The manufacturing industry has seen a lot of technological improvements in the last couple of years. Far from “being dead”, this has caused a resurgence in the industry. It’s only natural that companies would want to keep up and reap the benefits of these advances.
Improvements come with their own set of problems, though, because they can involve downtime. That downtime can be especially harmful to production if you are updating equipment, which may need to be offline during those updates.
So, how can you avoid unwanted downtime while updating your equipment? Is it even possible? We believe it is. In fact, we added two new machines at the end of 2014 that allowed us to cut our cycle time in half, with minimal downtime. What is our secret? We followed the steps below.
Identify What You Want to Improve
First, identify the equipment you want to update. Include what exactly you want to update about the machine. Make sure you also understand how the update will impact your efficiency, costs, or other factors. This will help you plan to reach these goals.
If You Fail to Plan…
Then write out exactly how you are going to update them. Will you replace the equipment completely, or bring another machine in to help keep your processes running continuously? We implemented the latter strategy when we bought and deployed a robot arm which would continuously move gears from one machine to another, improving efficiency overall. There are many options for how you can update your equipment, and yours may be different. Just make sure you are as detailed as possible with your plan.
Implementing the Plan
The next thing to do is put that plan into place. Don’t forget to account for the downtime in the plan. By planning for it, you can schedule the downtime during a time when it won’t affect peak production. You might even be able to avoid it altogether if you can work out a process where the equipment is not needed for production. Make sure whoever is involved in the plan understands their role and is aware of when it will be implemented.
The Last Step
The last step is to write down anything that happened during the improvement process that you didn’t anticipate. That way you can plan to avoid these pitfalls with future improvement projects.