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Is downtime sucking profit from your business?

reducing downtime automatinIt’s probably happened in your household at some point; the vacuum cleaner breaks down half way through the housework. It leaves you with a partly cleaned floor, a hefty repair bill, living with the dirt while it’s being fixed plus all the time lost in finding a repair guy, driving to the repair shop and so on. Time I’m sure you’d much rather spend at leisure.  When your vacuum cleaner breaks down for the second time you’re probably going to buy a new one that’s not only less likely to break down, but will be far more effective at cleaning your carpet.

Unplanned stoppages in industry cause similar headaches for plant operations managers, only on a much bigger scale! It’s an often-quoted fact that process industries lose up to 5% of production capacity due to unplanned downtime. But just like the vacuum cleaner breakdown there’s more to it than being unable to complete the job in a timely fashion, but of course it’s not as easy to replace your automation system with a new one.

Effects of downtime

There are many and varied effects of downtime on your business. Some you are probably familiar with, like reduced system and equipment availability, reduced production and lower mean time between failures (MTBF). Any unplanned downtime then also puts pressure on your actual scheduled maintenance and fault diagnostic times because you have to equalize the time effects of all types of downtime.

In addition the actual time period of a downtime event also has different effects. Short periods of downtime only affect the production staff, supervision on the facility floor and administration. Longer periods also affect maintenance, quality control, engineering, operations and management personnel. As such, minimizing the duration of downtime minimizes both direct and indirect personnel costs.

Costs of downtime

A direct cost that you may face due to downtime is additional freight charges to rectify delivery timelines. For example, in the mining industry meeting freight schedules is crucial. Not being able to get the coal or iron ore to the port on time equates to millions of dollars wasted in port costs for container ships and the subsequent knock on effects of late deliveries. Your company may face a loss in profits due to substitutions, lowered quality or continual need for repairs. You may also face lost capacity due to production of defective products or components.

Indirect costs your company may face are lost opportunity and customer dissatisfaction. This may be a loss in demand as a result of customers’ concerns in regards to quality. Downtime can also cause loss of sales opportunities or customers.

Costs associated with individual downtime events are constant and often unavoidable. These costs can come from; raw material wastage (particularly for food and beverage companies), tooling for rework, the need to find spare/additional parts, reworking lost information and finding missing information.

How can you address downtime?

Around three quarters of plant equipment is more than 20 years old (around 5 years for consoles, 7-15 years for controllers, 15-20 years for I/O and 40 years for wiring)*. That’s a lot of obsolete equipment and a significant cause of production downtime!

Just like that old vacuum cleaner, your control system won’t perform at its best forever. However, the good news is that you don’t need to replace the entire system in one go. Modernizing your control system can be approached step-by-step, starting first with a site audit to understand the scope of your modernization program and to work out a plan that suits your needs and your budget, bearing in mind that more than 70% of modernization projects payback in less than 2 years*. And, most modernization programs can be scheduled as operational expenditure, avoiding complex CAPEX negotiations.

Want to know more about modernizing your plant?  Click here for more details…


*Source: ARC Advisory Group

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