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How to increase production, without neglecting maintenance

25. November 2021

That’s the century-old dilemma. But by re-thinking the challenge, you’re able to optimize resource usage without incurring substantial costs or elevated risks. Let’s go through how we approach the challenge.

Whole countries shutting down, large ships stuck in a canal, volatile commodity prices, supply-chain issues, and a global chip shortage. There’s been quite a lot of happenings that have had quite an impact on our world the last couple of years.

While we often speak of major events from a macro perspective or on an industry-level, there’s rarely any discussion on how change of plans impact the day-to-day operations of the actual businesses that supply us with much-needed goods; the local factory employing hundreds of workers or the cornerstone business that’s vital for a community to survive.

While changes in supply and demand are important, we also need to discuss how to make operations more efficient and safer.


The dilemma of production and maintenance


The concept of “perfect operations” has never been realistic. Anyone that’s been involved in capital goods, resource businesses, and other planning-intensive businesses knows that. Equally, there’s always a balance between increasing the output and shutting down for maintenance. It’s usually a question of risk vs. opportunity together with financial viability.

What we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, and then during the re-opening, is quite extreme – but the changes in supply and demand, unforeseen events, and changing business landscape are nothing unusual. Some companies have a lot to do. Others have not. But they all have to balance the criticality of production vs maintenance.

While increasing the production might be beneficial for short-term optimization and revenue, it can increase the risk of breakdowns – which may inhibit the longer-term output while incurring costs.

Maintenance is a consequence of production, and without maintenance, you’re not able to produce. But should it really define how we think about operations?

With advances in technology, we have now come to a point where we can approach the problem from a different angle – with the added bonus of achieving more safe, lean, and cost-effective operations..


It doesn’t have to be this way

History is full of situations where we’ve done things just because we’ve always done them that way, without thinking about how we could have done it differently. Plato’s Cave comes to mind. The same principle applies to production.

Our factories are nothing like the ones in the 1700s, but many of the same perspectives have survived more than one revolution. Production and maintenance are ones and zeros, a dichotomy where you have to prioritize one over the other. It’s quite obvious why we do it, as maintenance is the consequence of production, and without maintenance, you’re not able to produce. But should it really define how we think about operations?

With advances in technology, we’ve now come to a point where we can approach the problem from a different angle, with the added bonus of achieving more safe, lean, and cost-effective operations – even contributing to green production!


The power of planning data

Businesses create vast amounts of planning data that can be utilized for both improving profitability and enabling sales growth. By capturing and utilizing these data in new ways, you will be able to enhance your operations and create new business opportunities.

In a planning context, the ability to make use of data is a highly profitable advantage. In a production facility, there’s an inconceivable amount of data being aggregated every second. This data could be used to optimize all facets of your planning process; from workforce planning through maintenance planning, to executing different activities.

The problem is not if you should find better ways of using your planning data, but how. The main problem for most, if not all, businesses is that the data is siloed in different systems lacking the ability to communicate with each other. In a way, the data is locked away behind closed doors. What’s needed is to find the key.

What if you could use your data to increase operational efficiency ten percent? That might save you for significant PP&E costs, while simultaneously achieving a higher utilization rate on a day-to-day basis.


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Complete overview enables better decision making

We’ve approached the dilemma without considering it as binary. Rather, our perspectives are quite different. We wanted to find out how to utilize data to enhance the operations for the benefit of all stakeholders. 

Continuing the aforementioned “locked door” metaphor: We consider ourselves as locksmiths. In that, it is important to discover what problems and needs the stakeholders have. A bottom-up approach is often the best way to progress. 

What we have done is to create a holistic solution bridging planning and execution, connecting plans with reality. The system gathers data from existing sources and visualizes it in real-time adding layers of interactivity and algorithms for all stakeholders involved in the production process.

By utilizing data from different planning systems and visualizing them in real-time, you will be able to construct new KPIs that can enhance your operations. This complementary approach to everything else already considered or implemented, will take your productivity to previously unseen levels.


Optimizing results

If you’re anything like our customers, you’ve probably figured out what one hour of downtime is costing the business. If you take incremental steps towards more optimal resource usage, say by ensuring that the production time takes the estimated 30 minutes and not 33, you will save a lot of money throughout a year. 

What we aim to achieve is for you to get more out of each hour. We aggregate data to construct a meaningful dataset that you can use to optimize production performance, take advantage of the downtime and retain control of your entire production process. Thus, you will be able to increase revenues through a higher production output, as well as deferring investments due to less redundancy.

Insights from our customers show that between 500 and 1000 activities change each day from now and through the next 12 months due to changing plans. Assessing which adjacent activities are impacted and how to minimize the impact of the changes, is nearly impossible to capture without losing any vital information.


Effects beyond improved financial results

The availability of technology and new practices enable you to increase the efficiency of your operations. Often, this is measured in financial KPIs – hard facts that directly impact your business performance. But financial indicators don't capture all the effects of new investments. 

From our customers, we’ve seen benefits such as:

  • Better working environment with employees being less stressed.
  • Operations have become safer, due to enhanced visibility of all activities in real-time.
  • The investment has been beneficial in the progress towards CSR goals.
  • More sustainable and eco-friendly operations, as they’re able to do more with less.


Want to know how to make your production more efficient?

Check out our webinars!