3 Tips on how to reduce downtimes in the manufacturing process

Beke Nieszytka | 2. August 2019

Do you have applications that are indispensable for your company? – What happens when they fail? And how can you reduce long downtimes?

What is downtime?

The downtime is the period of time in which the production equipment is offline or is not available for the manufacturing process as it requires maintenance or is defective. This can not only cause considerable costs but can also have many other effects.

Possible effects of downtimes on your company

  • Delays in the current production process
  • Delay of subsequent production processes
  • Unused employees or additional shifts
  • Unsatisfied customers or even the loss of customers
  • Weakening of competitiveness
  • Possible penalties for non-performance

The two kinds of downtime

A distinction is made between two kinds of downtime – scheduled and unscheduled.

A scheduled downtime includes scheduled maintenance, which has to be carried out at a specified time. A company can rectify a problem in or relating to a machine before it becomes too big. The risk of failure, however, cannot be ruled out completely.

In the case of an unscheduled downtime, the machines are in use until a fault occurs. Failure of a machine can lead to long interruptions in the production chain.

Our 3 tips can help to reduce downtimes and lower the associated costs:

Performance of a risk assessment

A risk assessment is the fastest and most effective way of reducing downtimes and the associated high financial costs in the future. In particular, overageing of machines represents a considerable risk for production. In spite of the progress made in the area of control systems, many manufacturers are still working with devices that are between 15 and 20 years old. Components are often no longer available or are made outside of the country, which leads to long delivery times. The knowledge of your support network and the availability of your machines can make a difference between downtimes lasting a few hours and downtimes persisting for several months.

Employee training and the regular exchange of experience and ideas

Most machine failures are due to human error. It is therefore important that all employees have been comprehensively trained in use of the machines. Moreover, employees must be taught how to recognise and understand the actual effects of downtimes that are caused by the improper use of machines and equipment. In this regard, intensive communication between managers and employees is an important prerequisite for the enhancement of efficiency between different departments.

Use of sensors in order to detect problems at an early stage

If sensors are used, signs of imminent downtimes can often be detected long before the actual failure. The sensors measure the level of noise and vibration as well as the wear of certain machine components.

If you integrate them into your production units, you can detect problems before they lead to downtimes and take the appropriate action in advance.

Other ways that igus® can help you to reduce your downtimes

igus® helps you to reduce downtimes with readychain® und readycable®. If energy chains are supplied that have been completely filled with cables already harnessed with connectors (readycable®), they become a plug-and-play solution that shortens the changeover time during scheduled and unscheduled downtimes. In the case of unscheduled downtimes, you can also minimise the amount of storage space needed as your ready-to-install replacement parts come from a single supplier and can be delivered just in time.

You have the choice between a readychain® Basic, whereby only cables and hoses are placed in the chain, or a readychain® Standard, whereby the cables have been fully harnessed with the necessary plug-in connectors, as a result of which electrical work is not necessary. In the case of more complex layouts, the readychain® can even be supplemented with the necessary connections or interfaces and, if necessary, delivered in a rack that, with readychain® Standard Plus and Premium, fits directly into your machine.

With smart plastics, igus® has also reacted to requirements for predictive maintenance – energy chains are fitted with sensors in order to detect problems at an early stage. With different versions, you can detect a breakage of an individual energy chain link, the ambient conditions, the wear in the pin hole of a chain link or the wear outside the chain link in the case of sliding applications. Diverse monitoring systems can be set up offline and online. The status of your machine can be checked at any time. These sensors systems not only help you to react to machine failures at an early stage; they also enable you to increase the service life of your machines.

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