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The Impact and Causes of Unplanned Shutdowns in Industries

Unplanned shutdowns are a nightmare for plant managers. The blow of unplanned downtime reverberates across a company, negatively impacting productivity and profitability According to Aberdeen research, unplanned shutdown costs a company $260,000 an hour on average. Let us discuss the impact of unplanned shutdown a little deeper: 

Financial Losses: 

Unplanned shutdowns can result in substantial financial losses for industries. According to a study conducted by Deloitte, unplanned downtime costs industrial manufacturers an average of $50 billion annually in the United States alone. These costs include lost production, equipment repairs, idle labor, and missed delivery deadlines, negatively impacting both profitability and competitiveness. 

Decreased Productivity: 

Unplanned shutdowns significantly hamper productivity levels. Research by ARC Advisory Group revealed that unplanned downtime in process industries can lead to an average productivity loss of 5% to 20%. The sudden disruption disrupts the workflow, causing delays in production schedules, reduced output, and missed customer commitments. 

Safety Hazards: 

Unplanned shutdowns can pose safety hazards, particularly in industries where operational continuity is critical. Sudden stoppages can lead to equipment failures, inadequate maintenance, or compromised safety measures. This can result in accidents, environmental damage, and potential harm to workers and surrounding communities. 

What causes unplanned shutdown

Unplanned shutdown has severe impacts on a company. But why can’t companies control this risk? Let’s see how and why companies fail to mitigate unplanned shutdowns. 

Equipment failures due to reactive maintenance: 

According to a report by Plant Engineering, around 42% of all unplanned downtime in manufacturing industries is caused by equipment failure. 

Reactive maintenance, a practice still prevalent in many industries, relies on technicians identifying equipment issues only after they become apparent. This approach, also known as run-to-failure maintenance, suffers from inherent flaws. 

Firstly, relying on someone to notice malfunctioning equipment poses a challenge. Problems may remain unnoticed for extended periods if they are hidden or not immediately obvious. By the time an issue is discovered, it may have escalated to an urgent level, necessitating rapid reordering of priorities and communication with maintenance teams to address the problem. 

Moreover, the unavailability of appropriate spare parts often complicates the reactive maintenance process. In such cases, several days may be required to order and receive the necessary components. Consequently, operations may experience delays or even come to a halt if the issue at hand is severe. 

By transitioning from reactive maintenance to preventive or predictive maintenance strategies, industries can control unplanned downtime. Adopting proactive measures such as routine inspections, condition monitoring, and implementing an efficient spare parts management system can minimize the reliance on reactive measures and ensure smoother operations. 

Gaps in maintenance processes: 

Unplanned downtime often arises from a lack of aligned maintenance processes. Traditionally, maintenance managers give paper-based work orders to field technicians. The technicians record all the field data on these paper forms and hand them over to the back office. The back-office staff later enter the data into the back-end systems such as Oracle EBS or SAP S/4HANA. There is a gap between each step. The data transfer doesn’t happen in real time.  

This lack of real-time visibility hampers effective management and timely decision-making. Managers are unable to promptly address emerging issues, allocate resources efficiently, or make informed adjustments to maintenance schedules. Consequently, this information gap increases the likelihood of unplanned downtime occurrences and prevents the organization from achieving optimal operational efficiency. 

Human Error: 

Human error is another significant factor contributing to unplanned shutdowns. Mistakes during maintenance, operation, or decision-making processes can lead to failures in equipment, systems, or processes. According to a study published in the Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, human error is responsible for around 25% to 50% of all industrial accidents. 

Maintenance technicians enter the field data manually on paper forms. For one, they might enter the wrong data. Second, anything can happen to the paper forms before they reach the back office. For example, some forms might miss. There are also data-entry errors that cause inaccurate field data. All these human errors lead to inaccurate analysis of asset health and lead to inefficient maintenance planning. Eventually, plants are at risk of an unplanned shutdown. 

Are you facing the challenges of an unplanned shutdown? 

Worry not. Experts at PropelApps can help you find the gaps in your maintenance management processes. We will help you redefine the processes with a best-in-class mobile maintenance management solution.  

Contact us now.