Improve Resilience by Mitigating Unplanned Outages

Downtime is unavoidable in the manufacturing industry, impacting productivity and profitability. While planned downtime for maintenance and line changeovers is expected, unplanned downtime poses a significant challenge for industrial maintenance managers.
Below, we explore the costs and causes of unplanned outages and offer strategies for facility and fleet maintenance managers to overcome this operational obstacle.

The Cost of Unplanned Outages in Industrial Facilities

Understanding the financial implications of unplanned downtime is crucial for manufacturers. The cost extends beyond the direct loss of production and includes labor expenses for idle workers, missed deadlines, reputational damage, and potential penalties for late deliveries. According to the “Value of Reliability” survey conducted by ABB and Sapio Research in 2023, 69% of industrial businesses experience unplanned outages at least once a month, with a staggering 8% facing outages daily.
The survey, which gathered responses from 3,215 plant maintenance decision-makers globally, calculated the cost of downtime varies across sectors and found the median to be $124,669 per hour. The monetary impact of unplanned downtime varies across sectors, as evidenced by the following hourly costs:
Average hourly downtime costs per sector:

  1. Energy/Power: $179,055.56
  2. Chemical: $127,562.50
  3. Oil & Gas: $144,452.38
  4. Wind: $126,000.00
  5. Plastics/Rubber: $178,941.18
  6. Rail: $115,000.00
  7. Water/Wastewater: $98,222.22
  8. Marine: $101,000.00
  9. Utilities: $96,535.71
  10. Food and Beverage: $84,680.56
  11. Metals: $71,047.17


What Causes Unplanned Outages?

The causes of unplanned outages in industrial fleets are multifaceted, with the increasing complexity of electrical infrastructure and load management exposing operations to hidden risks. Although the survey focused on the need for equipment reliability and maintenance, two other primary culprits contribute to unplanned downtime — poor power quality and major grid outages.
Major grid outages can arise from transmission issues such as line faults, overloads, surges, or sags caused by lightning striking a tower or voltage dipping below an acceptable level. Distribution issues, like short circuits, ground faults, animal contacts, or vehicle collisions, also pose a threat.
Poor power quality issues add another layer of risks, with this problem as the top challenge for 64% of utilities. Bad power significantly impacts industrial consumers by causing harmonic issues like non-linear or fluctuating loads impacting waveform and voltage, electromagnetic interference (EMI) creating noise with unwanted signals, or sudden spikes or dips caused by a current change.
On-site power reliability issues such as frequency deviations, voltage instability, or system collapse are potential causes of downtime.
Detecting vulnerabilities in electrical systems to avert potential issues and devising swift, effective solutions are critical components of building operational resilience.

Strategic Steps to Avoid Unplanned Outages

Mitigating the impact of unplanned downtime requires a proactive approach and careful planning. Environmental crises, such as natural disasters leading to grid outages, present significant challenges but should be anticipated, underscoring the need for proactive strategies to ensure power availability and quality.

  1. Identify Critical Components: Determine the most critical components and systems in your facility or fleet to prioritize preventative measures.
  2. Backup Power Systems: Invest in reliable backup power systems like generators capable of sustaining the entire facility to ensure continuity and avoid costly downtime.
  3. Balancing and Regulating: Integrating generators, batteries, inverters, and controllers is essential for preventing power reliability issues.
  4. Adaptability and Scalability: Design solutions with adaptability and scalability in mind to accommodate changes in technology or operational requirements and future-proof systems.
  5. Conduct Regular Power Audits: Understand power consumption patterns through regular audits, identifying areas for improvement to optimize energy usage.
  6. Use Heila iQ: Implement a smart energy monitoring and analytics tool like Heila iQ to centralize control, optimize energy systems, and detect anomalies in real time.


Heila iQ — A Comprehensive Energy Solution

Conducting regular power audits and assessing the power requirements of essential equipment and systems to determine the appropriate capacity for distributed energy resources (DERs) can be a complex and difficult task, due to a lack of standardization and technical expertise. However, preparing for power outages is an investment in resilience and business continuity.
As downtime risks loom, facilities are turning to Heila iQ as a strategic ally. With features like centralized control, real-time power monitoring, power quality assessment, and anomaly detection, Heila iQ provides a robust solution for minimizing the impact of unplanned outages due to poor power quality.
By analyzing current energy use and assessing the feasibility of microgrid and DERs, Heila iQ offers facility managers invaluable data and actionable insights for making more informed capital-efficient energy system investments to avoid outages caused by grid disruptions.
The platform not only addresses the increasing risk of downtime but also transforms electrical infrastructure into a source of value by empowering companies to achieve more significant savings through direct economic benefits like Time-of-Use (ToU) pricing optimization.
In an era where operational resilience is paramount, facility and fleet maintenance managers must adopt a multifaceted approach to mitigate the impact of unplanned downtime. By investing in backup power systems, conducting regular power audits, and leveraging an advanced energy monitoring tool like Heila iQ, manufacturers can minimize downtime, enhance efficiency, meet sustainability goals, and navigate the challenges of high energy costs.
Looking for a way to avoid unplanned outages and turn potential downtime threats into opportunities for growth and success? Schedule your live demo of the Heila iQ dashboard here.