Idle time can look like a lot of different things, but in the world of facility management, idle time might look like this: machines sitting and waiting, a lack of demand or appropriate action, and employees with nothing to do. Too much of this, as you can imagine, means a lack of productivity and an increasingly large amount of money left on the table. So how can you minimize idle time and maximize efficiency? Whether you’re a facility manager or maintenance technician, this article will help you understand what causes idle time and how to cut back on it.

What is Idle Time?

Idle time (or waiting time) is the amount of time lost to work interruptions that occur even when assets and employees are ready to get to work. There are two different types of idle time: planned idle time and unplanned idle time.

Planned idle time is when an asset is not used for production, such as during temporary moments when work is stopped. For example, some assets might need to experience idle time to avoid the possibility of overheating. On the other hand, unplanned idle time might occur because of reasons such as a lack of materials to work with or the need to wait for other assets to finish their processes.

What Causes Idle Time?

Idle time can be either planned or unplanned, which means that it can be expected or unexpected. There are a plethora of reasons why it can occur, some of which are outlined below.

  • The resources required, such as a part or raw material, are not available.
  • An asset needs an important part delivered to continue safe operations.
  • Production has resulted in an overflow of inventory.
  • An employee who is the only one who is certified to operate the asset is on leave.
  • A power outage has occurred and assets need to be restarted.
  • A natural disaster, injury, or other accident has interrupted facility processes.
  • Old processes have not been updated and implemented quickly enough to address inefficiencies.

How to Calculate Idle Time

To calculate idle time, you can use the following idle time formula:

Idle Time = Scheduled Production Time – Actual Production Time

Scheduled production time is the planned amount of time an organization intends to run a piece of given equipment while actual production time is the amount of actual time that equipment is running. When you subtract the latter from the former, you get the amount of idle time that an asset has accrued.

As an example, let’s say a piece of equipment you use daily needs fifteen minutes to power up and fifteen minutes to power down. In addition, the machine is shut off for a half hour each day to accommodate a routine shift change. If the equipment is intended to run for nine hours each day, its idle time amounts to an hour and a half each day. And if an operator happens to run late, you can count that as idle time, as well.


Who Uses Idle Time?

Idle time is a calculable value that is used by plant managers, engineers, and supervisors to assess organizational efficiency. Tracking idle time helps these people to know production levels for a given timeframe, the amount of time it takes to complete labor, and whether they should repair or replace assets. In this sense, tracking idle time helps organizations learn where inefficiencies are and how to address them.

What’s the Difference Between Idle Time and Downtime?

In a nutshell, idle time is when an asset is capable of operating but is not being run. In contrast, downtime is when an asset is incapable of running and cannot perform its duties even if employees are available.

What Are Some Examples of Idle Time in Production?

Here are some examples of idle time in production.

  • Vehicle assembly: A vehicle assembly factory might produce more cars than the quality inspection team can keep up with, resulting in idle time taken so that they can catch up with their backlog.
  • Shipping containers: A shipping company might have a delivery delayed because of a storm, resulting in idle time for its transportation network until the weather clears.
  • Software development: In software development, idle time might occur as a result of one machine running when another cannot. This is because of data dependency, which necessitates that some
  • Quality inspection: The amount of time it takes to complete a quality inspection might vary, leading to more idle time on some days than others.

How to Minimize Idle Time

Minimizing idle time can constitute various actions taken by your organization, but in general, taking on any of the tasks in the list below will help you minimize idle time no matter what organization you’re in.

  1. Clarify the meaning of idle time: Once you do so, any labor time data you collect will be clearly defined and captured as accurately as possible.
  2. Effectively train employees: Making sure your employees are clear on how to execute tasks will eliminate any idle time that is caused due to a lack of knowledge.
  3. Prevent confusion among employees: Make sure you effectively communicate what needs to be done on a work order so that employees can complete it efficiently.
  4. Maintain assets and optimize workflows: When everything is going smoothly — assets and workflows included — everything that follows will go smoothly, as well.
  5. Set up a preventive maintenance program: When you incorporate preventive maintenance into your processes, you optimize everything from asset health to idle time.
  6. Monitor and track idle time using a CMMS: Doing so will give you the insight that allows you to identify and address the causes of idle time.

Let NEXGEN Reduce Your Idle Time

To recap, idle time is what happens when assets are operational and available but remain unproductive for one reason or another. This is something you want to limit as much as possible in your day-to-day, and it can be done by identifying the root causes of idle time and implementing strategic solutions.

The most effective way to track root causes is with a computerized maintenance management system like NEXGEN.

NEXGEN allows you to collect data including work order progress, KPIs, inventory, and more and lets you use that knowledge to optimize your processes. This way, you have the transparency to identify and address idle time before it can get the better of your work.

Want to try it out? Click the button below to see NEXGEN in action.