Top 5 Ideas for How to Use Unexpected Downtime

When an unanticipated production slowdown occurs, what can a manufacturer do to make productive use of the time? Some companies may use the opportunity for preventive maintenance that may have been scheduled for the near future. Others might dive into doing that website update that is long overdue. Perhaps it’s a good time to implement some already-identified ergonomic enhancements.

Here are a few other ideas for keeping staff occupied in ways that will benefit the company.

1. Safety training

Providing more in-depth safety training or just recapping the most important rules are endeavors that always pay dividends. Maybe it is time to replace or upgrade PPE. Or it could be time to reiterate the company rules for lockout/tagout or machine guarding. This might be a good time to have veteran team members help that last round of new hires get up to speed on working safely in the production environment.

2. Cross training

Cross training – it’s always a valuable investment but how often is spare time available for this activity? With an unexpected stretch of downtime, schedule a tour of the entire plant for the entire crew as a starter. Then pair up front office people with operators, or engineers with sales staff, to learn about each other’s areas of expertise. Got equipment that is new or that only a handful of gurus know how to run? Now is a great time to find other crew members who are qualified and interested in learning new skills, and have them shadow the experts while a limited test production run is launched.

3. Business concepts club

Totally into Six Sigma or sustainability or 4DX and WIGs? Eager to roll out a new additive manufacturing technology, install a new curing method or add on a lucrative specialty process? Get some literature on the subject or find videos or podcasts that cover the topic, and launch a variation on the typical book club. Use the unplanned downtime to give crew members time to read the material, watch the video or listen to the podcast. Then have a robust discussion to reinforce the new concept, to explain how it benefits the company and crew alike, and to brainstorm on how to implement it at the plant.

4. Energy audit

Why not challenge the entire team to do an energy audit of the facility, with gift card prizes for the top energy-saving ideas submitted. Maybe lay out some ground rules that point the team toward electricity or weatherproofing. Or maybe set the crew loose to do their own research on energy audits, find any areas that beg for improvement and propose their best fixes.

5. OSHA self-audit

How about using unexpected idle time to have workers walk the production floor to verify that all OSHA rules are met, to review that documentation is up-to-date and to verify that any mitigation instructions have been implemented? Or brush up on national and local emphasis programs.

To find the silver lining in unexpected downtime, remember that there’s no time like the present.