Downtime is the largest source of lost production time for most manufacturers. This page outlines practical tips for reducing Downtime that don't require a lot of external resources. Download Downtime Reduction Tips PDF.


What Are Some Downtime Reduction Strategies?

Downtime 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 Downtime, not every company is ready to invest the time and resources to create an effective TPM program.

There are four simple strategies for reducing downtime when resources are limited:

  • Track Downtime Accurately
  • Categorize Downtime with Reasons
  • Expose Downtime in Real-Time
  • Attack the Largest Sources of Downtime

You can read more about employing these strategies by visiting our Reduce Downtime Use Case page. Read on to see the top 10 practical tips we recommend when using these strategies with your existing resources.

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

10 Practical Downtime Reduction Tips

Capture Manufacturing Downtime Reasons

It is essential to capture a reason and duration for each Downtime 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 Downtime 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 Downtime 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 Downtime 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 Downtime loss in one of two ways:

  • Quick Fix: Move forward with an immediate fix that can be implemented without outside resources
  • 100-Year Fix: Escalate a problem that needs outside resources to engineering or management for a permanent fix

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 Downtime. 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 Dowtime 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 Downtime 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.

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In the short term, Downtime Reduction Tips provide practical and proven ways to reduce Downtime using existing resources.

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


Downtime Reduction Tips involve 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.


Keep an Eye on the Big Picture

Downtime 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:

  • Frequent product changes may result in significant lost production time due to changeovers.
  • Frequent small stops or slow cycles may result in significant lost production time that isn't measured.

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 Downtime Reasons. Add Total Effective Equipment Performance (TEEP) as a metric for insights on capacity.

Table with the Six Big Losses, Capacity Losses, and Perfect Production.
Make sure you have an accurate and comprehensive view of lost production time. Start by measuring OEE. Next, record Downtime 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:

  • Has a new best practice been created?
  • Will other teams benefit from this improvement?

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 Downtime 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 Downtime. 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.

A 5s foundation with supporting TPM activities will lead to world class results.
The traditional TPM model consists of a 5S foundation (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain) and eight supporting activities.


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

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


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

1. Is a reason and duration captured for each Downtime incident?
2. Is the constraint the primary focus of improvement?
3. Is Downtime treated as a KPI (with associated SMART targets)?
4. Are Downtime incidents highly visible and escalated over time?
5. Is each Downtime 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?


We welcome your comments and questions. Contact us at: [email protected].