Unplanned downtime is time-consuming and costly. The average manufacturer handles 800 hours of downtime each year, which amounts to millions of dollars in lost revenue. To combat the downtime problem, manufacturing organizations are implementing digital transformation strategies to save time and money.

This blog quantifies the true cost of unplanned downtime to manufacturers, and examines why companies are turning to digital transformation as their primary solution. Then, we'll understand how to choose the right technology for downtime reduction, and explore in detail how one technology, industrial remote access, can help.

Unplanned downtime costs you money, customers, and production.

In dollars alone, unplanned downtime costs millions. On average, downtime episodes lasted four hours, which was estimated at nearly $2 million in losses. And the problem is widespread: a study by Vanson Bourne found that unplanned downtime affected over 4/5 of companies (82%) over the past three years.

The consequences extend beyond monetary costs. Additional impacts of unplanned outages include not being able to deliver services to customers, lost production time on a critical asset, and an inability to service and support equipment.

The causes of unplanned downtime.

So what is causing such widespread unplanned downtime? Most commonly, hardware (45%) and software (39%) failures/malfunctions. Additional sources include issues like overload, user error, and security breaches. As a result, the key to solving the majority of downtime lies in preventing malfunctions, as well as reacting to malfunctions faster.

Downtime reduction starts with digital technology.

Digital transformation strategies (i.e. embracing forms of digital technology to improve how an organization operates) are key to eliminating downtime. In fact, 81% of organizations believe that digital tools can eliminate unplanned downtime.*

*Vanson Bourne/ServiceMax study.

Organizations are motivated to implement digital transformation by factors like meeting customer expectations, improving customer experience, and increasing revenue and profitability. However, downtime is directly responsible for these main drivers. As a result, digital transformation is optimally positioned to solve the downtime problem.

The first step: Get to the problem faster with Secure Remote Access.

We've established that achieving downtime reduction goals begins with finding the right technology—but where should you start? Predicting malfunctions and implementing proactive operating procedures is the ultimate goal, but those programs take time to percolate through an organization. Instead, the first step is simply this: when there is a problem, get there and fix it as quickly as possible.

Secure remote access, done right, is the fastest way to perform repairs. Operators and vendors traveling on-site takes time, and traffic and weather conditions can interfere. During unplanned downtime, every minute counts, so you need the fastest, safest possible way to address the problem. Industrial remote access allows your operators to address problems within the minute, instead of within the hour—speeding up the process of getting your equipment back up and running.

Key takeaway: The faster you connect employees to equipment, the less downtime you experience, and the more money you save.

But be careful: not all ICS remote access systems are actually fast. Implemented incorrectly, an inefficient industrial remote access system (typically those requiring multiple logins and jumphosts) can take up to 12 minutes to use—which is 11 more minutes wasted than necessary. An efficient ICS remote access tool should take less than 30 seconds to connect.

Looking forward: Secure Remote Access is the foundation of digital transformation.

Obviously, solving your downtime problem does not end at secure remote access. In the long run, digital transformation technologies such as AI and predictive analytics will enable manufacturers to implement proactive operating standards, pre-empt possible equipment malfunctions, and cut downtime even further.

But all of these technologies rely on securing data transfer: from a piece of equipment to an analysis server to a human interface, network connectivity in your manufacturing environment will be paramount to any future downtime-prevention efforts.

Thus, when taking your first step towards secure remote access for ICS, consider if your remote access solution poises you for further transformation, or bogs down your change management processes even further. A bad industrial remote access system will add more complexity and hardware to your network, and need to be replaced as future technology is integrated into your network. A good industrial remote access system should support you and your future technologies. It should provide the backbone for secure automated data transfer, machine-to-machine connectivity, and dynamic scaling.

Next steps.

Unplanned downtime takes a toll on the manufacturing industry. Thankfully, digital transformation promises to remedy the downtime problem and save facilities money. If you are looking to combat your downtime problem, make sure to evaluate your downtime response strategy and note your reaction times. The results might surprise you, and depending on your facility's needs, you might find the most cost-effective and time-saving solution to reducing your organization's unplanned downtime is industrial remote access.

An appropriate ICS remote access strategy can enable your team to react faster to downtime today, and pave the way for your organization to cohesively implement monitoring, analytics, and predictive maintenance tools in the future. Please visit dispel.io/efficiency for more information on how secure ICS remote access can solve your downtime problem.

About Dispel

Dispel provides secure remote access designed for OT networks. Built on Moving Target Defense architecture, Dispel helps organizations enable OT remote access while staying aligned to regulatory frameworks and compliance standards. If you are looking to securely bring an OT network online, or harden existing Internet-accessible OT assets, schedule a demo at dispel.io/efficiency.