Managing Process Downtime -- What Are the Biggest Mistakes?

In September, Michael Beauregard published a book entitled Process Downtime Reduction: How to Minimize Waste from Breakdowns, Set-Ups, Supply Chain Issues, and Staffing Constraints. This book provides manufacturers the techniques they crucially need to keep their critical manufacturing equipment running correctly and efficiently – which increases production, decreases labor costs, decreases breakdown costs, and ultimately increases the bottom line. 

When I spoke with Michael this month, I asked him: “What are some of the biggest mistakes manufacturers make while trying to manage process downtime?” Here is his complete answer:

That is an excellent question. 

I think the biggest mistake manufacturers make with managing process downtime is that they don’t manage it – instead, they learn to live with it. They make longer runs so that they can amortize the cost of that long product changeover over more parts. They get the order out by working overtime at the end of the month. They buy more equipment than they actually need. Manufacturers are smart – they learn to adapt to survive, but often those adaptations are the fastest way to solve the problem now and not the most efficient.  

Another big mistake is not measuring downtime and where it occurs. As I wrote in Process Downtime Reduction, “Show me the data!” Many companies cannot. They have anecdotal evidence of their downtime. It takes about two hours to complete a changeover. They remember they ran out of bottles once two years ago so they are focusing tremendous efforts and costs to manage inventory at high levels when the numbers actually show that labor is their biggest downtime cause. They do not make a systematic effort to understand the downtime and where it occurs so they attack where they perceive the downtime problems to be and not the issues that cause the greatest amount of downtime. 

And a third big area is not getting the whole workforce involved. Well, maybe “involved” is the wrong word. They fail to change the culture of the workforce to be looking for wastes in the operation. They load and unload parts without thinking that the machine could have been co-extruding 10 minutes earlier if they hadn’t waited until the core had run out to notify the material handler that another roll of core was needed. 

Do you agree with Michael's thoughts here? How does process downtime affect your organization? What do you do to manage it?