants roaming your plant. It can begin as a simple notepad at each line or a notebook with log sheets that can be filled out when the line or piece of equipment goes down and again when it returns to service. Maintenance personnel called to solve the problem can also fill out a form or jot down notes that explain the problem and how it was solved. Not only will this help you understand what type of problems are bringing your system down, but it can help other technicians called to service the equipment in the future that may not have experienced that particular problem before. Add it up. With a simple paper log you are already saving money by bringing a different technician up to speed on a reoccurring problem. The tech spends less time fixing the problem and the line is down less. Saving money on both counts. Your technician is free to go back to his preventive maintenance schedule (a discussion for a future article) and the line is back to printing money. Lets face it all production facilities are in the business of producing money.
This now brings us to my second point – the reoccurring problem. The data you collected with your paper log will also need to be reviewed. Reoccurring problems are the most obvious advantage of which you can make use. Find them. Eliminate them. You will already have less downtime. Finally, and probably more difficult with a paper log, is to organize your data to be able to track and correlate downtime, maintenance issues, operator issues, technician issues, etc. A paper log makes this part a little more difficult as the information generally has to find its way to a computer somehow. If you have fairly automated systems they may already have downtime calculations making it easier to get the data to analyze. If not then adding computerized logs to your systems may not be a difficult task. If you already have some type of centralized database for trending or data collection, then downtime information can be handled in this way also. Of course there are dedicated packages specifically designed for downtime tracking and some maintenance software packages have a downtime element built into their routines. Whatever way you use to manipulate the information you have gathered, this is where you begin solving the more difficult issues. Is that machine really a piece of junk, or is it only when a certain operator is running it? Maybe it’s only when a certain technician has worked on it. Whatever the reason, you have to have enough information and have it in a form that you can properly evaluate what the problem is.
Preventive maintenance. Much has been written and can still be written about the importance of preventive maintenance. Still, many facilities operate under the fire fighting methods and don’t even get to the preventive maintenance stage. Use your newly acquired downtime information to get to parts before they fail. Take care of these issues and you will achieve immediate positive results in limiting your downtime.
Finally let’s talk about something worse than downtime – rework. If you are producing bad parts, batches, etc. then the machine might as well have been down during that time! Worse. At least if a machine is down you might save money on raw materials. With rework you not only lose production time, but you also waste the raw materials you use to create your final product. It’s my opinion that any time spent producing bad product might as well be logged as downtime. Obviously it’s more complicated than that, but the point is that when you are setting up your downtime-tracking program put in a system that tracks wasted rework time also.
What do you do when you finally cut that downtime and can make use of your new production capacity? The next step is lighting a fire under the sales guys to fill all the extra capacity you now have.