Idle Time

Idle time is often confused with downtime when in fact they are two very different concepts pertaining to manufacturing, distribution, and other industrial environments. Idle time is defined as a period of time that could be spent performing work related tasks, but nothing is being done. On the other hand, downtime is defined as a period of time that should be spent performing tasks but cannot happen.

Idle time can be controlled by employers and employees themselves, but it can also be out of their control entirely in a handful of instances. With that being said, poorly managed facilities and unmotivated workers are often the culprit of idle time. In fact, companies can lose thousands of dollars every year because of inactivity during the workday while production machines are up and ready to go.

The following are some examples that often lead to idle time in the workplace:

  • Waiting on Material – Machines are subject to idling if employees are forced to wait on necessary materials from other departments or production lines.
  • Temporary Work Stoppages – If management calls for work to stop due to having too much product, then that is referred to as idle time. Try using Kanban to facilitate JIT manufacturing.
  • Scheduled Breaks – While the other two examples are within the company’s control, scheduled breaks for employees are necessary for their health and well-being. Aside from being required by law, scheduled breaks are a positive form of idling that can actually increase productivity and reduce human error.

Calculating how much idle time present during a normal workday is important for managing facility efficiency. It can be calculated with the following formula:

Idle Time = Available production Time – Actual Production Time

Without knowing how much idle time is present, there won’t be enough data to try and improve the facility’s outlook on wasted time. Use the above formula to improve your workplace production process.


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