A Simple Solution to Reduce Downtime in Manufacturing

In a previous blog, we wrote about digital SOPs and their benefits for your OEE and CI efforts. Today, we’re going to explore another significant benefit of digital SOPs: the way in which they help reduce downtime.  

Accurate, up-to-date SOPs and work instructions play a big part in guaranteeing that operators perform tasks without making errors. Many manufacturers, however, still suffer from the impracticalities of paper-based information—paper gets lost, outdated instructions continue to be worked with and, consequently, mistakes happen.  

Let’s explore how a simple solution – digitizing your SOPs – can have a big impact on reducing downtime in manufacturing.  

What is downtime in manufacturing?   

In manufacturing, downtime occurs when a machine is not operating. This can be due to a breakdown, lack of materials, lack of available operators, poor quality of output, or when there are no orders to produce.   

Downtime isn’t necessarily negative; manufacturers often schedule downtime for preventive maintenance, meetings, or training. Unplanned downtime, on the other hand, is a big concern to manufacturers as it can put production on hold, leading to missed orders, a loss of profits, and so on.   

So, what can manufacturers do to reduce unplanned downtime? To find out, we first have to discover the most significant causes of unplanned downtime.

reduce downtime

The biggest cause of downtime in manufacturing 

As we said in the introduction to this blog, paper-based SOPs, LOTOs, and work instructions are the main cause of downtime in manufacturing. The problem here really lies with mediums and methods, not with people—in other words: the system that knowledge (and training) exists on has become inadequate.  

Paper is an inherently impractical format; operators will often not have access to paper-based information at their workstation and because of this, they may execute a task in the way they think is correct, instead of what’s actually correct. Paper-based instructions may also be unclear or not up to date.  

The characteristics of paper bring the risk that operators will perform a task in the wrong manner, which can have significant downtime as a consequence down the line. Again, this is not something that can be blamed on operators. It’s just that they aren’t given the ability to access the right knowledge at the right time.  

Working with paper used to be unavoidable, but, luckily, digital technology has made it largely redundant in manufacturing…  

…and brought with it a better alternative (that’s quick and easy to implement!).  

How digital SOPs reduce downtime

Our go-to solution to reduce downtime in manufacturing is the digitization of SOPs, work instructions, and so on. We like this method so much because it’s a low-hanging fruit that has a lot of impact. There are many solutions on the market for digitizing SOPs; 4Industry, for instance, has a drag-and-drop SOP builder.  

So, why is this such an effective solution?  

Going digital not only takes away the annoyances and impracticalities of paper-based information, it actually has a huge impact on the quality of operator performance. Instead of having to leave their workstation to search for a piece of paper, operators now have all the information they need to do their job right on their pocket-held smartphone. This way, they can always immediately access all the SOPs, work instructions, and LOTOs they need to do a task.  

And not only that: many digital solutions can host videos that provide relevant training pertaining to a specific machine, which operators can access right at their workstation.  

The great thing about these digital instructions is that they’re much easier to understand (due to visual material) and always up to date, so there’s a smaller chance of operators executing a sub-optimal procedure. Operators with instructions on their smartphones always perform a task in the prescribed manner, which reduces stoppages and downtime.   

Lastly, going digital can have a positive impact on preventive maintenance practices. Digital CIL SOPs and checklists help maintain equipment on optimal performing levels. If a solution goes paired with digital dashboards, line supervisors and production managers can easily check if all CIL tasks were completed.  

Looking for more information on digital SOPs? We discuss our 4 steps to create future-proof SOPs in this article.  

The benefits of digital SOPs 

In short, the benefits of digitizing your SOPs are 

  • Fewer errors because operators always follow the right procedures  
  • Elimination of the impracticalities of paper  
  • Increased efficiency 
  • Operators always have the information they need within reach 
  • The ability to enrich instructions with pictures and videos, making them easier to understand 
  • Easy updating and optimizing of instructions  

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