Beverage industry dynamics reveals that the downtime and uptime in production facilities never seems to disappear. Call it idle/lost time, productive/positive time, but the results in any case will have significant impacts on beverage producing operations that involve unwarranted expenses in machinery, materials and labor, less than desirable asset utilization and unrecoverable productive time.

The issue and its longevity has been a debatable, controversial and difficult to solve challenge for more than 50 years. We must ask why businesses continue to focus on a seemingly unsolvable issue when other important priorities should be addressed.

The main reasons are return on investment and utilization of assets throughout the supply chain phases in some form or another, which results in lost money. Seminars, websites and even books have focused on the downtime issue to discover best “good practices” that might result in minimizing the downside and maximizing the upside. However, the studies and research also have raised an interesting question: is downtime or uptime most important when analyzing the causes behind an issue?

Both “times” are important but what effective, realistic and accurate approach should be used requires a detailed dissection of each category. Simply stated, what are downtime/uptime causes and effects in day-to-day operations?

From an operations perspective, downtime appears to be the most frequently discussed issue primarily because nobody wants to be “down.” Therefore, a look at downtime causes can provide an insight into what actually happened and initiate steps for corrective action. To effectively evaluate causes, it is best to spotlight three main categories — machinery, materials and personnel — plus other items peculiar to a local operation.

To help identify and analyze downtime, manually posted production downtime records from the past (if available) and computerized data recovery from automated devices are excellent sources for setting up lists in each category. These listings can lead to a better understanding of causes while developing corrective action.

This applies to each workstation on the production line usually designated by a machine and an operator/attendant. Therefore, data capture and analysis are critical steps in evaluating downtime and determining corrective action. For this reason, it has been noted that most downtime events are interrelated (machine, material, personnel). Therefore, exercise caution when reporting actual line stoppages to ensure data accuracy. With automated devices, programmed sensors record various types of events to overcome the accuracy point.

From an engineering viewpoint, a review of downtime causes in each major category could assist in the evaluation/corrective action process:

Machinery: Downtime causes by malfunctioning of machines or tandem installations might include:

  • Lack of scheduled preventive maintenance
  • Improper maintenance activity
  • Improper changeover
  • Operating at incorrect speed settings
  • Fracture of machine part in operation
  • Unqualified maintenance personnel
  • Failure to clear line at start up

Corrective action on any of these items must address the operating and maintenance methods and procedures provided by the manufacturers’ manuals as well as in-house policy directives.

Materials: Downtime causes from materials used in packaging a product have changed because many producers are manufacturing containers on line contiguous to the actual production line; however, additional causes can result from such a scenario.

  • Off register material create misfeed causing jams on machine
  • Material infeed to machine lacks separation, preventing proper indexing
  • Damaged material not able to index into machine feeds or discharge
  • Incorrect materials brought to the line creating package mismatch
  • Material/machine interface malfunctioned
  • Inadequate supply of materials to line creating stoppage

Corrective action in the area of materials must include inspection prior to production and procedures that provide timely line supply at all times.

Personnel: Downtime causes by personnel assigned to operating and/or attending/servicing machines is a basic and critical factor in production line operations. The following are some of the most frequent causes:

  • Improperly trained/instructed line operators/attendants
  • Activating wrong controls, creating machine malfunction
  • Failure to supply materials in timely manner where machine infeed is required
  • Lack of service to machines as required under various conditions
  • Failure to observe potential material/machine jams
  • Lack of attention to machine malfunction or stoppage
  • Performing unsafe or unnecessary activities that would interfere with line operation.

Corrective action for personnel is a serious and difficult part of the downtime issue. All personnel should be properly trained in a safe and proper manner for the intended assignment. Although all of the causes might not be eliminated, they should be reduced. BI