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Tracking Downtime on the Production Floor

(February 2015) posted on Mon Apr 06, 2015

Find out what's stopping the presses--and how much money it may be costing you.

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By Terry Combs

I’ve presented many seminars, done onsite consultations, and written several articles over the years discussing the challenge of doubling your screen-printing production in 30 days or less. No matter how efficient and on top of your game you are, I’m sure that you have the potential for this kind of production improvement in your facility. The first step in the process is to track your downtime.

As you might imagine, when I announce on a production floor that my intention is to help the company double its production in 30 days, the press operators are quick to jump to their feet and point out, “We just can’t print twice as fast!” Usually, it isn’t a matter of printing any faster at all. In most shops today, the actual printing part of the equation is smooth and efficient. The production killer comes when the presses aren’t running: the enemy known as downtime. Our goal is to simply reduce this downtime tin order to increase production.

Downtime refers to the stoppage of production for any reason at all. Every shop has a finite number of production hours in any given week, depending upon how many presses it has and how many shifts it runs. Outside of breaks, training, shift changes, and any other scheduled non-production time, the rest of the time must be accounted for either in press setup, actual print production, or press breakdown. If these activities are stopped for any reason, you have downtime.

I was working with a shop on the East Coast once and talking to the owner on the production floor when he said, “I love your ideas. I get it. But I’m not a startup operation. I have millions of dollars of production to do right now. I don’t have the luxury of shutting down my operation to implement your recommendations.”

I looked around and said, “It looks as if you’re already shut down.”

The owner scanned his own production floor and realized that not a single press was running. Every machine was idle. The employees were all busy, but they weren’t printing. They were digging through and deciphering piles of paperwork, looking for garments, waiting for an answer from the sales department, and doing a dozen other things besides producing. This owner had become so accustomed to presses not running that he failed to realize it was happening all around him.


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