Remember: Downtime means downturned pockets

By John Henry, CPP

If you had a fountain spewing gold coins, you would do everything possible to keep them flowing at the maximum sustainable rate. Most people don’t recognize that this also describes their packaging line. They look at the line and see bottles, cans or boxes coming off the end. In reality, what is coming off the line is money; it only looks like bottles, cans or boxes.

In my experience across many plants and industries, the emphasis is typically on product produced, not money made. I think this is a mistake. People get emotionally connected to money in a way they seldom do with physical product. Looking at a bin of rejected bottles, they may realize on a rational level that they need to do better. If they can look at the bin and see $50, they will connect on a deeper, more emotional level.

A three-minute line stoppage may seem pretty trivial, and most people find it hard to get too excited. A few might see three minutes and realize that 1,200 products (at 400 products per minute) did not get produced. Fewer still will realize that those three minutes represent a loss of $600, assuming 50 cents per product. Short stoppages like this, repeated several times a day, can add up to half a million dollars or more over a year.

Everyone must recognize costs. This info is not just for management; it needs to be disseminated as widely as possible. The operators on the line must know the dollar cost of every product that passes them. The mechanic setting up the machine must know the dollar cost of each minute the machine is not running. The warehouse crew must know the dollar cost of every minute the line is not running because of delays in getting materials to it. Don’t keep this information secret.

Mount posters on each line, showing each product, its cost and the dollar cost per minute of stoppages. This will help with awareness.

I saw one graphic way to do on a personal-care line some years ago. A monitor at the end of the line displayed safety and motivational messages. Whenever the line stopped, these were replaced by a dollar sign and a spinning odometer with a big dollar sign. Each second would increment by 90 cents. On restart, it would display the total cost of the stoppage. It really focused people on what was important.

Rejected, discarded or damaged components, such as caps or bottles, while individually cheap, will add up. One plant has bins to collect various types of waste; each bin was labeled with a dollar amount. A bottle bin, when full, represented $90. Making the dollars visible keeps them in people’s minds

Your plant is not in business to make product. It is in business to make money. Go look at the end of your line, it really is money, even if it looks like product. A dollar here, a quarter there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money!  F&BP

John Henry, Certified Packaging professional (CPP), is renowned as the Changeover Wizard. His company, at, offers workshops and other services to reduce changeover time. Contact John at or 787-550-9650.