How To Reduce Downtime in Production Plants

Reduce Downtime

Optimizing efficiency in your production plant is pivotal in driving profitability. Perhaps one of the biggest and most common hurdles plant managers face is unplanned downtime.

When every hour counts, downtime can effectively decrease your production output, productivity, and the number of projects you can successfully fulfill over time.

According to recent studies, downtime costs the industrial sector an estimated $50 billion each year — an average of $260,000 per hour. To ensure operations run as smoothly as possible, here are steps you can take to help reduce downtime in your production plant.

Preventive Maintenance

In lieu of a reactive approach, preventive maintenance relies on addressing maintenance needs proactively.

A preventive maintenance process refers to performing regularly scheduled equipment and asset inspections with the goal of rectifying small issues before they evolve into bigger, more costly problems.

By adopting the preventive maintenance method, you’ll decrease the risk of unexpected equipment failure while reducing costs associated with disrupted operations.

Cleaning and maintaining plant equipment on a routine basis will improve the lifespan of your assets and ensure they’re performing at an optimal level.

When you rely on reactionary maintenance, it’ll increase the odds of a malfunction in your process, causing production delays and putting worker safety in jeopardy.

Focus on Training Your Employees

Human error is a leading cause of downtime in plants. Establishing a culture that emphasizes training and development for employees is a cost-effective way to keep productivity and engagement high while decreasing downtime due to user error.

Invest time in reevaluating your current training program to identify learning gaps and adjust your curriculum accordingly. The goal is to ensure workers are provided with proper, in-depth training.

Make sure you have a strong onboarding program in place to set expectations early. What’s more, when you standardize training practices across various roles and machinery types, it’ll prevent the spread of bad practices.

Documents and resources such as video tutorials should be easily accessible so employees can reference materials as needed and follow the correct procedures.

You’ll also want to create an evolution process to keep standards high and ensure training initiatives don’t become outdated.

Upgrade Your Equipment and Technology

Tapping into new technology and equipment is a great way to speed up processes, automate repetitive tasks, and streamline operations throughout the facility.

For instance, leveraging robotic systems can drive worker productivity and decrease the long-term costs of human error.

Robots can be used to facilitate monotonous or repetitive tasks, but also within hazardous environments that put worker safety at risk.

Manual processes, such as industrial tank cleaning with confined space entry, can be swapped with remote-controlled robotic technology. Robotic tank cleaning technology has the ability to operate continuously without downtime, reduce costs by an estimated 20%, and reduce instances of product contamination.

Piggybacking off the topic of contamination: always strive to replace damaged or dysfunctional assets, such as leaking storage tanks, to preserve production quality and safeguard workers from potential injury or illness.

From automating your supply chain to implementing smart sensors, you can vastly improve plant performance by leveraging artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Smart devices and technology have the capacity to deliver real-time data, as well as predictive analytics, to eliminate process inefficiencies, monitor equipment, and provide the insights needed to make informed decisions.

Prioritize Safety

Industrial settings are naturally prone to a myriad of job-related hazards. From overexertion and machine-related incidents to slip and falls and contact with harmful chemicals, keeping a strong focus on safety will vastly improve plant performance.

To build a culture rooted in safety, consider establishing an incentive program aimed at spotlighting good safety practices.

For example, tracking and displaying the number of days without an accident — and rewarding staff when certain goals or milestones are met — is an effective way to keep motivations high.

Similarly, ensure your plant has the safety resources needed to thrive. Employee training, as mentioned earlier, is an essential part of the equation.

Hold regular staff meetings to review safety guidelines and regulations and keep training top-of-mind. Putting up proper warning signs and investing in things like personal protective equipment are also important measures to consider.

Increasing transparency and communication among your staff will help ensure everyone is on the same page and safety protocols are being followed correctly.

Your employees should be perfectly clear on who to report to and where they can go to access vital resources.

When open communication is encouraged, it’ll give you a clearer picture of what may be lacking and where safety measures can be improved.

Lastly, ensure you are leveraging proper safety equipment on site. In addition to things like helmets or goggles, technology can play a key role in enhancing plant safety.

For instance, replacing dangerous activities like lifting heaving objects or working in hazardous environments with robotic alternatives can significantly reduce safety risks.

Confined space entry during tank cleaning is one example of a procedure that poses major health and safety concerns for workers.

Traditional methods can be replaced with robotic tank cleaning to protect workers while increasing efficiency.

Scale Your Plant by Reducing Downtime

To reduce downtime and scale operations, focus your efforts on evaluating and optimizing current processes, training your employees, and upgrading the technology your plant uses.

In today’s fast-paced, on-demand industrial landscape, you certainly don’t want your plant to become a dinosaur with outdated practices. By implementing the above steps, you’ll see a marked improvement in your plant’s overall performance.

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