Human Error is Worse in Manufacturing Compared to Other Sectors

Study shows unplanned downtime from user error occurs more than twice as often in manufacturing.

Small mistakes can lead to big disasters—just ask the scientists and engineers who worked on the Mars Climate Orbiter: a $327.6-million USD spacecraft that was destroyed because of a failure to properly convert between units of measurement.

Any manufacturer who’s had to shut down an entire production line because someone misread a label or forgot to “carry the one” can sympathize. In fact, according to a new study from Vanson Bourne, manufacturers know the pain of unplanned downtime due to human error better than anyone.

The study found that 23 percent of all unplanned downtime in manufacturing is the result of human error, compared with rates as low as 9 percent in other sectors. Sponsored by ServiceMax from GE Digital, the study surveyed more than 100 manufacturers at the field service and decision-maker level in the UK, US, France and Germany. These results were compared with those from roughly 350 companies in other sectors, including medical, oil & gas, energy, telecoms and logistics.

“It’s perhaps not surprising that the manufacturing sector has higher levels of human error given the breadth of machinery and equipment that requires maintenance and intervention by service engineers and technicians,” said Mark Homer, VP of global customer transformation for ServiceMax.

A few other notable results from the survey:

  • Nearly half (45 percent) of manufacturers acknowledged considerable room for improvement when it comes to proactively preventing problems with assets in their organization
  • This proportion is only larger in the telecom sector (55 percent)
  • Across all sectors, 82 percent of companies have experienced at least one incident of unplanned downtime over the last three years
  • Across all sectors, 70 percent of companies admitted that they lack full awareness of when equipment is due for maintenance, upgrade or replacement

“Whilst some manufacturers have started to digitize their service offerings with automated field service management that can trigger remedial action or intervention before a failure or outage takes place, large parts of the manufacturing sector have yet to put such systems in place,” noted Homer. “The knock-on effect of these episodes of unplanned downtime have obvious repercussions on OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) levels for manufacturing businesses.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

How do you reduce the rate of human error in your operation? 

Share your story in the comments below.