Reducing unplanned downtime on your production line and increasing OEE


Whether you’re a manufacturing professional or an aspiring employee trying to reap the rewards of increasing equipment efficiency, you probably cringe when you hear the words ‘unplanned downtime’.

I once spoke to a continuous improvement professional that told us his manager’s Achilles Heel was hearing someone say ‘we had an unplanned stop. “Say that term to him three times,” he joked “and his heart would stop.”

No matter if you’re in charge of efficiency at the plant level or at the corporate level, no one likes to hear that their machines aren’t running efficiently. Most often, however, there are multiple actions that can be taken to improve the machine’s throughput.

On a recent facility walk-through, the individual responsible for efficiency & output showed us their stops and how it was affecting Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE). This multi-billion international corporation had a system that tracked overall efficiency and showed it on a scoreboard-style display. Prior to our solution their OEE was running at 87%, which for most is superb, but they were aiming for 90% –the standard for their organization

Many facilities tend to place the blame for efficiencies on human-error related issues that were being written off as machine-related issues. But when an organization is capable of the view of a specific issue, they can correctly categorize downtime. A 3% increase in efficiency does not seem like a daunting task but when you take into account that the facility is already quite efficient it seems like an uphill battle that can’t be won.

With the use of LineSpex they were able to assess the set up and provide an integrated machine vision solution to aid in pin pointing the root cause of stops.

Immediately following the implementation of the LineSpex’s solution the manufacturer was able to use the data to employ changes to increase OEE. Part of the issue was upstream machines were running faster than the downstream machines were able to handle, and overtime, caused a jam.

By implementing Linespex’s integrated machine vision solution, it had quickly found a solution that saved the manufacturing plant thousands of dollars within the first week. Resulting in an increase in OEE, making the plant a more efficient and lean running manufacturing facility.

5 Proven Wastes to Reduce Downtime

5 Proven Ways to Reduce Downtime

Choose Adequate Equipment

When purchasing or assigning new equipment, it is important to ensure the equipment you choose can handle the size of the load, line speed, and strain it will be under. Some managers may be tempted to use smaller or cheaper equipment to save money upfront and ignore the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of running the equipment. Circumstantially, the higher upfront cost of a certain machine is the most cost-efficient option when considering downtime, maintenance costs, total output, and defective rate of your product. When calculating TCO, remember to include direct and indirect costs (such as lifespan, machine efficiency, setup costs, training costs, maintenance needs, and estimated downtime).

Measure Measure Measure 

One of the biggest metrics to measure in the manufacturing is Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE). Once you track your OEE, you can take actionable steps to improve it. There are three major ways to increase your OEE: reduce stops (increase uptime), increase speed (performance), and reduce defects (quality).

To track your OEE, you want to measure the following:

Uptime/Downtime: A ratio of actual uptime to the allotted time the machine was scheduled to run

Speed Loss: How often the machine isn’t running at the optimal/desired speed

Quality Loss: The percentage of defects in the production process (products that do not pass inspection).

After measuring the above three, you will be able to decide which one (or more) need to be addressed.

Stop Firefighting

Reactive approaches are not intuitive. Proactively reducing inefficiencies (preventative & predictive maintenance) are being implemented globally, and for a good reason.  Waiting for a machine to stop before replacing something (or conducting maintenance) won’t prevent that issue from happening in the future. Additionally, it is much more inconvenient and costly to relocate personnel or resources to fix an issue at the drop of a pin. This is also known as ‘firefighting’. This duct-tape approach is not sustainable.

We can avoid this by adopting methods of preventative maintenance. Scheduling a time to inspect the machine’s parts and condition, cleaning, lubricating, calibrating, etc. can go a long way. You don’t wait until your engine is smoking before replacing your engine oil – this is the same concept.  If you need assistance deciding when to do such maintenance, the owner’s manual is a good place to start. Reaching out to the machine manufacturer is also a good avenue to learn more. Lastly, sharing best practices with colleagues and other facilities within your organization can create a successful learning process for all those involved.

Calculate Dollar Cost of Downtime

Calculating the true cost of downtime should include value of product loss, minutes (or hours) spent reallocating personnel and the cost of the repair.

This provides a true figure of what unplanned production stops are costing per minute to calculate what is a feasible expense when evaluating solutions (such as new software or technology). New additions to your technology mix should reduce enough cost to pay for themselves within a feasible period. When calculating the return on investment, this is referred to as ‘payback period’.


Keeping open communication between the machine operators and supervisors/managers is crucial for efficiency. The most successful processes are when the machine operators have a thorough understanding about the relationship between downtime and business profits. This makes operators understand that they play an important role in the success of the process and adds purpose to their tasks.


Two workers were hammering on a piece of granite with a sledgehammer. When asked what he was doing, the first worker said, “I’m trying to crack this granite.” When asked the same question, the second worker said, “I’m part of a team building a cathedral.”

~ Ken Blanchard & Donald Carew

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