The Best Ways to Reduce Your Costly Manufacturing Downtime

Deploying automated tools and maintenance strategies is essential to help reduce the cost of manufacturing downtime. Without a plan, manufacturers face an unprecedented loss of up to $260,000 per hour through unplanned downtime alone.

There are several solutions to cure the outcome of unplanned downtime including CMMS Software and proactive plans such as preventive maintenance. With a proactive maintenance system, businesses that rely on the production of their fixed assets can find ways to keep costs down. 88% of companies realise the potential that a preventative maintenance strategy has to eliminate unplanned downtime.

In this guide:

What Is the True Cost of Manufacturing Downtime?

Manufacturing downtime occurs when a piece of equipment or machinery is not in operation. For instance, a manufacturer may stop production to carry out maintenance and repairs on a machine to help improve performance. This type of downtime is harmless, and can even be necessary. But, there are other types of downtime that have a less desired impact.

Instead of upgrades and scheduled maintenance, downtime in manufacturing plants can be caused by a number of unexpected errors. This is when a system fails to provide or perform its primary function, known as unplanned downtime. Unplanned downtime can have a negative impact on operations in a number of ways, including:

  • Disruption to business
  • Excessive emergency repair costs
  • Reduction in employee productivity
  • Damaged reputation and loyalty

Unplanned downtime can be the result of multiple factors. It could be caused by an operating error, poor maintenance, or even a software bug.

What is the Cost of Manufacturing Downtime?

In 2016, offshore oil and gas organisations highlighted an average annual loss of $38 million due to unplanned downtime. With the worst impact costing upwards of $88 million.

In 2018 an Aberdeen Research study estimated that the cost of unplanned downtime across all businesses had risen 60% in just two years; from $164,000 per hour to $260,000. 82% of companies also experienced at least one case of unplanned downtime between 2015 and 2018.

Ultimately, 46% of companies couldn’t deliver the services they promised to customers.

4 Best Ways to Reduce Downtime in Manufacturing

Manufacturers tend to rely heavily on a production line of automated machinery to produce finished goods. The mass production of discounted raw materials keeps labour costs to a minimum while gaining higher profit margins. But, with a reliance on equipment and machinery, the risk of falling foul to unplanned downtime can be devastating.

A company that experienced this first-hand was Simons Feed Ingredients (SFI), a manufacturer of animal nutrition. During a period of unscheduled downtime, due to a change of machinery lubrication oils, they were forced to sell their perishable ingredients to customers at a reduced cost to avoid expiration.

However, there are a number of opportunities available to manufacturers to help limit the possibility of unplanned downtime and keep unexpected costs low.

1. Upgrade Equipment and Machinery

Outdated and old equipment can prove troublesome for operators. It results in delays to jobs and can slow down the manufacturing process as a whole. To combat this, ensure that all obsolete assets are replaced. Although this can depend on revenue restraints, the improvement in machine performance and job completion times can outweigh the costs.

2. Increase Employee Training

70% of manufacturing downtime and equipment loss can be traced back to human error. Without proper training, your employees could be accountable for a loss in production. Simply because they haven’t been trained correctly. By sending staff on training courses and providing the right resources, human error is reduced. Employees can understand how to correctly operate machinery, how to use tools effectively, and even how to fix a broken machine. Ultimately reducing delays and downtime.

3. Use a CMMS

Purchasing automated tools such as CMMS Software and digitising your manufacturing data might sound expensive, but it’s an investment that will pay off in the long term. A CMMS will provide you with the knowledge to help reduce your manufacturing downtime. Digitised maintenance tools are designed to centralise all maintenance data, allowing operators and maintenance teams to maximise the usability of assets. There are several benefits of using CMMS Software, such as:

  • Providing asset and work order visibility
  • Increasing operational efficiency
  • Controlling inventory, waste, and running costs
  • Ensuring compliance management
  • Improving workplace health and safety

4. Deploy a Preventive Maintenance Strategy

The most effective way to reduce manufacturing downtime is to take a proactive approach to maintenance, such as implementing a preventive maintenance strategy. Preventive Maintenance (PM), or Preventative Maintenance, is a proactive strategy that involves regular and routine maintenance of equipment. This helps to reduce the likelihood of failure, which can lead to unplanned downtime. The advantages of a preventative maintenance plan include:

  • Fewer breakdowns of assets essential for production
  • Improved reliability of equipment
  • Fewer corrective and emergency repairs
  • A prolonged life expectancy of assets resulting in a lower turnover rate
  • Improved RCA data collection

Using a Preventive Maintenance Strategy to Reduce Your Manufacturing Downtime

There are a variety of options for manufacturers to overcome unscheduled outages in the production line, including performing lengthy risk audits and educating employees. But one of the most effective and recognisable is deploying a preventative maintenance strategy.

Preventive maintenance falls between a reactive maintenance approach and a predictive one. Essentially, it is the process of regularly performing checks on equipment to reduce the likelihood of failure. This type of maintenance is performed while equipment is still in working order, to identify and prevent manufacturing downtime before it happens.

In the case of SFI, the company changed its maintenance program from reactive to preventive. This meant that instead of waiting until equipment failed to then fix it, which resulted in unscheduled downtime while waiting for spare parts, its newly formed maintenance schedule subsequently eliminated costly downtime. So much so, that SFI now acquires perishable goods from its competitors at a discounted price.

As well as requiring careful planning and scheduling, preventative maintenance is used to keep accurate records of past inspections and services. However, this process can be complex and time-consuming for a manufacturer with a lot of equipment to record manually. Instead, a CMMS solution can be implemented to perform automated data collection and planning maintenance schedules.

With 81% of businesses believing that a digital tool can completely eliminate unplanned downtime, it is hard to look beyond a CMMS solution.

Types of Preventative Maintenance

Although preventive maintenance is its own type of maintenance strategy, it can be split into three separate groups. These are:

  1. Time-based maintenance (TBM)
  2. Usage-based maintenance (UBM)
  3. Failure-finding maintenance (FFM)

A time-based preventive maintenance schedule will perform regular alerts as to when a certain piece of equipment needs an inspection. Whereas a usage-based schedule will trigger an alert after a certain amount of time, production cycles or miles.

For example, a service check may be scheduled on a fleet vehicle every 10,000 miles. Or, a lubrication check may be required on a CNC milling machine every 100 hours.

Preventive maintenance schedules can also include cleaning, adjustments, repairs, servicing, oil changes or a complete replacement.

With a preventive maintenance program in place, an effective solution to reducing manufacturing downtime can begin. Work orders can be created through scheduled time-based or usage-based alerts and maintenance KPIs can be set through gathering data and analysing performance reports.

A failure-finding approach refers to an inspection that is carried out to discover defects or failures in an asset. For example, a malfunction in a smoke alarm will never be identified until that alarm is triggered.


Modern businesses experience average losses up to $260,000 per hour and damaging equipment outages resulting in a loss of production. But, there is proof that through effective data gathering and reliable maintenance software, manufacturers can begin the process of eliminating unplanned manufacturing downtime expenditures.

With the ability to gather vital data, CMMS software presents itself as the ideal solution for most manufacturers. Not only this but advanced capabilities found in modern CMMS solutions, such as mobile CMMS through cloud systems, can add much more functionality to any manufacturing organisation.

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