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Solving the Downtime Riddle

Production Management, Smart Manufacturing
April 12, 2022

Riddles. They’re mysterious, mind-bending puzzles that throw in an element of misdirection to throw you off course. They can be fun and even educational in your personal life, but riddles are not a puzzle piece you want to see in your manufacturing environment.

And that’s the problem. Manufacturers have been searching for decades to reduce downtime, and downtime management has long been a part of process improvement methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma. Solve the riddle of downtime, and you magically unlock the answer to the puzzle. But in manufacturing, finding the answer is more complex than solving your typical Wordle.

Common Causes of Downtime

Regardless of the industry, modern manufacturing has many common causes of downtime. These include:

  • Unplanned Mechanical Breakdowns
  • Operator Training
  • Supply Chain Issues
  • Excessive Tool or Component Changes
  • Scheduling Issues
  • Factory Layout
  • Inadequate Demand Planning
  • Lack of Communication

Each of these causes has a unique set of circumstances driving their occurrence. And that means each will have a different solution. That’s a lot of riddles.

Multiple Riddles = Multiple Answers

The root causes of mechanical breakdowns are vastly different from the root causes of downtime caused by an inefficient break schedule. Downtime caused by lack of proper operator training is not like that caused by a hiccup in the supply chain. To truly reduce downtime in production, one must stop looking for the answer to a single riddle and start looking at each downtime event’s root cause.

This has been the case over much of manufacturing’s history, with companies focusing only on the most significant causes of downtime and leaving a lot of “efficiency fruit” on the tree. Despite excellent methodologies, the ability to deploy a downtime management system based on manual inputs and analysis often leads to frustration.

Managers may find themselves trying to address so many problems that the initiative and its effectiveness become overloaded by the manual nature of the system itself. In effect, it’s hard for staff to identify the roots of a problem if they’re always tied up pruning the branches.

Focusing Your Strategies

You remember the Rubik’s Cube, right? It became a worldwide sensation when it was released as people tried to solve the puzzle. It forced people to work manually, twisting and turning and spending hours of their time on guesswork.

In many ways, traditional manufacturing’s approach to solving the multiple riddles of downtime has consisted of the same dynamic. By trying to solve the riddles and puzzles with manual data collection, poorly planned and executed machine health and maintenance, and time-lagged information, companies wasted resources instead of improving production. Add to that the problems of siloed data, lack of software integration, and flawed and biased human analysis, and they’re like the millions who spent so much time trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube to no avail.

Whether you’re trying to finish a Rubik’s Cube or solve downtime issues in your manufacturing environment, the trick to success is the same. Rather than focusing on the questions of each riddle, you can alleviate your frustrations by instead focusing on a proper method for finding solutions.

The Right Tools for the Riddle

The effective way to solve manufacturing’s downtime riddle requires technology and software. By utilizing the advantages of a smart manufacturing platform along with the advanced analytics capabilities of its software, manufacturers will realize that downtime isn’t solved with a single action.

Instead, downtime is solved with access to real-time data and actionable insights. The riddle isn’t “How do I solve my downtime issue?” Instead, it’s “What technology system or platform do I need to manage downtime variables in real-time?”

For many companies like yours, the answer is Plex. Manufacturers rely on Plex’s guaranteed uptime of 99.9% as they connect, analyze, track, and automate their processes and departments. Data for every variable that could impact downtime is tracked, greatly reducing the difficulty of one of the industry’s biggest challenges.

Solving your downtime riddle isn’t going to happen if you keep using manual processes to twist and turn your way through, but there is help. Explore the Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform to learn about the solution you’ve been looking for.

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About the Author

Plex Team

Plex Systems, Inc., a Rockwell Automation company, is the leader in cloud-delivered smart manufacturing solutions, empowering the world’s manufacturers to make awesome products. Our platform gives manufacturers the ability to connect, automate, track and analyze every aspect of their business to drive transformation. The Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform includes solutions for manufacturing execution (MES), ERP, quality, supply chain planning and management, Industrial IoT and analytics to connect people, systems, machines, and supply chains, enabling them to lead with precision, efficiency and agility.