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How To Reduce Downtime in Production Plants

Every moment that a production plant is working, it is making money, but that means the converse is also true — every time a production plant is not fully operational or is experiencing downtime, it is losing money.

Reduce Downtime

Downtime can be caused by too many factors to list, but in this article, we’re going to take a look at a few solid strategies to reduce downtime in production plants.

Create a Preventative Maintenance Plan

Downtime can often be tied to failures in overworked and under-maintained sections of your production line. While it is tempting to keep pushing your machinery until it demands to be repaired — a break-fix model — the downtime that emerges from this type of maintenance plan often takes much longer to resolve.

Even though it may require proactively shutting down your production for preventative maintenance, the reduced downtime from a controlled shutdown and simple maintenance steps will pay for themselves in the long run. Being proactive with your maintenance gives you the chance to spot problems before they become debilitating and give you the chance to take stock of the current state of your machinery. This may also allow you to order parts that are worn down before they break, meaning that you won’t lose time due to a missing part or messy supply chain.

Overall, proactively scheduling your maintenance will increase the longevity of your plant assets and reduce the need for time-consuming repairs and replacements. It will also reduce the potentially destructive and dangerous moments of actual asset failure, which can often lead to employee injury.

If you have heavily used industrial tanks or fuel tanks on your production floor, scheduling robotic sludge removal in advance is a prime example of a proactive measure that will help with storage tank longevity.

Schedule Regular Inspection

Similar to a preventative maintenance plan, temporary, scheduled inspection windows are critical to ensure that your plant assets are operating properly. Even if you don’t have repairs scheduled, small dips or hiccups in productivity can be excellent tip-offs that you may want to inspect a certain subsystem. If you can perform such inspections and turn the results over to your maintenance team, you can significantly reduce the number of equipment failures and accidents within your plant.

With the growing sophistication of sensors and inspection tracking software, you can even perform some of these inspections while your production line is humming. Your integrated systems all have optimal and planned outputs, so keeping track of the sensor data to ensure that you are within those parameters is a crucial piece of your own information pipeline. If you notice that some of these metrics are not being met, you can use that as a trigger for an inspection, as long as you have such systems installed.

Hold Staff Meetings and Training Sessions

While it is easy to blame everything that goes wrong in a plant on the large, intricate machinery, it can often be poor practices or mistakes by employees. Small mistakes can lead to major consequences across the production floor, from external fines to injuries, damages, and, yes, downtime. Human error is one of the top causes of downtime at production plants.

Knowing this, it is important to evaluate your team to get a better sense of their strengths and weaknesses. These evaluations can better inform training programs for newly onboarded employees or for continued staff education. The only way you can do this effectively, however, is to promote a positive work culture where people are encouraged to improve. Once your team is working at its best, you will find that your machines will spend more time in working order and your downtime will be massively reduced.

Upgrade Your Equipment and Processes

If you can upgrade the performance of your team to reduce downtime, it also makes sense that you can upgrade the actual equipment for similar results. Upgrading your equipment will overall reduce the need for repairs and replacements. Modern equipment also comes with many more sensors and feedback opportunities so that you can have a better sense of their performance and potential maintenance issues in advance.

A good way to think about your upgrades is to review your current maintenance and inspection processes and records. You may notice certain machinery that has broken down more frequently than it should or has been flagged on more inspections; those assets are prime candidates for replacement, as an improvement there will have massive positive effects on your overall downtime.

Although upgrades and process improvements will take initial investments of time and money, they will save you both in the long run.

Streamline Your Plant Operations

While each individual plant will have to implement these general tips in highly diverse and specific ways, these tips should help you think about where you can find reductions in production downtime. Preventative maintenance and regular inspection will only do so much if your teams are not properly trained or if your equipment is ready to be replaced, but there are still plenty of ways that you can take control over your production line.

Each improvement in downtime avoidance will help you keep up with production demand and prevent revenue loss. In a production plant, time truly is money.