Managing equipment downtime with 'Smart Operations' 


Thu, 17 Dec 2020

3 to 5 mins read


Did you know that breakdowns such as unplanned downtime can cost a company as much as $260,000 an hour?

While that is a very undesirable scenario for all kinds of manufacturing businesses, something that many operations managers still struggle with is ensuring the reliability, performance, and flexibility of their production equipment. 

With so many process variations existing in the system of an organization, planning, and executing well ahead in time can be a challenging pursuit. Organizations that are still working with a legacy set up are largely unable to maintain reliable equipment discipline, impacting their output capacity and the intended growth, thereof. 

In 2020, a modern production facility should clearly be functioning beyond this state of uncertainty. And that is truly non-negotiable if we consider the organizations that are doing it right or are attempting to. The ones that find themselves in the space are able to leverage the technology and the data to improve upon all the fronts that matter. 

Talking of Disparate equipment downtime

While plant downtime/idle time is a common operations and production management KPI, its tracking and optimum regulation can be effectively used to the productivity advantage.  It is necessary for the regular maintenance of the plant’s assets/equipment and keeping them operating at their best for the most extended periods possible.

At the end of the day, eliminating downtime is essential. However, designing and regulating this downtime can be established as a very obvious practice. So, how is that done? 

Smart organizations have been able to switch their strategy from preventive to predictive in order to maximize their production plant equipment uptime. While that is no rocket science, the key is to know when, where, and how downtime occurs. With a predictive mechanism in place, any underlying issues can be identified in advance and as a result, long-term maintenance costs can be minimized. 

What further improves the overall equipment performance is the practice of timely replacement of obsolete equipment. When the equipment’s service and maintenance history is readily available to technicians, they can identify trends and patterns in equipment usage and breakdown, helping everyone perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively. 

Placards that depict factors leading to plant downtime

While equipment downtime instances are bound to happen every now and then, they remain a critical part in production planning and management. Any loss of output due to such downtime misalignment can lead to missed production targets and loss of revenue and profit, thereof. The reduced system and equipment availability, wasted labor, cost incurred due to rescheduling, huge repairing costs, and depleted inventories are some of the other undesirable impacts. 

And what else? Lost opportunity and customer dissatisfaction

Now let’s talk of bottlenecks in manufacturing/production units, which happen to be yet another process killing factors in the system. 

For the sake of relatability, have you ever faced inconvenience due to some unannounced construction on your ride home? You probably had to wait for your turn in the car queue moving through the narrowed road area. Well, that’s a bottleneck. 

Bottlenecks in manufacturing/production units lead to unplanned downtime and their efficient management is a challenge.  As a result, they reduce the production capacity, affect the flow of line, and limit the planned output. With the implementation of ‘Smart Operations’, these instances of minimized availability of critical equipment/assets can be reduced and planned well ahead in time. 

Unscheduled equipment downtime and the lack of ability to utilize bottlenecks together can keep organizations from increasing their plant equipment uptime and reducing costs while maximizing ROI. Hence, organizations need to work on their process improvement, boost efficiencies, identify problem areas, bottlenecks, maintenance issues, and other items which produce plant downtime. 

This is where organizations that have adopted the connected function of Smart Operations as a part of their digital manufacturing pursuit gain a huge edge over the legacy organizations. 

Smart Operations: The connected function 

Organizations that have embraced ‘Digital manufacturing’ are benefitting from the use of Connectivity, Intelligence, and Flexible automation. They are able to synchronize all aspects of production and operations by working with the ‘Smart Operations’ capability. This highly responsive, adaptive, digitized and connected function is integrated into the digital supply network to drive significant performance and safety improvements in production and similar functions, such as quality and maintenance, repair, and overhaul. 

Digital manufacturing solutions

The smart manufacturing is estimated to grow from USD 214.7 billion in 2020 to USD 384.8 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 12.4%. 

And who are the heavy contributors to this growth? Well, the growing adoption of Industry 4.0 and industrial automation take away the crown. 

So, would you want your organization missing its piece of profit and growth? Here's how organizations can ace the connected function of ‘Smart Operations’.

Elements for smart operations for managing equipment downtime

While discussing the technology part of the solution can always overwhelming, here’s what organizations can start working with. 

Aligning, Nurturing, and Utilizing all resources i.e., equipment, human resource, process frameworks, and business processes together are the keys to making the big change. Spanning across the unit, these functions can help achieve enterprise level optimization for operations. 

Manufacturing units/plants should align functions and systems to provide anytime, anywhere access to the maintenance technicians/operators. This will help them do their jobs effectively while maximizing the asset reliability. With the use of a reliable solution, they should be able to view their assigned activities and access work order history and asset information, all in real-time, to facilitate diagnosis and repair.

The use of IoT technologies in the manufacturing chain can ease the complexity of processes. We are talking about Smart Operations platforms that integrate the benefits of Industry 4.0 offerings. Legacy organizations need to start fresh with assessments that can help them embrace the digital in their operations. 

Inserting the ‘smart’ in digital manufacturing of your operations is no cakewalk.  In order to operate a modern production facility, organizations need to work with the following:

Analytics, Robotics and Machine Learning

Transforming the production line to manufacture personalized products

Shorter product innovation cycles

Automated and integrated factories and supply chains

Well-utilized assets with optimal production operations and high overall equipment effectiveness.

Leveraging the power of Data

Meeting the demand for software systems that reduce time and cost.

An Industry 4.0 assessment can help organizations assess the organization’s comprehensive readiness to embrace a digital manufacturing setup. With a focus on data and analytics, the assessment should cover technology, practices, competencies, and culture and delivers step-by-step roadmap. With a connected, agile, and proactive factory approach, organizations can unlock new efficiencies that transcend physical-digital boundaries and include people, processes and technologies needed to break through traditional organizational silo’s and be competitive in the digital age.

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