Making the most of downtime

~ When a factory is in shutdown, sitting still shouldn’t be the first option ~

Injuries in sport are inevitable, but the greatest sporting comebacks haven’t been achieved by simply accepting the circumstances and waiting for recovery. The same philosophy can be applied to factory shutdowns. Here, Chris Johnson, managing director at specialist bearings supplier SMB Bearings explores the factory maintenance opportunities gifted by an unexpected pause in production.

An unexpected factory shutdown can occur for a number of reasons — political, environmental, technical, or, at the moment, virus-related. Whatever the cause, unplanned shutdowns or changes to schedules can have a profound impact on the company operating the facility and its bottom line.

However, what if a plan is developed in advance; one that can be implemented during times of halted production? An alternative way of looking at shutdowns is that they are a fantastic opportunity to conduct preventative maintenance, make incremental equipment upgrades, or even invest in staff development opportunities.

In 2017, it was estimated that downtime costs UK manufacturers £180 billion every year. Actually, the true cost of downtime goes far beyond the financial data, and can wreak havoc in multiple areas of a business. While avoiding downtime altogether would be an ideal goal, aiming for near-zero downtime should instead be a facilities’ first — and more realistic — line of defence.

Gathering machine data through the use of an automated system can help facility managers plan and foresee production disturbances far more accurately. However, if an unavoidable shutdown does occur, then how should plant managers respond?