COMMENT: The cost of machine downtime

No fastener manufacturer is immune to machines unexpectedly failing, but companies can mitigate the impact of unforeseen machine downtime, explains Houghton International

For many businesses, machine downtime can cause major complications. If there are no preparations in place, interruptions to appliances can impact productivity and profit margins. A study commissioned by Oneserve revealed machine down time costs the UK approximately £18 billion a year.

Reducing this total could boost the UK economy at a time when it’s most welcome with the uncertainties of Brexit still looming. But what is the true impact of machine downtime and what solutions are available?

Machine downtime

Unplanned machine downtime causes any manufacturing process to cease. With growing consumerism creating higher demand for products, fast and efficient machine procedures are critical to a firm’s success. But does the impact of machine downtime differ by industry?

In the global automotive industry, one minute of machine downtime can cost just under £17,000, while a British Airways technical failure in 2017 came with a price tag of £80 million, according to the airline’s CEO. Due to the rising reliance on technology across the board, machine downtime affects every industry. Even computer systems can bring major costs to a business, if they were to go down with an average cost of £3.6 million a year.

It’s not just business finances that are affected by machine downtime, a company’s reputation is also on the line if it fails to meet a supplier’s demand, along with stress on employees who must rectify the effects of the downtime.

How to calculate the costs of downtime

To calculate the costs of downtime, you must first work out the following:

  • Labour costs – The duration of the machine downtime period x the hourly pay rate of your operators to = your lost labour costs.
  • Product costs – The price of a single-unit product x by the total of items you produce in a certain period x by the machine downtime period.
  • Recovery costs – Work out how much it costs you for: machine reboots, energy surges, replacing/repairing parts, and retrieving lost data + your other calculations to get a more accurate machine downtime value.
  • Extra costs – Simply bear in mind that the value of machine downtime goes beyond profits lost during the downtown period.
  • Total cost – All the above costs + total cost of machine downtime. Ensure that you use the same units of time to work each section out for an accurate outcome (e.g. employee pay per hour, product output per hour, etc).


With the costs of machine downtime being clear, it’s important for companies to ensure a plan is implemented to help reduce the negative impact. Statistically, more than half of machinery downtime is cased by hidden internal faults, so it’s essential that you regularly check and maintain your machines.

Chris Proctor, Oneserve CEO, states that: “One of the most common technical faults is the overheating of particular parts, especially where there is metal on metal, as these can short electrical circuits and cause the machines to stop running.

“Vibrations, usually the first sign a machine is breaking, are another major cause of internal technical fault – they cause a cascading effect which can have a devastating impact on the machine. General wear and tear, as well as operator misuse, can also be the cause of technical fault.”

Acquiring services such as industrial pump repairs, can reduce the risk of internal issues that can spark lengthy machine downtime if not identified. Adopt a preventative maintenance mindset and check your machines and computers for viruses, glitches and inefficient parts that could cause a company-wide cessation of work.

Boost manager-to-operator communications so that those working with the machines in question can relay concerns if they have any before it’s too late. Commit your company by regularly updating your software, equipment and training staff to use machines and workstation properly.

For all industries, machine downtime is likely to occur. However, it doesn’t have to spell disaster. Bear preventative methods in mind and make sure to keep on top of downtime calculations so that you have an accurate oversight of the effect of downtime on your staff, processes and profit margin.