Downtime in production


For any business, downtime is a scary but ever-looming threat to productivity, revenue, and growth. Today’s companies rely on technology, but few industries feel the sting of downtime more painfully that manufacturing. More than 80% of organizations have been impacted by at least one unplanned outage involving their machinery since 2015. The average organization has experienced two episodes during the past few years.




Research has shown that most industrial plants lose a minimum of 5% of their productivity to downtime, and many can see production drop by 20%. Efficiency translates to revenue and success, and unscheduled downtime is a significant hurdle to the smooth operations required in today’s competitive global marketplace. Businesses should strive to limit unplanned downtime to 10% or less, keeping in line with the goal recommended by international standards.

Source: ISA.ORG – Article from Dave Crumrine and Doug Post (access the article by clicking here)

Slowdown causes can include operator error, maintenance or software failure, or last-minute changes to assembly parts, such as size or part color. Adjustments are often unavoidable but can have a ripple effect, creating a bottleneck for productive operations.




Assembly machines are carefully calibrated for the fastest and most accurate job. That’s why last-minute modifications lead to poor performance, equipment failure, and frustration from employees and management. Unscheduled shutdowns result in significant costs related to lost productivity and temporary emergency work.

To help avoid these problems, we developed a checklist of recommendations to follow for the maintenance of your automatic equipment. With this guide, you can better avert non-programmed stops.




  • Avoid parts modifications, but also be prepared

In our experience, about 75% of our service calls are due to parts modification. When planning the assembly task and calibrating your machinery, think of potential changes, and run tests. This way, you’ll see how the machines will react and can make setup modifications if needed.


  • Ensure employees are properly trained

Invest the time to read and understand the equipment manual before noting a fault in the system or equipment and making a repair or partial replacement. Most errors are due to the misuse of tools or improper modification of the equipment. By training employees in the right use of machines and developing a culture of direct communication with the person responsible for automation, you can limit misuse.


  • Preventive maintenance keeps things moving with less interruption

Consider creating a maintenance schedule and workflow for each piece of equipment. Analyze applicable maintenance types, list existing techniques, identify qualified repair and maintenance vendors, and estimate maintenance costs. Use this information as a guide, so maintenance becomes less of a task and more a part of everyday operations.

Estimate the duration of the tasks or groups of tasks, identify for each job the responsible resource.


  • Understand maintenance key metrics

Audit your machinery using a simple and logical codification and identification system. This system will highlight if you are producing according to expected results on schedule and will help you achieve set objectives for quantity, quality, speed, cost, profitability, and more.

This system will make it possible to view downturns in production, plan future maintenance, and incorporate other services such as purchasing and quality control.


  • Develop operator trust, and use it as a failsafe

Your operators interact with your machinery daily. They are accustomed to listening and observing the machinery in operation. Employees recognize the various sounds and the appearance of machinery during regular operation and are best equipped to spot a potential problem. Familiarity allows them to develop multiple skills to recognize and to react quickly to abnormalities.

Many industries have noted that automating part of their assembly line has not necessarily resulted in downsizing. Indeed, many operational tasks, which involve mainly repetitive and routine tasks, have evolved to focus primarily on process troubleshooting, which is essential for limiting downtime.


  • Know your on-site ‘must-haves’

We had recently an example of a company that lost a phase on one of the transformers of the plant, so they lost electricity on the line. All the equipment stopped. And since the battery of their PLCs were not changed, the memory and saved settings for programming were erased. Since the model of the PLC was discontinued, it took some time for us to find this model and program it, only adding to manufacturing delays.

The considerable costs and delays of this incident could have been avoided if the customer correctly backed up the system and upgraded its PLC.

Ensuring “must-have” tools or parts are on-hand will enable you to replace easily in case of troubleshooting, avoiding delays if the supplier does not have the items in stock.


Optimize your production and minimize unexpected assembly lines disruption by following these simple steps. The consequences of downtime are expensive, complicate the lives of engineers and technicians, and can have serious business implications that spread to other parts of your operations.

Don’t wait until your production stops suddenly or slows down for no apparent reason. Download our ultimate checklist to avoid any non-planned shutdown of your lines and become proactive in your production management. Do you have any stories — triumphs or troubles — regarding downtime?  Share your experiences in the comments section.


Avoid downtime in production checklist

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Feeding equipment with lining machine


Plastic container closure technology is ever-evolving. As a product manufacturer, you are always looking for lighter packaging materials, such as caps and cap liners, and new cap lining technologies to help extend product life and ensure safety.

When incorporating these changes, it’s important to avoid disruption to your production lines. Caps, closures, and cap lining are integral to design, function and product preservation. From a freshness seal to elaborate dispenser tops, automation can increase efficiencies in the cap lining process. The right machinery, with the right sets of controls and tools, can help you meet today’s requirements for quick, efficient, and adaptive cap-lining.

Finding the best-performing cap lining machine that will be reliable, address the variety of needs to fulfill production, and reduce product non-conformity may be a time-consuming challenge.

1. Material lining saving

Many companies manufacture similar lining machines with the same technologies and limit the cut output to two cuts per cycle. With just two cuts for a format over 89mm, it becomes difficult to save lining material. At Orientech, we decided several months ago to innovate with our custom lining machines by increasing to three or four cuts per cycle.

With this increased capacity of the lining machine, yield usage of the wad of the lining material is optimized each time. Therefore there is a recurring economy at every cycle, which has a significant impact on their equipment return on investment. It’s another way we deliver more value for manufacturers.

2. Lining materials handling and usage

Product needs can range from a liner that seals a bottled or a jarred product to liners that stay in a cap for a particular function and/or protection. An automatic cap lining machine can handle the process of fitting or wadding caps with these various liner materials at high production rates. Depending on cap size, speed can reach an output faster than 1,200 caps per minute.

3. Intuitive and flexible vision system

For lined caps, a vision inspection system is crucial. With full visibility of caps and liners during production, manufacturers can foresee any production issues and also minimize downtime. This is especially helpful when frequent changeovers are involved for cap colors, sizes, lining materials type and finish such as foam, shiny or matte finish aluminum.

4. Ability to handle various sizes and number of simultaneous cuts

Products come in many varieties and a growing number of different sizes. Before investing in an automated cap lining system, ensure that the machine can handle the range of your products or your customers requirements. You should insist on a system with a capacity ranging from 20mm to 165mm caps to sufficiently cover the most popular sizes, although larger automated cap lining tools are also available.

5. Compact size, yet robust performance

Cap manufacturers are increasingly looking for cap lining machines that can be easily positioned between other stages of automation.

A cap lining machine should be compact so that it can mesh well with current systems and placement, but it also should perform as well as or better than a larger machine.

Innovations, including station revision and miniaturization, allows for a smaller footprint and greater production agility while adding to the overall rigidity of the system.

The right cap manufacturing machine will accommodate a wide range of cap sizes, with the ability to switch between one size and another with a simple tool.

The right cap manufacturing machine will accommodate a wide range of cap sizes, with the ability to switch between one size and another with minimum changeover time and tools. We encourage you to contact a partner that uses the latest technologies, built from years of experience in delivering cap production solutions for many industries. Make sure that the machines are small, yet robust and full-featured. They will fit well in your production line and deliver results, even in the type of challenges oversized caps and other parts can present.

Should you need information on how Orientech can handle your cap and closure production needs or any other cap challenge, contact us today.

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Automation engineer next production line


North American manufacturing plants are gearing up for a return to work following weeks of downtime. And while the momentum to get back to a normal production schedule is tempting for many businesses, this process should involve more than simply flipping a switch. While a shutdown period can be devastating to a manufacturer, it also presents an opportunity to optimize equipment, and reduce the possibility of an equipment-based shutdown in the near future. Once the dust of the pandemic begins to settle, and maximum levels of productivity can be attained, machinery failure can rob a business of hopes of recovery.

To smoothly transition from shutdown to full production, we recommend a methodical approach that ensures uninterrupted operations in the foreseeable future. Doing so requires attention to maintenance and exercising caution when going back online.



As we detailed in our article on equipment shutdown procedures, we highly recommend focusing first on the maintenance of your machinery. A shutdown period is an ideal time for repairing issues or attending to any preventive maintenance according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Maintenance is especially essential for companies that had to shut down operations abruptly, and might not have had an opportunity to store or protect equipment properly because of the government suspension. When returning to your plant for a restart, first take the time to check for changes, updates, upgrades, and missing parts. Doing so now can help ensure maximum productivity during a ramp-up to a normal schedule.

In general, we advise you not to skip a step — to work sequentially so as not to delay a restart of optimal and rapid production rate.


Greasing and lubrication

For companies in particular that have a production schedule that usually stops at night or weekends, and for older generation machines, we highly advise following the daily routine outlined in your assembly line manuals, such as ensuring that lubrication points are adequately greased.

If you can not find the documentation or for any other reason, do not hesitate to contact your manufacturer, who can provide guidance. Bearing failure caused by inadequate lubrication can lead to costly repairs, additional downtime, and, in a worst-case scenario, a large mass force release that can damage property and lives.

If your company was able to follow optimal shutdown protocols including proper storage and maintenance, start-up should be essentially worry-free.

For example, when we ship a new machine, it is often in transit between our factory and the customer, and our equipment spends several weeks or months before the customer is ready to put it in its final place and then in production. The equipment doesn’t suffer from this transit period as we made sure before to follow all steps before putting it in “storage mode”. Well-prepared, equipment can remain dormant for a period of time without affecting its optimal operation.

But, even when equipment has been properly prepared for dormancy, it is essential to follow a startup routine. When you start a machine, you have to make sure that all the connections have been made. If you are at all uncertain about properly reconnecting the equipment, contact the equipment manufacturer as startup procedure assistance is often part of warranty protection.



For this restart phase, our first recommendation is to assign a technician from the maintenance team to supervise the process. If possible, we advise you to start slowly, be attentive to the machine, and work with technicians or operators who previously operated the production line and who also have experience with maintenance. The team that routinely runs the equipment can more quickly detect anomalies in operation, while problems can go unnoticed with a new group.


Steps to follow to restart your equipment

1. Cleaning

Clean the equipment when it has been stored for a long time, including the outside, the machine, the panels, and internal mechanisms (feeding equipmentstacking and packing sections, etc.) . Pay particular attention to the sensors, especially optical sensors, which are the most sensitive such as vision systems and camera lenses. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning, and avoid accessing internal components that are not user-serviceable.


2. Visual appearance

Check that the machine has no physical damage apparent to the eye. If there were some temporary ‘home’ changes or user modifications made before shutdown due to a lack of time, now is the perfect opportunity to make these quick fixes permanent. It also is the right time to document these modifications as improvements to technical drawings or maintenance log notes.

Once the visual inspection is completed, you can contact the manufacturer for guidance on improvement or to provide feedback on their machines. Also, review your preventive maintenance procedures and determine if any additional actions are required or outstanding prior to startup.


3. Connection

Reconnect the machine to the power source and its fuses. Then test the security equipment to make sure that no alarm codes appear on the electrical panels. Make sure all guards are in place and secure before putting power on the machine, look at the HMI and any electrical components with a display screen user interface to determine if all is properly connected.


4. Batteries

Once you have made sure that everything is functional on the machine, check the batteries and recharge them to avoid any potential damage. Consider changing non rechargeable batteries that may have been depleted even while the machine was turned off. Examples include the batteries for PLCs, Robots and other electrical components.

If you followed our shutdown advice, your batteries should be in good shape.


5. Soft start

After all of the electrical and mechanical checklists/checks have been made, we recommend putting the machine first in “jogging” mode, cycle by cycle, to see if there are any problems. After that, you can continue in auto mode, but a low-speed cadence is recommended to make it easier to identify any problems. Depending on the complexity of your manufacturing line (e.g. different assembly steps), it is actually suggested to go with a low rate at the start. This will take a few hours at most.


“Patience is a key element of success.” Bill Gates


Shutdowns are difficult, economically and on your production line. It is tempting to rush back into production as soon as your business is given the green light. Take the time, however, to exercise caution. By attending to maintenance, fixing apparent problems, and tempering equipment restart, you can avoid costly downtime in the future.


Orientech checklist to successfully restart production and manufacturing line after a shutdown

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Red factory door


We are all going through a difficult period. The COVID-19 pandemic affects our loved ones, work colleagues, and partners. The personal cost of these trying times is immense, as is the disruption to businesses in most industries. Restrictions have forced many of our customers and suppliers to suspend production indefinitely.

As many are likely experiencing production shutdowns, we wanted to offer guidance through a comprehensive checklist that will allow you to shut down your assembly and manufacturing lines optimally. How you shutdown your line can have a major impact on your capacity to restart production promptly. In an upcoming article, we will help you restart your machinery, taking the best steps and precautions.


When pausing a manufacturing line, it is crucial to allow the machine to empty itself of all the components. The end of the production sequence clears the manufacturing equipment without loading new products into the cycle. This cycle finishes components in a machine and automatically removes most of the glue, parts, liquid, and powder from the production path.

There are, however, certain elements that will not be automatically emptied until a later stage of the manufacturing processes. It may be necessary to remove these elements manually and thus completely empty the machine of any stray material that can complicate startup.

This first step is crucial. For instance, we had experience with a temporary equipment shutdown where oil was left inside certain containers. This oil froze and hardened during the production disruption. When we wanted to restart the line, the oil had become like a resin, gumming up the machine and requiring cleaning that was more labor-intensive and time-consuming than if it was completed at the time of the shutdown.


Once the machine is out of service, the next thing we recommend is to purge any air that may be present in the equipment. Machines often use compressed air to activate the different cylinders, and most machines have an air purge valve that allows for bleeding off any accumulated air. Why is it important? Because the air can crystallize and eventually wear out pneumatic components.


Beyond clearing the line of product and residue, purging air, and cleaning filters, you should take the time to clean the machinery thoroughly during shutdown. Cleaning now will avoid unpleasant surprises at startup.

For example, in the previous example where a company left oil in their system, which froze, cleaning it was longer and more complex than just emptying it. During cleaning, they had to dismantle pipes and small components, resulting in broken parts because it was so “jammed”. It added an extra layer of unnecessary work and problems. Invest the time today, and you’ll save time in the long run.


Whether the shutdown affects all of your manufacturing lines or just a portion, we recommend you use the disruption as an opportunity to perform preventive maintenance on your equipment. The manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual is the best source for guidance on how to care for your equipment and how to identify issues that need repair.

Dealing with repair needs today will help you to be better able to restart quickly. It is also advisable to ensure that you have critical parts and components that need frequent replacement beforehand. Lead times to supply your parts can be unpredictable, so we suggest that you make a list of parts that need changing and share it with your suppliers to anticipate when the product will be available.

Preventive maintenance implementation


More generally, we suggest that you keep the equipment in a stable environment, adequate in terms of temperature and ventilation. This will help avoid degrading your production line.

For example, in a medical clean room, if the machine is not in production, it may not be necessary to maintain PPM, particles per million, in the air at a level similar to that during production. However, keeping the temperature and humidity level stable is important so that the machine does not start to rust.

As for air compressors — especially air dryers and filters — we highly recommend that you change these components at shutdown so there will be no contamination or blockage of filters. If you have just recently replaced filters, then you may not need to change to new filters at the time of the shutdown process.

The main goal here is to avoid letting your machinery be dormant with dirty filters in place, as this could adversely affect the general functioning of your machine.


When your equipment is in an industrial environment, certain activities such as cutting materials, welding, generate dust and debris. This poses the risk of generating contaminants and damaging all that is mechanical, such as seals. Accumulated metal shavings, for example, can cause internal damage and pose a risk to operators when the machine is switched back on after the shutdown period.

Normally, when the fans in the factory are running, dust or contaminants are filtered. At Orientech, when a machine is on physical hold at the customer’s request, we always cover it with plastic wrap to protect the machine and fragile components from contaminants. This simple step can save you from these problems at restart.


We highly recommend you to start by making a backup of all of your machines, be it the PLC, the HMI, the robots, etc., as long as you have the power on the machine. You can either buy dedicated software to complete a full backup or offer remote access to your technology partner to perform a backup for you. If you don’t have the skilled workforce or equipment to properly backup your manufacturing systems, don’t hesitate to call your partner and determine the equipment manufacturer’s backup recommendations.

Next, we advise you to replace the batteries. There is a very specific procedure to change the batteries of robotics to ensure that programming does not get lost or altered.

When you have backed up everything and replaced the parts and batteries that are needed, you should determine if you should cut off the power source, or maintain power during shutdown. It may be preferable to cut off the power to avoid any power surge.

Electrical components must also be protected during dormancy. If there is dust, contaminants, oil, grease that go under the sensors, you will have issues when it comes time to start the machine again.


In case you are not comfortable with restarting, or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your partner company. You may even be able to ask them to reboot with you, online, video or phone.

This crisis is unprecedented. Many factors are out of your hands, such as the duration of a shutdown period. It is key to focus on what you actually can control. The approach to maintaining your machine, assembly lines, and manufacturing premises, is something you have the ability to actively manage.

Follow these guidelines and make the right decision for your company’s future.

Checklist to help before shuting down the production line
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Fanuc robotics application


The global Coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented in modern times. Governments, individuals, and businesses are finding that they need to adapt rapidly to this exceptional situation. Distilleries in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere have started producing and bottling hand sanitizer instead of their usual liquors and spirits. Increased need for medical devices, such as ventilators, has spurred talk that automotive plants could divert their production to manufacturing critical supplies and equipment.

These measures are made possible by extremely resilient and creative human beings and teams, but parts automation is a key component of this response.

What exactly is parts automation? At its most basic definition, parts automation is the reduction of human involvement in a process or procedure of handling parts or products, usually in manufacturing. Through automation, manufacturers are less dependent on people for various production steps. Automation can be accomplished either semi-autonomously (automating part of a process while retaining some manual component) or fully-autonomously (no human interaction at all). Almost all industries have moved toward automation to reach three main goals:

  • Improving lives
  • Increasing output
  • Improving efficiency or cost



Today, most people in highly industrialized countries feel pressured by time — mostly the lack of time to accomplish desired or necessary tasks. Time-saving measures, even seemingly small ones, translate to significant value. When combined with other technology such as apps that remind you where you parked your car or device features that instantly switch to silent mode when you enter a certain place (such as work), you can easily free up hours of productivity.

This gives people the chance to use those saved hours in other ways, such as for personal development, taking some time for their own well-being, or just having the time to finish work that was previously taken up by an inefficient process..

One company that has leveraged parts automation to improve the lives of people working for their customers is Fanucan automation company specializing in heavy industrial applications. Fanuc provides everything from small pick and place robots to large automated manufacturing lines.

Fanuc saw an opportunity to improve one of its customer’s manufacturing processes by installing a new full automation line. Usually, this move would mean making workers redundant. However, by putting a regularly scheduled maintenance system in place, the company increased machine efficiency while keeping people employed by hiring and training maintenance workers.

This means that the people working for them can continue to live their lives without the fear of redundancy through automation, as is often the fear on the shop floor whenever change comes in the manufacturing industry.

Parts automation also improves lives by making a greater variety of products available to more people, as small parts are manufactured for a fraction of the price.

How to implement a preventive maintenance strategy to enhance production



Humans are not perfect — it’s what makes us unique and interesting. When these flaws result in mistakes, however, output suffers. This is especially apparent in repetitive or monotonous tasks, where issues such as attention span, fatigue and stress can cause wide variations in quality and speed. Take, for example, a manufacturing line that produces plastic electrical fittings — a single worker may be tasked with placing each fitting onto a conveyor in a single line of parts. Then the part goes off for further processing. Staying with this example, consider the following:

  1. How do you control the process of placing the fitting onto the line?
  2. How do you ensure that fittings aren’t dropped or damaged?
  3. How do you ensure spacing between fittings for machines downstream?
  4. How do you ensure all of these steps are done the same way every time, especially if product orientation is crucial?

All of these are issues that can dramatically affect your overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and have an impact on your output.

This is where full parts automation demonstrates tremendous value. By using a pick and place robot, for example, you can not only ensure repeatability of the process (as the robot will place the fitting on the line with the same spacing, at the same orientation and with no damage), but you can also increase the speed of the process.

You are no longer subject to human limits on strength and endurance but can rely on the power and durability of the electric motors driving the robot. With automation, you now have control over how the product is picked, placed, and spaced with repeatability. This is another area where Fanuc has introduced automation at customer sites to improve speed and quality.

Fanuc Robotics stacking and packing



In the previous example, we talked about controlling repeatability and speed through full parts automation, but by doing this, we have also gained the ability to control efficiency.

On any production line, you need to balance the line to the speed of your slowest machine so that you can have a smooth flow of product through the entire line and avoid either starving a downstream machine or causing blockages by feeding too much product to a machine. By putting a robot in place, for example, you can now request a pick and place tempo that the robot will meet every single time. This avoids expensive stoppages from having to clear blockages, and increases efficiency by reducing the possibility of starving downstream machines.

Automation requires an investment, but the increase in productivity and efficiency leads to a positive return on this investment in just a few months. The cost savings and productivity of an assembly robot or other automated system then reverberate, delivering returns for years in the future. And, since it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit workers willing to perform repetitive tasks for long hours, manufacturers experience even greater ROI.

The cost of automation has also dropped over the past 30 years. Robot prices have fallen in comparison to the steadily rising cost of labor compensation in manufacturing. While labor costs have approached 220% of 1990 figures, robot prices have dropped to 50% of the cost.  This trend will only continue, as demand from emerging economies drives increased use of automation.



One question remains: should you go with full or semi-automation? The answer depends, on your company’s production goals, your product requirements and your volumes.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you have a skilled labor force that could be improved by introducing some automated “help”?
  2. Do you need to have flexibility in your process? And be able to speed a process up or down quickly?
  3. Do you have tight budget constraints?
  4. Is your product uniquely shaped, presenting assembly challenges for a machine?
  5. Is your average assembly-line defect rate with manual assembly steps acceptable?

If you answered yes to most or all of those questions, semi-automation is likely your best choice. Semi automation allows you to improve your current processes and redeploy your labor force, without making the full commitment of capital expenditure and time to implement a fully automated production system.

If you answered no, then full automation is probably the best for your production needs. It allows you to produce and handle the most amount of product in the shortest amount of time with the fewest errors. Full automation, however, must be planned holistically, with processes considering all inputs and outputs from across the plant to ensure efficiency.

But remember, each case is unique and will have widely varying requirements and limitations, so it is best to consult an expert in the field. If you have any questions about automating your processes and part handling, contact Orientech to see how we can assist you.


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