business

December 20, 2021

3 min read

Using planned factory downtime to your advantage
Using planned factory downtime to your advantage

Making the most of the Christmas shutdown

Buying presents, writing cards to long-lost relatives and stocking up on food and drink — these all need to be done before you can enjoy the festive break. For manufacturers, this time of year is also a good opportunity to prepare for the year ahead, by ensuring that their machines and inventories are ready for the challenges of 2022.

In 2021, Make UK upgraded its growth forecast for manufacturing from 3.9 to 7.8 per cent, meaning output levels will return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022. With a busy year to come, minimising downtime is crucial, and it is important to stay productive even when the factory or facility isn’t actually running. How? By carrying out predictive maintenance and ensuring that all equipment is up to scratch.

Obsolescence management

The Christmas break offers the perfect opportunity to audit any legacy equipment, discover where machines are in their lifecycles and decide if anything needs replacing.

Obsolescence management in a manufacturing facility means maintaining systems by sourcing obsolete components in a timely and cost-efficient way, and the festive period will provide breathing space for this process. During this time, manufacturers can inspect parts, carry out the necessary upgrades, and if required, order replacements early so they can arrive in time for the new year.  All these steps can be carried out during planned downtime when operations cease, meaning manufacturers can save having to do these during normal working hours.  

In with the new

Not all legacy machines need replacing and, for those that can be retained, manufacturers can upgrade them in line with emerging technology by retrofitting more advanced technologies. Drives, sensors and PLCs are the bread and butter of any factory and manufacturers can integrate older editions with smart capabilities to improve data collection, communication and interoperability.

Although factory floors will be closed over the festive period, many smart technologies can continue running throughout without requiring human interaction. For example, smart sensors can measure temperature changes, pressure and vibrations, and then make this data available across the whole factory network. These sensors can also tell manufacturers if a piece of machinery is likely to break down, giving them time to order a replacement.

Manufacturers can simply program the sensors and monitors before shutting shop, leaving them to collect data on processes and equipment and generate valuable insights. This will give plant managers a head start in the new year, since having a couple of weeks’ worth of data can support strategic decisions on how to future-proof processes in the upcoming months.

As manufacturers look forward to a well-earned Christmas break, there are many ways they can make use of the festive period. Implementing a thorough obsolescence management plan and carrying out vital upgrades, like retrofitting smart technology to legacy machines, is a good starting point. To find out more about how you can get your machinery ready for 2022, visit www.euautomation.com.

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