Minimising Production Downtime in Food and Drink Manufacture

Production Downtime Causes Problems for Food and Drink Manufacturers

Downtime refers to a period during which production has stopped or equipment or machinery is not working correctly. Its one of the biggest challenges facing food and beverage manufacturers due to the cost implications associated with it.

For a food and beverage processing plant,  the typical cost of production downtime can equate to thousands of pounds (or more) per day.

According to downtime consultants, every factory loses at least 5% of its productivity due to downtime, with some losing as much as 20%. To make matters worse, a large percentage of manufacturers (80%) are unable to calculate their exact downtime costs correctly. Some manufacturers are underestimating them by as much as 300% – that’s a considerable amount of profit lost!

So, production downtime is costing food and drink manufacturers billions in revenue every year. Generally, the costs of downtime can be split into two categories: tangible and intangible.

Tangible Costs of Production Downtime

food production and downtime

The tangible costs associated with downtime includes the most obvious one: lost production. After all, every single minute that equipment or machinery is down equates to lost time that could be spent creating a product that contributes to profit.

Other tangible costs include loss of capacity and inventory. There’s also the direct labour costs to take into account, where manufacturers are producing less but using the same amount of labour at the same cost.

Intangible Costs of Production Downtime

Although harder to quantify, the intangible costs associated with downtime still need to be considered. For instance, downtime affects responsiveness to the customer meaning that manufacturers face the risk of being unable to satisfy their customers’ needs effectively.

Downtime can also have an impact on innovation and lengthen the time required to implement processes that improve operations.

Although the reasons for downtime vary from plant to plant in food and beverage manufacture, the primary causes of downtime include changeovers and cleaning, breakdown, maintenance and lack of qualified personnel who can operate the machinery appropriately.

Product Changeovers in Food and Beverage Processing

One of the main causes of downtime in food and drink processing is due to product changeovers.

Changeovers refer to the process where equipment is temporarily unavailable, and manufacturers switch from producing one product to another. Although changeovers cause downtime, they are an essential part of  food and beverage manufacture.

During this period, as well as changing products, qualified personnel can assess the health of equipment, make necessary repairs and carry out routine cleaning. This is especially important for food and beverage manufacture where hygiene is critical for minimising the risks of contamination of ingredients, equipment, and products.

More Frequent Product Changeovers

In recent years, the need for more frequent changeovers has gained momentum due to changing customers’ demands and preferences. From plant-based foods, high protein snacks and low-sugar, low-calorie options to lactose-free, gluten-free and premium food products, consumers food choices are more complex than ever before.

Because consumers have developed more dynamic and differentiated demands, manufacturers must now contend with more frequent changeovers and even-shorter production runs.

An increasing number of manufacturers are finding that their production lines simply cannot keep up with the downtime associated with changing frequently from one product to another. After all, the more changeovers there are, the more downtime there is which means a decline in productivity, and ultimately revenue.

That’s why many manufacturers are optimising their production processes, improving operating efficiency and implementing technologies such as pigging to reduce their downtime and changeover times.

Unplanned Downtime An Issue for Food and Drink Producers

While planned downtime such as changeovers and cleaning can have a significant impact on production, unexpected downtime such as equipment breakdown and mechanical failures can be even more costly. Especially considering that many food and beverage operations have a high volume of products being produced continuously.

Therefore, if equipment breaks down, manufacturers face staggering losses of production and often spoilage of food or drink ingredients and products.

In fact, research conducted by Aberdeen Group found that unplanned downtime can cost businesses as much as $260,000 an hour.

So, it’s quite clear why an increasing number of companies are investing in regular preventative maintenance to reduce the risks of unplanned downtime and save them money in the long run.

What Does Regular Maintenance Mean for Downtime?food and beverage plant maintenance

Most food and beverage manufacturers plan regular inspections, upgrades, and troubleshooting on equipment to reduce the risks of a breakdown occurring.

By setting up a preventative maintenance plan, companies can take a proactive approach to maintenance. This helps improve uptime and production while allowing manufacturers to stay competitive.

Routine maintenance also helps to extend the overall life of equipment, boost productivity and minimise wear and tear on machines.

Pigging Technology and Food and Beverage Manufacturers

Technologies such as product recovery (‘pigging’) are helping food and beverage manufacturers stay competitive and improve their processing operations.

Here’s a detailed description of what pigging is and how it works. But simply, pigging recovers residual liquid product from pipelines that would otherwise be wasted.

An important component of a pigging system is the pipeline pig, which is a specialist projectile which gets propelled through the pipeline and reclaims the previously trapped and lost product. This reclaimed product can then continue to be processed, packaged or sold. This increases product yields considerably, which means less waste, improved efficiency, and productivity and ultimately greater profits.

Pigging Reduces Plant Downtime

Pigging systems deliver a wide range of benefits. One of these benefits includes reducing plant downtime for product changeovers.

As mentioned previously, in food and beverage manufacture, the more changeovers there are, the more downtime there will be, which means time not producing the product. Therefore, it’s critical for manufacturers to ensure product changeovers are carried out as fast as possible.

Because the HPS hygienic process pig recovers the vast majority of residue from the pipeline, it speeds up changeovers considerably and means less use of water, chemicals, and resources.

Changeovers Times More Than Halved

food and beverage downtime

As an example, HPS implemented a pigging system for a consumer goods company in the UK and they have seen their changeover times more than halved to 7 minutes.

By reducing the time required for changeovers, food and beverage manufacturers can then dedicate more time for production, which adds value to the manufacturing process.

On many occasions, if there is minimal change in colour, flavour or perfume, pigging enables manufacturers to process the next product straight away. This eliminates the need for a water flush completely. Therefore, the environmental benefits of pigging are significant.

Pigging System Preventative Maintenance

While pigging systems offer many benefits, like all equipment it’s important to maintain these systems properly.

That’s why many of HPS’s customers that have a pigging system also have a preventative maintenance programme in place. This helps them stay on top of maintenance and spare parts, reduces the risks of equipment failure and prevents any unnecessary costly repairs.

HPS also regularly carry out pigging system training for many customers, so relevant personnel fully understand the system and know how to operate it correctly and safely. Well trained and competent personnel can improve plant efficiency, minimise downtime and are equipped with the knowledge to recognise issues before a crisis escalates.

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For more information about reducing plant downtime, speeding up changeovers, improving productivity and profits through pigging and product recovery solutions, then just complete this short form:

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