Seven Equipment Productivity Thieves

by Tom McBride, Partners for Creative Solutions, Inc.


Our previous article entitled “Need More from Your Equipment?” described how to use the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) metric to compare the performance of your equipment to world-class.  This article continues by discussing seven productivity thieves that reduce throughput and OEE. 

  1. Waiting – The machine cannot run because material has not arrived (from vendor or internal source), an operator is not available, or there is some other management issue.  Although waiting is more of a managerial issue than an equipment loss, it negatively impacts productivity.

  2. Breakdowns – These disruptions come when you can least afford them, extending schedules, requiring premium costs for repairs and overtime, and generally causing chaos.  Breakdowns can be reduced with effective preventive and predictive maintenance systems, but achieving zero breakdowns requires that operators be equal parties in caring for the equipment.

  3. Setups and adjustments – There are proven ways to reduce set-up time, but some organizations do not go far enough.  For example, a popular way to reduce die changeover time in a press is to create accurate reference points, add quick release fasteners, etc.  However, trial runs and adjustments after the tooling has been changed are often 50% of total changeover time and must be addressed to gain maximum benefit.

  4. Idling and minor stoppages – Although these stoppages may be short, they add up over time.  For example, a machine shuts down for no apparent reason several times a day.  It only takes a couple of minutes to restart the machine, so the condition is tolerated.  Minor stoppages can cost more in the long run than breakdowns, because nothing forces you to fix the problem.

  5. Reduced speed – Are machines being run at rates slower than the standard they are capable of achieving? 

  6. Quality defects and rework –Defects and rework reduce throughput, increase production costs, and prompt firefighting.  Fortunately, effective countermeasures exist that involve both early detection and prevention.

  7. Start-up losses – This is typically the scrap generated during a stabilization period at the beginning of a production run.  Reducing these losses requires a good understanding of the process and ample creativity.

Sufficient data on equipment performance will enable you to identify the major culprits.  Typically one or two are making a huge impact on OEE, and these can be attacked first.  Learn more about improving equipment effectiveness using Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) at