What is maintenance downtime?

In manufacturing, “downtime” occurs when an unplanned event halts production for a period of time. This event can be a malfunction, repair, or changeover of tools or equipment. Maintenance downtime in particular is when a machine is not operating or being productive due to required maintenance work. Issues that cause maintenance downtime are:

  • Parts getting jammed
  • Quality problems
  • Changeover to different parts
  • Lack of parts
  • Fault description and frequency

Unplanned Downtime

Maintenance downtime results in shutdowns that interrupt the entire production process, which in turn incurs costs in both efficiency and safety. It’s estimated that unplanned downtime costs $50 billion each year, and causes factories to lose up to 20% of their total productivity. Equipment failure is the cause of 42% of this downtime. When machines aren’t running, businesses lose thousands of dollars per hour. On top of that, downtime negatively impacts employee safety; a high number of manufacturing deaths happen while maintenance is being conducted.

Many manufacturers operate their equipment with a “run it ‘til it breaks” mentality. This run-to-failure method may initially help save money on maintenance and get more out of run time, however, the approach results in downtime incidents that happen more frequently and for longer periods of time. It also reduces the possibility of achieving overall efficiency improvement.

Two ways to reduce maintenance downtime and the negative impacts it has on the productivity of a business are planning regular maintenance downtime during slower business times (such as before a major holiday) or after hours, and practicing preventative maintenance as part of a total productive maintenance (TPM) system. Naturally, equipment doesn’t last forever, but a routine maintenance schedule will increase its overall life and effectiveness, reduce the possibility of failure, and improve safety. The TPM approach is a proactive mentality that emphasizes employee participation and responsibility in order to maximize the productivity and lifespan of equipment. By empowering employees to adopt a proactive mindset and reducing the occurrence of maintenance downtime, overall safety and efficiency may be improved.


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