15 Reliable Ways for Manufacturers to Reduce Downtime

Reducing downtime in your manufacturing processes is critical for keeping your business running smoothly and efficiently.

There are many proven ways to reduce downtime. Whether you simply implement systems to keep your existing equipment running smoothly or you invest in a complete overhaul of your legacy technology, you have a lot of options for ways to minimize the time your production processes lie idle.

Here are 15 reliable ways to reduce downtime in your manufacturing business…

1. Continuously Optimize

A core way to reduce downtime is to think of it as a continuous process. There should be no point at which you say “We are done. We have reduced downtime as much as we will ever need to reduce it.”

When you start looking for ways to reduce downtime, you will see them everywhere. There are always ways to improve.

2. Train Employees in New Skills

Training people in new skills can be a powerful way to continuously reduce downtime and keep growing your manufacturing capabilities.

For example, training your welding operators in robot programming can help you get the most from these skilled members of your team. It’s hard to find enough skilled welders in many countries.

3. Automate with Robots

Automation has increasingly become a fundamental way to reduce downtime. Manufacturers in many industries are turning to robotic automation amid labor shortages and other market challenges.

It’s often a good idea to start automating with a simple task that has clear benefits, then move on to more complex tasks when you have more experience.

4. Keep Equipment in Working Order

A classic way to reduce downtime is simply to ensure that your equipment is always in full working order. This simple step requires constant vigilance from everyone who uses the equipment.

By keeping your equipment clean and well-maintained, everyone in your company can help to prevent delays and keep your processes running smoothly.

5. Implement Preventative Maintenance

One formal way to keep equipment working well is to implement a preventative maintenance program.

This type of program involves regularly inspecting and servicing your equipment to a clear schedule, helping you proactively identify and avoid problems.

6. Use the Right Programming Software

If you choose to reduce downtime through robotic automation, the programming software you use can have a powerful impact on your process.

The right robot programming software will make it easy for you to automate tasks and continually optimize your production line for maximum efficiency.

But be aware that not all programming software is equal and programs can be difficult to use. Others are both easy to use and powerful.

Car painting simulation by RobCo SWAT using RoboDK Software
Car painting simulation by RobCo SWAT using RoboDK Software

7. Plan for Contingencies

An important aspect of reducing downtime is being prepared when things inevitably go wrong. Some common problems can be quite predictable, such as the failure of a particular machine or a delay in the delivery of raw materials.

Prepare what you will do when such problems arise and make contingency plans.

8. Use Data to Your Advantage

Data can be a powerful tool for optimizing your manufacturing processes. This includes reducing downtime.

By tracking data in each of your processes, you can identify potential problems quickly and take immediate corrective action. This can even start during your planning steps, such as calculating and reducing the cycle time of your robot processes.

9. Simulate Processes Offline

Simulation is an extremely powerful tool for reducing downtime. For example, a robot simulator is a valuable tool for optimizing your robot programs without disrupting your processes.

When you use offline programming, you can program your robot while it is still running. You only stop the robot when you are ready to download the new program to its controller.

10. Invest in Quality Control

Your quality control processes can be crucial for reducing downtime in your manufacturing processes.

By ensuring your products always meet the highest quality standards, you avoid situations where you have to rework a lot of faulty products. Reworks reduce the effectiveness of your manufacturing equipment so the impact of this can be significant.

11. Be Open to New Technologies

Companies that are not open to new technologies will probably fail. This doesn’t mean throwing money at every new technology that is currently fashionable. It means strategically investing in technology that will help you achieve your goals.

Robotic technology has a long and proven track record. For many manufacturers, not using robotics is now a risky strategy.

Keeping up to date with industry trends helps you to identify potential opportunities that your competitors might not have noticed yet and be aware of local and global issues that might cause downtime in your business.

When you keep yourself up to date with the latest changes, you can prepare yourself for potential industry problems that might affect you. At the same time, you learn about the solutions that are working for others in your industry.

13. Upgrade Your Equipment

When your manufacturing processes rely on outdated equipment, this is a recipe for increased downtime. It’s only a matter of time before an old machine causes a problem.

One way to extend the life of old equipment is by strategically applying robotics to some processes. This helps you to modernize little by little.

14. Prepare for Emergencies

Even with the newest technologies and exhaustive contingency plans, things can go wrong that are completely out of your control.

Emergencies happen, and when they do, they cause significant downtime. By being prepared for the unexpected (such as a global pandemic, supply chain collapse, or any other major world event) you can reduce the impact of these events.

15. Use Application-specific Automation

If you choose robotics as a tool to avoid downtime, it helps if the robotics is suited to your specific application.

One way to ensure this is by choosing robot programming software that is designed for your specific applications. For example, RoboDK has programming wizards for a wide array of common tasks, including robot milling and palletizing.

Downtime in any manufacturing process can be costly and frustrating for everyone involved. However, when you follow these tips and use strategies like the ones listed here, you can help to reduce the time your production processes lie idle, even in the face of emergencies.

What is the biggest cause of downtime in your business? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or in the RoboDK Forum.. Also, check out our extensive video collection and subscribe to the RoboDK YouTube Channel

About Alex Owen-Hill

Alex Owen-Hill is a freelance writer and public speaker who blogs about a large range of topics, including science, presentation skills at CreateClarifyArticulate.com, storytelling and (of course) robotics. He completed a PhD in Telerobotics from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid as part of the PURESAFE project, in collaboration with CERN. As a recovering academic, he maintains a firm foot in the robotics world by blogging about industrial robotics.

View all posts by Alex Owen-Hill

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