Three ways machine inefficiency negatively impacts your business

In this guest article, Erin Wagner, VP of Marketing for Limble CMMS, looks at three ways machine inefficiency negatively impacts your business and provides some practical solutions to minimise them.

Efficiency is an age-old buzzword in any industry or business – the more efficient a business is, the more likely it will be profitable and sustainable. According to Investopedia, efficiency refers to “the peak level of performance that uses the least amount of inputs to achieve the highest amount of output.” Inputs can relate to physical materials, labour, energy, and time, as well as financial resources. The optimal use of these inputs is at the heart of efficiency.

Having machinery that works properly is clearly important in any industry, particularly for capital-intensive industries that are heavily reliant on machines. Although there are a host of impacts that inefficient machinery can have on a business, this article will focus on three that negatively impact your business and give you three practical ways to minimize them.

Machine Inefficiency and Production Costs

Problem: Machine inefficiency means higher production costs

Inefficient machinery will negatively impact production as production may be slowed down or even halted due to machinery that doesn’t work properly or optimally. Machine-related slowdowns and shut-downs will negatively impact the financial bottom line of any company.

Solution: Know how to calculate the efficiency of your machines

The efficiency of machines should be calculated. There are three common formulas in which efficiency calculations can be achieved, depending on what type of efficiency rate needs to be assessed, but they have the same format as the basic efficiency formula:

  1. Energy Production – this calculates the conversion of available energy to usable energy. One example would be a generator that is able to produce 1100 watts of power (the output) from 1600 watts of solar energy (the input). In that case, efficiency is 68.75% calculated as (1100 / 1600) x 100.
  2. Energy Consumption – how much energy a machine consumes in order to work has become increasingly important, particularly when one considers that energy usage can account for up to 96% of a machine’s costs over its lifetime. If we take a power drill as an example, it consumes 600kWh in electricity with an output of 370kWh of useful kinetic energy. The efficiency of that power drill is 61.67% calculated as (370 / 600) x 100.
  3. Productivity Efficiency – besides energy, there are other inputs such as labour, raw materials, and components that also have a financial cost. Let’s look at one machine line as an example. A machine line that makes chocolate bars requires inputs costing £2800 per run to produce £5250 worth of chocolate bars. In that case, efficiency is 187.5% calculated as (5250 / 2800) x 100.

Machine Efficiency and Maintenance Costs

Problem: Inefficient machinery will result in higher maintenance costs

The more inefficient the machinery, the more likely the maintenance will need to be reactive. This is the least efficient type of maintenance since it often comes as a result of delays or even shut-downs in production. Reactive maintenance can also be highly disruptive to a more proactive planned maintenance schedule.

Solution: Efforts should be made to test the “failure potential” of machinery

This approach is better aligned to a proactive/preventive maintenance regime, as it seeks to prevent machine inefficiencies before they occur. There are two ways this form of failure analysis can occur:

  1. Failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA), which can help reveal the ways in which a machine can potentially fail, the “domino effect” that flaws may have on the rest of a process or system, and the weak points in materials, manufacturing processes and subsystems
  2. Failure mode effects and criticality analysis (FMECA), which differs from FMEA in the following ways: it adds a criticality analysis or ranked list based on potential failure rates or modes, offers an analysis that is both qualitative (i.e. “what if”) and quantitative (with rankings), and prioritisation of maintenance should be easier once failure modes have been calculated and ranked.

Both FMEA and FMECA can be used to analyse machinery in the context of process failure testing. Ultimately, FMEA and FMECA are efforts to minimise the probabilities that system breakdowns will occur, including machinery.

Machine Efficiency and Workers

Issue: Inefficient machinery adversely impacts workers in various ways

Machinery that is inefficient or consistently malfunctions will have a negative impact on worker productivity and morale. It can also place their health and safety in jeopardy. For example, of the five industries in the UK with the highest occupational fatalities over a five-year period to 2021, four of them were in industries that have a heavy reliance on machinery, namely construction, farming, manufacturing and waste management. One can be sure that many of those deaths were machinery-related.

Solution: Workers are an integral part of machinery management and efficiency

There are two important ways in which workers can be a positive aspect of your machinery management. The first is training and up-skilling. Operators who are well-trained in machinery will better understand the machinery with which they interact and more quickly note defective equipment.

As machinery is changed and evolves, so should the understanding thereof by machine operators. That is why continuous up-skilling should be embedded within your training and development program. This is especially relevant with the continuing rise of automation and machinery embedded with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Workers at all levels will need to become increasingly savvy about the way “smart” machinery functions.

Open, robust communication is the second way in which workers can be a positive part of machinery management. Lines of communication should be open at all times so that workers can report potentially inefficient machinery without fear of reprisals from their supervisors or line management. Feedback in the form of surveys and other communications allows workers to voice their opinions and concerns regarding machinery-related issues, as well as feel like they’re a part of production decisions.

Allied to these factors is worker morale. If workers feel that their machine-related concerns are dismissed or downplayed by management, it can result in poor worker morale and a negative culture. Morale plays a major role in worker productivity and needs to be an integral factor in your efforts to ensure machine efficiency throughout your business.

Bottom Line

Efficiency is not the be-all and end-all of a business. Other factors, such as quality, health and safety, hygiene and a good work corporate culture, are also important. Nevertheless, ensuring that your machine is efficient and fit for purpose at all times is an excellent way of protecting your workers, production processes and bottom line.