Minimising Downtime with Efficient Digital SOP Management

While advanced technologies like AI and IIoT hold promise, a well-designed, well-maintained mobile SOP system can also significantly contribute to reducing downtime and boosting
overall efficiency.


In today's competitive manufacturing landscape, minimizing downtime is paramount for maximizing productivity and profitability. While high-end technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) hold promise for achieving this goal, an easily accessible, digitalized Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) remains crucial.

This white paper explores how effective SOP management, independent of cutting-edge technology, can significantly reduce downtime of critical equipment in heavy industries.

It focuses on the benefits of readily accessible mobile SOPs and digitalized troubleshooting guides specifically designed with an organization's unique equipment and historical data, in reducing downtime.

The high cost of Downtime:

Unplanned downtime in manufacturing translates directly to lost revenue. A 2023 study by Aberdeen Group found that unplanned downtime costs manufacturers an average of $50,000 per hour.

A 2022 study by McKinsey & Company found that

companies that implemented robust knowledge management practices,

which includes effective SOP management,

experienced a 35% reduction in MTTR.

Reducing Downtime with effective mobile based SOPs: A Rotary Kiln Example

Well-maintained, easily accessible, and visually-driven mobile SOPs play a significant role in reducing unplanned downtime.

Clear instructions, along with images or videos, minimize time spent searching for information and ensure technicians easily understand the repair procedures. This translates to faster completion times, fewer errors, and ultimately, improved operational efficiency.

Let us understand it, through an example of "Maintenance of a Rotary Kiln in Cement Industries".

Equipment details:

A Rotary Kiln is a critical piece of equipment in the cement industry responsible for heating raw materials to high temperatures to produce clinker, a key component of cement. The inner walls of the kiln are lined with refractory bricks that can withstand extreme temperatures. However, over time, these bricks wear down due to constant exposure to high heat, chemical reactions, and physical abrasion from the raw materials.

Preventive Maintenance:

Implementing a preventative maintenance program for Rotary Kiln to avoid costly repairs is a usual practice in cement industries, which mainly includes scheduled Refractory Bricks Replacements.

The replacement of Refractory Bricks (of High Wear Zone) in a Rotary Kiln is a complex and time-consuming process. Depending on the severity of the wear and the kiln size, repairs can take several days to weeks, significantly impacting downtime.

Tasks involved in Preventive Maintenance:

Refractory Bricks replacements typically involve the following activities:

  • Pre-Shutdown Activities
  • Kiln Cool-Down
  • Pre-Replacement Preparation
  • Brick Removal, Replacement, Curing and Reheating
  • Post Replacement Activities
Downtime with and without Digitalised SOPs
STEP 1 : Pre-Shutdown Activities
This step involves planning, checking inventory, and coordinating communication for a safe and efficient kiln shutdown.

Digital SOPs can potentially cut downtime by 1 hour (approx.) at this step.
Digitalised SOPs facilitate clear and instant communication between maintenance crews, operations, and management via chat or notification systems and ensures a smooth and fast transition to kiln shutdown.
STEP 2 : Kiln Cool-Down
This involves, gradually lowering the kiln temperature to a safe point for workers to enter and perform maintenance.

Digitalised Troubleshooting Guides can reduce downtime by
1-4 hours at this phase.
Digital Troubleshooting Guides designed for a specific Kiln based on its make, model and historical data, can help technicians in faster resolutions, in case of any deviation in rate of cooling.
STEP 3 : Pre-Replacement Preparation

This involves setting up safe access, gathering necessary tools and materials, and ensuring workers understand safety procedures.

Efficient digital SOPs can significantly reduce downtime by an estimated 6-12 hours at this step.

Digital SOPs can incorporate interactive safety modules with multimedia elements (videos, animations) to enhance understanding and retention of safety protocols. This can potentially shorten pre-work safety briefings.

Video based Maintenance SOP, enforcing Safety Precautions

STEP 4 : Brick Removal, Replacement, Curing and Reheating
This phase involves removing worn-out bricks, installing new ones, then slowly increasing the kiln temperature to operational levels while the new bricks cure.

Reduction in downtime during this phase is estimated as
6-12 hours.
Digital SOPs with visual aids and potentially AR integration can minimize errors and rework during brick replacement, reducing downtime.
STEP 5 : Post Replacement Activities
This activities include recording details of the replacement, verifying the work, and ensuring the kiln is ready to resume production.

Reduction in downtime by 1 hour (approx.)
The SOPs can integrate with quality control checklists, prompting technicians to capture images or data points to verify proper installation. This expedites post-replacement documentation and saves time.
Total Potential Downtime Reduction: By mobile driven digitalized SOPs, cement companies can achieve a combined downtime reduction of 15-30 hours for refractory brick replacements of Rotary Kiln high wear zones.

Effective SOP management is a powerful tool within the grasp of any manufacturing organization, regardless of budget or technological sophistication. By prioritizing readily accessible mobile SOPs, efficient training programs, and continuous improvement based on feedback, manufacturers can significantly reduce MTTR, minimize downtime, and achieve operational excellence.

Want to learn about creation of AI powered, mobile based SOPs and Troubleshooting Guides to

Reduce Asset Downtime ?