According to Forbes.com, manufacturers worldwide  are learning that automation is directly related to business growth and their ability to remain competitive in a fast-changing market. There are many advantages to this growing trend. This article will highlight how automation can contribute to business growth in the food and beverage industry by increasing uptime.

Wondering how your food manufacturing facility can be more productive? Increasing uptime is one of the top actions you can take to improve productivity. Industrial equipment should perform without any breaks and withstand repetitive tasks better than human workers, but there are still factors that can make equipment stop working or not work as efficiently as it should.

Uptime means the time industrial equipment is operational, or the time when manufacturing equipment is producing and moving product. That is when your organization sees the most productivity and efficiency.

The opposite of uptime is downtime when equipment is not operational.

There are two types of downtime: unplanned and planned. Planned downtime relates to scheduled and anticipated downtime such as maintenance, weekends or after hours. It does not affect productivity. Unplanned downtime means unintentional and unanticipated downtime during production. Preventing it can be difficult, but downtime can be reduced or eliminated with the right tools and processes.

Disruptive and costly downtime is something businesses need to overcome on a daily basis. According to Processing Magazine, unplanned downtime in the food industry can cost an astounding $30,000 per hour. In this article, we will deep dive into processes and tools that manufacturing facilities can implement to increase uptime.

Involve your employees

Research shows that when employees feel involved in the decision-making or the implementation of new processes, they respond better to its implementation. Involving employees in decision-making helps keep them motivated, increasing work performance and productivity. Motivated employees feel more inclined to contribute to shared goals and adhere to processes that reduce downtime in manufacturing settings.

Communication between managers and operators is essential to improving efficiency and decreasing downtime. Effective communication is a crucial step in involving employees. Employees need to feel like they are part of the team. They should understand how downtime and business processes can support their work, not only company profits. Managers and supervisors must communicate openly and effectively with their employees, engaging them in important decisions and operation strategies.

When employees are involved and motivated, they feel inclined to share valuable feedback and offer suggestions when they see opportunities for reducing downtime. It is important to listen to these suggestions, as they can provide different perspectives. Feeling listened to also makes employees feel involved and will help increase productivity and reduce downtime.

Keeping an open communication channel is also essential to identify and implement fixes to processes and ensure all team members are working towards a common goal. To reduce errors, improve productivity and maintain employees’ motivation, work on setting short and long-term goals for your staff individually and for the department.

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Use data to track root causes of downtime

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is a great way to measure manufacturing equipment productivity. A 100% OEE rank means you are manufacturing good quality food packages or pallets as quickly as possible, without downtime. Therefore, food industry facilities aim to get as close to 100% as possible.

IoT-based (Internet of Things) monitoring services can help track down multiple metrics of OEE, from quality, performance, and productivity of manufacturing equipment. These automatic trackers detect downtime events in real-time and notify management, including the specific time and the reason why downtime occurred. This data can be used to identify causes of downtime and opportunities for improvement.

Knowing when, where what type and how downtime is happening is the first step to eliminating it. Identifying the root causes and establishing processes and innovative automation that remove recurring causes of downtime is the key to eliminating it.

Modernize and upgrade your existing equipment

Modernizing or upgrading your existing equipment is another practical way of reducing downtime. Packaging machines and palletizing cells can be upgraded with functional and safety updates that will increase uptime by reducing breakdowns and minor stoppages and improving processing speed.

Purchasing completely new equipment is not always necessary. Even obsolete manufacturing equipment can be upgraded and modernized with the right automation solutions. Orfer CANADA currently offers innovative automation solutions to upgrade and modernize your equipment.

Staff training

Staff training is one of the most important factors in increasing uptime. Properly trained operators are more likely to maintain high productivity and performance. Trained staff operate manufacturing equipment as efficiently and safely as possible, reducing downtime related to human error, injuries, and equipment malfunctions. This training will result in improved workplace safety.

Staff training should include “how-to” training and safety and maintenance information. Training should be developed to reduce the learning curve of using automated equipment while supporting employees to reduce downtime by resolving minor equipment malfunctions. It is also important to select experienced trainers who are familiar with the manufacturing process and automation equipment and can teach operators how to use the robots in a safe and productive way.

Staff training should always be considered when choosing a provider for your manufacturing equipment. When discussing Robotic Process Automation (RPA), ask your vendor about what type of training is offered to your employees at the end of the implementation process.

 

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Preventative maintenance

Preventive maintenance ensures your manufacturing equipment will maintain the desired productivity and performance from the first day of production to the end of the system’s life cycle. Performing preventative maintenance avoids costly surprises and long-term downtime while maximizing the return on investment. It should be a part of your production budget and schedule.

Maintenance services are a significant part of Orfer lifecycle services. Orfer commits to preventive maintenance that sustains equipment efficiency and minimizes unplanned downtime. Orfer employees will help you in problematic situations that might arise.

Orfer maintains and repairs automation robots regardless of the brand. Each robot has its unique maintenance schedule, which keeps the equipment in working order for a long time. It is a cost-effective way to reduce the environmental burden, save costs, and minimize unexpected downtime.

Preventive maintenance increases uptime by preventing the following common problems:

  • Drive deviations
  • Transmission faults
  • Engine breakdowns
  • Repeatability issues
  • Cable damage
  • Loss of programs
  • Other safety issues
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Remote service for troubleshoots

Waiting for a technician to troubleshoot a technical issue can be costly for food industry facilities. It can contribute to revenue loss and even impact your product life cycle, depending on how long it takes for a technician to become available. That is why remote service technicians are a game-changer in reducing downtime.

Orfer provides 24/7 global remote support for fast response time. The troubleshooting specialist can locate the problem within minutes. This saves valuable time and money. In many cases, the situation can be solved without service staff. When service staff is required, they arrive informed and with the spare parts needed.

Spare parts stock

Waiting for parts is another contributor to unplanned downtime in manufacturing facilities. Maintaining a spare parts stock can increase uptime while removing the impact of global supply chain and logistics challenges.

Many automation equipment are produced globally. Global component shortages or logistical challenges of a global supply chain can significantly impact the delivery time for a spare part. Depending on the global market, delivery times can vary from days to weeks, and even months, which would have a catastrophic impact on production.

When faced with lengthy delivery times, companies might feel compelled to “patch” the problem and resume production until the spare part can be received. This could result in more stress on the equipment and eventually permanently damage your robot automation system.

Ensuring a spare part stock for your most critical industrial machines ensures that spare parts are always available when needed. When the manufacturing equipment needs to have parts replaced, it is convenient to rely on spare parts stock and switch the spare part. This way, the production is back up quickly. By anticipating and preparing for failures, you are avoiding unplanned downtime and having to wait for the arrival of the needed spare parts.

The cost of maintaining a spare part stock is relatively low compared to the costs of unplanned production downtime.

Orfer believes in the sustainability and the reliability of the automation systems we supply. The quality of our parts and equipment is a matter of honor, which is why spare parts stock is part of the Orfer offering.

Using reliable equipment

Choosing the right automation equipment is one of the most important factors in increasing uptime in food industry facilities. Many automation robots are available in the market and understanding the differentiation between them and how they contribute to your manufacturing productivity is an important step.

Orfer’s team emphasizes reliability and quality of equipment which is why Orfer works primarily with Kawasaki robots.

Kawasaki robots are developed using proven advanced technology for maximized uptime on investment. For example, Kawasaki B series uses less footprint compared to similar models, so there would be more workspace and less need for interference. The Kawasaki B series robots are known for their industry-leading reliability and long maintenance intervals. In short, this means more uptime and lower operating costs.

Conclusion

There are many steps food industry facilities can take to increase uptime in their manufacturing operations. Innovative automation, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), is a great return on investment that will benefit and support your company’s growth and operations.

To learn more about how automation can support your business and help you grow, check our article: 10 ways automation can help food and beverage manufacturers.

Interested in exploring automation for your food and beverage manufacturing facility? Contact us for an online quote.

 

 

Schedule a meeting to learn how you can leverage automation for business growth