Podcast: Three Tips To Avoid Unplanned Manufacturing Downtime During Your Digital Transformation Process

Ryan Rice, Automation Product Manager at Van Meter, shares his tips for reducing downtime and increasing efficiency in your manufacturing facility.

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Downtime poses serious risk to manufacturing businesses, especially in the age of digital transformation. According to the ISA, the financial impact of unplanned downtime for process industries worldwide is estimated to be around $1 trillion. Indeed, “Time is money” is true for many modern manufacturing businesses. Implementing automation and robotics can help streamline your operations, making them more accurate and efficient– however, downtime may occur if your solutions are not properly implemented and maintained.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid unplanned downtime in your own facility:

1. Optimize Your Process

Downtime most often occurs because of failure of equipment and processes (ISA). Sometimes, it is easier to overlook inefficiencies or redundancies in process because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” Just because something has “always been done this way,” it doesn’t mean that is the right way to do it. Continued use of outdated, inefficient processes can hinder opportunities for greater productivity and efficiency.

Use the 80/20 rule to determine what you spend the most time doing. If you spend 80% of your time doing 20% of your tasks, you may be losing opportunities for efficiency and profit. Can those manual, time-consuming tasks be optimized or automated?

2. Train Your Team

Before your company embarks on its digital transformation journey, it is crucial to make sure your employees understand the value of digital transformation and what their role will be in the transformation journey. By educating and empowering your employees, they can do their jobs easier and more efficiently (and take action, should downtime occur).

Augmented Reality (AR) can help reduce human error, train employees, and boost productivity by providing employees with real-time access and critical process information to identify problems before they escalate. It overlays digital content (like drawings, three-dimensional objects, and cues and directions) onto the real world environment, familiarizing employees with the machinery and processes– without having to refer to a manual. With the right information at their fingertips, employees gain the flexibility and confidence to make proactive decisions.

3. Take a Phased Approach to Transformation

Instead of replacing all systems at once, your company should consider taking a phased approach to reduce risk and maintain business continuity. The “rip and replace” method of modernizing your systems can be costly, time-consuming, and disruptive to your facility, so it’s important to have a thorough modernization strategy. You must also examine factors critical to your operational success and which pieces of equipment have the highest obsolescence risk.

There are several benefits to taking a phased approach to digital transformation: companies may see results sooner than if they would in a total transformation; SLAs, KPIs or other success indicators can be measured and enhanced at more granular levels; and a phased approach also allows facilities to choose different technologies or newer versions for later components.

Van Meter can help you reduce downtime and optimize your operational success. To learn more, contact your Van Meter representative at 1-800-247-1410.

To hear Ryan’s stories on the job (before he came to Van Meter), please listen to his podcast episode here.



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Rice joined Van Meter in 2013 and has more than 26 years in the automation industry.