Down Time Tips

The Big Idea

Down Time is the largest source of lost production time for most manufacturers. Here are some practical tips for reducing Down Time that don't require a lot of outside support.



Why Down Time Tips?

Down Time is the largest source of lost productivity for most manufacturers, and it is often the place where the fastest gains can be made. Although TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) is a clear best practice for sustainably reducing Down Time, not every company is ready to invest the time and resources to create an effective TPM program. If Down Time is having a significant impact on production, here are 10 practical tips for reducing it using your existing resources.

If Down Time is having a significant impact on production, here are 10 practical tips for reducing it using your existing resources.

10 Practical Down Time Tips

Capture Reasons

It is essential to capture a reason and duration for each Down Time incident to enable the team to effectively prioritize and focus. Start simple, with no more than 25 reasons, one of which should be ‘All Other Losses’. Make sure every reason is clear (when compared with other reasons) and describes symptoms (as opposed to attempting to diagnose root causes). Remove reasons that aren't regularly used and add reasons as needed to ensure that ‘All Other Losses’ is not in the top ten losses.

Focus on the Constraint

Every manufacturing process has a constraint, which is the fulcrum (i.e., point of leverage) for the entire process. Measure Down Time at the constraint and Improve the Constraint to ensure that resources are focused where they will have the strongest impact on throughput and profitability.

Select Metrics to Drive Desired Behaviors

Metrics that are emphasized and shared are very powerful drivers of behavior. Treat Down Time as a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) and continually reinforce its importance. People love an opportunity to win, so set SMART targets (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Specific) and reward success, even if it's by simple recognition.

Make Down Time Visual

Provide clear visuals to indicate when the line is down, and escalate those visuals if the line remains down for an extended period of time. Train team members to react quickly, and provide multiple levels of escalation response (e.g., operator, supervisor, manager). The goal is to prevent small issues from becoming large incidents.

Quick Fix Immediately; Escalate 100-Year Fixes

Look at resolving each Down Time loss in one of two ways:

Perform a 3S Blitz

A clean and organized work environment creates better conditions for well-running equipment, which is why 5S is the foundation of TPM. A 3S blitz applies the same principles in the form of a one-off exercise: Sort (eliminate what is not needed), Set in Order (organize what remains), and Shine (clean and inspect equipment).

Perform a Maintenance Blitz

Most equipment has wear parts (e.g., seals, gaskets, bearings, belts, and rollers) that can cause breakdowns as they reach the end of their operational life. Check that all wear parts are in good condition and replace any parts that are suboptimal.

Mark Optimum Settings

When equipment settings are continually tweaked by operators, supervisors, and engineers they are less likely to be optimal and more likely to create conditions for Down Time. Decide and mark optimal settings.

Perform Hourly Reviews

Set up a whiteboard next to the production area. Every hour, hold a three-minute stand-up meeting at the whiteboard to update performance, identify the largest Down Time incident from the last hour, and agree on one improvement action for the next hour. This is a simplified version of Short Interval Control.

Only Change One Thing at a Time

When fixing a Down Time issue, make one change at a time. Often, multiple changes are made at the same time, without individually checking their impact on the equipment. This makes it much harder to diagnose problems and evaluate the effectiveness of solutions.


In the short term, Down Time Tips provides practical and proven ways to reduce Down Time using existing resources.

In the long term, Down Time Tips should be replaced with a structured approach to reducing Down Time, such as TPM.


Down Time Tips involves the following roles:

ManagerInitiate program. Identify constraint. Select metrics. Decide when to switch focus to a more structured approach, such as TPM.
SupervisorMaintain reasons. Create visuals. Escalate 100-year fixes. Mark optimal settings. Lead 3S and maintenance blitzes. Lead hourly reviews. Control change.
OperatorCapture reasons. Respond to visuals. Implement quick fixes and corrective actions. Verify settings are optimal.

Key Insights

Keep an Eye on the Big Picture

Down Time is the largest source of lost productivity for most manufacturers. It is also the most observable, involving highly visible unplanned stops. Consequently, other types of losses sometimes slip below the radar. For example:

It's important to keep an eye on the big picture. For most companies, this means implementing the gold standard for measuring manufacturing performance: OEE with a breakdown of OEE losses into the Six Big Losses, and a further breakdown of OEE Availability losses into Down Time Reasons. Add Total Effective Equipment Performance (TEEP) as a metric for insights on capacity.

Decrease downtime by measuring Six Big Losses and calculating TEEP for capacity losses
Make sure you have an accurate and comprehensive view of lost production time. Start by measuring OEE. Next, record Down Time Reasons for OEE Availability Loss (shown above in orange). Next, track all of the Six Big Losses. Finally, calculate TEEP (for insights on capacity).

Capture Improvements

Whenever an improvement is made, ask two simple questions:

If the answer to either question is yes, consider capturing the improvement as Standardized Work. This will lock in gains and ratchet up performance over time.

Shift from Reactive to Proactive

There is a big difference between working reactively (fixing problems as they occur) and working proactively (putting in long-term fixes and improvements). If most of your time is spent reactively fixing problems your progress will be limited. Reserve time for proactive improvements, and strive, over time, to shift the balance from reactive to proactive.

Consider TPM

For a comprehensive and proactive approach to reducing Down Time consider TPM (Total Productive Maintenance). TPM blurs the distinction between production and maintenance by empowering and training operators to maintain their equipment.

The scope of TPM goes far beyond Down Time. It includes a rich set of tools and processes for eliminating waste, including addressing all of the Six Big Losses. Because of its depth and complexity, a complete TPM implementation can take years, and requires strong continuing support from top management.

Reduce manufacturing downtime with TPM activities
The traditional TPM model consists of a 5S foundation (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain) and eight supporting activities.

Level & Difficulty

The Level is Foundation. Reducing Down Time is a fundamental imperative for most manufacturers.

The Difficulty is Easy. Each Down Time Tip is designed to be straightforward to implement using existing resources.

Rate Yourself

How comprehensively is your site applying Down Time Tips? Answer ten simple questions to see how close you are to a model implementation.

1. Is a reason and duration captured for each Down Time incident? 
2. Is the constraint the primary focus of improvement? 
3. Is Down Time treated as a KPI (with associated SMART targets)? 
4. Are Down Time incidents highly visible and escalated over time? 
5. Is each Down Time incident evaluated for quick or 100-year fix? 
6. Are 3S blitzes periodically organized for the work area? 
7. Are maintenance blitzes periodically organized for equipment? 
8. Are optimum settings decided and marked on equipment? 
9. Are hourly reviews used to drive immediate improvement actions? 
10. When fixing issues is one change implemented at a time? 

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