The Truth on Machine Uptime in Manufacturing Plants

Process-industry executives depend on their equipment to achieve profitability — which means they’re keenly aware when a critical piece of machinery doesn’t run as scheduled.

Unfortunately, for many plants, that’s far too often.

The PSbyM Process Industries Performance Study found that machine uptime (as a percent of scheduled uptime) is only 67 percent (average) at process plants. That means that these facilities’ machines are not available a full third of the time that they’re required with one-quarter of downtime resulting from major breakdowns.

Even worse is the performance at the bottom third of process plants: they report less than 50 percent uptime. If machines don’t run, then orders don’t ship, sales are delayed (or lost altogether), and the customer relationship is tarnished (or even permanently destroyed).

  • Machine breakdowns also damage the bottom line in other ways at process plants:
  • Maintenance-repair labor (regular and overtime) costs — 73 percent of plants incur these costs weekly, daily, or constantly.
  • Production catch-up labor (regular and overtime) costs — 69 percent of plants incur these costs weekly, daily, or constantly.
  • Machine replacement-parts costs — 58 percent of plants incur these costs weekly, daily, or constantly.
  • Extra shipping costs (e.g., replacement parts, temporary equipment) — 57 percent of plants incur these costs weekly, daily, or constantly.
  • Extra product costs (e.g., damaged during breakdown, damaged during ramp-up) — 56 percent of plants incur these costs weekly, daily, or constantly.

Why so much downtime? Two root causes:

  • Unplanned maintenance — 21 percent (average) of plants’ maintenance work is unplanned; 10 percent of plants report that half of their maintenance work is unplanned.
  • Excessive changeover time — changeover time for plants’ primary production lines/processes is 42 minutes (average); a third of plants report changeover times of an hour or longer.

Even in plants that don’t seem to have uptime problems, other issues lurk: machines run at less-than-expected yields; poorly maintained equipment is managed at lower speeds to avoid breakdowns; equipment produces low-quality batches that are scrapped or sold at discount; or equipment operates at speed, but with safety risks.

How to Improve Machine Uptime

Equipment operators and managers with access to data on machine performance may be aware of these issues in the moment or across a shift, yet fail to recognize their cumulative long-term impact on plant productivity and performance. And in many manufacturing plants, staff simply don’t have access to common machine data and are completely unaware of equipment problems until it’s too late: approximately half of plants fail to monitor machine characteristics including output, temperature, visual appearance, sound, and motor current and circuits. The most commonly monitored machine characteristics — energy usage and product quality — are only tracked by 65 percent and 62 percent of process plants, respectively.

We continue to see expectations of maintenance grow and change along with equipment problems and lack of machine best practices. This is because many plants don’t have strategic, routine approaches to maintenance. That’s why three of the nine pillars/principles of the Milliken Performance System (MPS) are focused on improved equipment capabilities, helping Milliken & Co. record impressive machine performances for decades. (One Milliken plant with 160 knitting machines — each with 40,000 moving parts — went nine years without unscheduled downtime.) MPS and these three pillars also have been leveraged for dramatic results by clients of Performance Solutions by Milliken.

Daily team maintenance

This pillar provides operators with the skills to proactively prevent breakdowns and quality lapses caused by equipment deterioration, and helps to reduce minor stops, breakdowns, and changeover time. Daily team maintenance also promotes operator ownership of equipment; machine operators are usually the first to notice that equipment is not running properly and must deal first-hand with equipment when malfunctions occur.

Planned maintenance

Maintenance technicians, leadership, and engineers establish maintenance schedules to address problems before they occur, focusing on routine preventive, predictive, and zero-failure activities. These practices help increase equipment life, enhance availability and maintainability of the equipment, and can prevent costly problems before they occur.

Early equipment management

This pillar coordinates capital expenditures with long-range plans and leverages equipment data, equipment modeling, and best practices to improve reliability of new machines, designing out losses related to equipment startup before they occur. Early equipment maintenance brings together all necessary functions at the appropriate time to effectively plan, design, manufacture (purchase), and start up new equipment at the expected cost and performance rates. This allows for flexibility for current and future products and offers a systematic method that involves the right people at the right time, reducing risk.

For optimal equipment performance and reduction of breakdowns, the Daily Team Maintenance and Planned Maintenance pillars are implemented together through a four-phase approach — 1) reduce breakdowns, 2) lengthen equipment life, 3) implement periodic maintenance, and 4) predict equipment life. This integrated approach increases OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), makes cost reductions achievable, and begins to change the expectations of operators and maintenance staff, which results in better care for equipment and elimination of breakdowns. This shift also allows maintenance technicians to focus more time on troubleshooting major problems, improving equipment before problems occur, and increasing their knowledge and application of the latest technologies and equipment that can benefit their plants.

The PSbyM Process Industries Performance Study highlights how process-industry executives can achieve improved levels of availability, revenues, and profits from their capital equipment. Does your plant have a performance management system and principles in place to improve equipment operation? If not, sign up here to receive more news and analysis, and to learn how Performance Solutions by Milliken can create a culture that drives operational improvement.

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