Reduce wastage: Idle times and machine downtimes

Beke Nieszytka | 5. November 2019

The increased requirements of the market call upon you, as a manufacturing company, to permanently improve in order to ensure your own competitiveness. Companies are constantly working to maximise their output and reduce their costs. The most obvious cause of losses in a company is wastage. In order to increase the profitability and efficiency of production, all forms of waste should therefore be consistently minimised or eliminated.

What does wastage mean?

Wastage includes all non-value-adding activities that are carried out or created within a value-added process.

Goal: Optimisation of value-adding and elimination of non-value-adding sections


From the point of view of Lean Management, 7 types of wastage are distinguished:

1 Transport: Moving material from one place to another.

2 Stocks: To a certain extent, stocks create security to bridge problems (e.g. machine downtime), but also tie up capital.

3 Movements: Many and unnecessary movements, e.g. at the workplace, cost time and often result in ergonomic problems.

4 Over-dimensioned processes: Unnecessarily complicated processes make procedures opaque and error-prone.

5 Over-production: Too much produced material that the customer does not buy ties up capital and storage space.

6 Rejects & defects: The production of a part that is discarded in the worst case.

7 Idle time: Unproductive times during which no added value can be generated.  

This paper focuses on the wastefulness of idle time caused by machine downtime. A large part of the idle time is often caused by machine downtime. The reduction of idle times, or respectively the reduction of machine downtime, increases the available machine time and therefore the output. With the same available machine time, this also increases productivity (=output/input). As a logical consequence, this means that machine downtime, whether planned or unplanned, must be reduced to a minimum.

How can idle times due to machine downtime be reduced?

Basically it must be noted that wastage cannot be completely avoided. The aim is to eliminate wastage in those places where it can be eliminated (e.g. rejects) and to minimise it in others (e.g. transport routes).

Especially in the case of machine downtime, preventive maintenance aims at avoiding the occurrence of damage-prone and costly system failures through comprehensive planning and implementation of maintenance measures. A distinction must be made between the following measures:

  • Inspection
  • Maintenance
  • Preventive repair or replacement of machine components
  • Installation of monitoring systems

In all measures, the duration of the planned shutdown must be kept as short as possible and the interval between shutdowns as long as possible in order to achieve long production times. The installation of monitoring systems provides information on the service life of the wear-resistant parts without having to stop the machine. In this way, the service life of the components can be fully exploited before they are replaced.

How igus® helps to reduce idle times caused by machine downtime

igus® helps you reduce machine downtime with readychain® and readycable®. Individually harnessed cables (readycable®), which are inserted into energy chains and delivered in the form of a ready-to-connect complete system (readychain®), shorten the duration of unplanned or planned downtime. With every readychain® system you receive the highest quality and safety, because all installed components are matched to each other by igus®, as manufacturer and harnesser of cables and energy chains.

The quality and safety of work parts, i.e. their resilience and service life, is put to the test in our in-house test laboratory. For this, we operate the largest test laboratory in the industry, with a floor area of 3.800m², and conduct the highest number of product tests and test procedures. Every harnessed cable and every ready-to-connect complete system is extensively tested there. With the help of our online tools, you can also calculate the expected service life of your cables and your energy chain yourself – with a guarantee. Go straight to readycable® product finder.

With readychain® you can choose between 4 variants. In the readychain® Basic version, only cables and hoses are laid in the chain, whereas in the readychain® Standard version, cables are harnessed with the required plug-in connectors and installed in the energy chain, eliminating the need for electrical work. In the case of more complex layouts, the readychain® can even be supplemented with the necessary connections or interfaces and, if required, delivered on a rack that fits directly into your machine with readychain® Standard Plus and readychain® Premium.

In addition, with smart plastics, igus® has also responded to requirements for predictive maintenance – energy chains are fitted with sensors in order to detect problems at an early stage. These sensor 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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