Idle time is a common phrase used in the manufacturing industry as well as workforce management. Idle time is related to productivity. Lower idle time in organizations can contribute significantly to better bottom lines.
What Is Idle Time?
Idle time, also known as ‘Waiting Time’, is the period of time where an asset, be it a machine or an employee, is readily available but not being put to productive use. It pertains to the gap between your current output and your hypothetical maximum productivity level. Some examples of idle time include a piece of equipment waiting for some input or an employee waiting for a task.
Are Idle Time And Downtime The Same?
Idle Time and Downtime are not the same. Although both refer to assets not being productive, they differ due to the underlying reason.
Idle time refers to periods where the equipment is able to operate as it should, but for some reason, are not. Reasons may include power outages, workflow or process inefficiencies, and technical mishaps that have nothing to do with the equipment itself.
Machine downtime, on the other hand, happens when your assets are not being put into work because of:
1. Scheduled Maintenance: Scheduled maintenance is intentional and can be used for the purpose of conducting routine or preventive maintenance.
2. Equipment Failure: Equipment failures are unforeseen interruptions that require repair before the asset is restored to complete functionality.
How To Compute Idle Time?
Idle time is the difference between expected operational hours and the actual time spent productively.
Expected operational hours – Time spent productively = Idle Time
For example, an employee is expected to be on an 8hr shift but only spends 7 and a half hours doing productive work. The employee has had 30 minutes of idle time.
With machines, things get a little more complex. For instance, a machine can run for 18 hours a day. Within those 18 hours, the machine needs to take 5 minutes to start up and another 5 minutes to shut down. On top of that, another 30 minutes are spent for a cleaning break and 20 minutes for a shift change.
This means that your machine only runs productively for 17 hours.
In practice, you might find the machine needs an additional 5 minutes every hour for material input, 10 minutes because shift change took a little longer and 30 minutes because another one of your other machines failed.
In total, that would account to 125 minutes of idle time.
How To Lessen Idle Time?
One thing you should ask yourself first is whether you actually want to take away idle time. This rings true when you are talking about your employees. You can’t tell your employees to be 100% productive all the time. Short breaks are actually necessary in order for your employees to remain in optimal condition and maximum productivity.
However, things change when you’re referring to machines. They are unlikely to burn out, lose focus or get tired but you have to be careful not to push your machines to their limits. Certainly, machines do not experience exhaustion, however, machines can and do get worn out over time especially if you are using them nonstop. On top of that, there are machines that may require cooling down so as not to go above the suggested temperature level.
That said, here are a few tips you can use to improve productivity level and decrease idle time:
Inefficiencies in workflow and processes are common reasons why idle time occurs. So, identifying these causes and eradicating them early on will result in productivity improvements.
To lessen an employee’s idle time, you can try creating a more proportionate schedule. You can also try getting rid of unnecessary administrative tasks and making sure that employees are equipped with the right tools.
In terms of machine optimization, assemble machines in a way that the output coming from one machine is connected efficiently for the input of another. Furthermore, make sure that there is sufficient labor available to operate the machines.
Keeping Equipment In Good Condition
Equipment that is not in its optimal condition also causes idle time. Research has shown that the Return on Investment of embarking on a regular preventive maintenance program is high. The cost of detecting issues early is low compared to the cost of a machine breakdown, idle time, and downtime. Also, when you’re replacing parts of the machine, steer away from subpar spare parts and opt for OEM-approved ones. Lastly, to make sure that all maintenance is accomplished according to the scheduled plan and all checklists are properly completed, use CMMS software.