Idle Time Vs. Downtime: What Is the Difference

Maintenance novices often confuse the words idle times and “downtime. Both terms refer to assets that are “out of order,” they are a bit different in meaning. Downtime is the term used to describe any time that equipment in the facility is not available to use. Unlike idle time caused by problems unrelated to asset functionality, downtime means an asset is not in working order. Therefore, the distinction between the two terms is why the asset fails to perform.

Although equipment failures are the most common cause for downtime, they’re by no means the sole reason. Facilities managers frequently plan downtime to delegate preventative maintenance (PM) tasks to maintenance management technicians in times that aren’t business hours or during non-peak production hours. This is why strategic, operational managers keep track of idle time and downtime.

What is Idle Time?

The idle time is the time span that an asset is not engaged in any productive activity even though it is operational and working. Therefore, idle time can also be referred to as waiting time. The phrase “asset” mentioned above is typically used to refer to machines; it can also refer to an employee.

In the sense of idle time, it is the time that a machine or employee is not producing due to circumstances in or out of the management’s control. It is crucial to keep track of idle time since it aids in determining the differences between actual levels of productivity and the potential maximum productivity levels. In the end, the increase in idle time for an asset causes a productivity loss.

What Is the Definition of Downtime?

This means that “downtime” is only applicable to labor-intensive industries like construction and manufacturing. But, businesses in diverse verticals face the challenge of maximizing the value of their employees during the time of downtime. We define “downtime” as a period when employees are unproductive in their jobs because of technical or equipment failure bottlenecks in projects or less personal interaction with customers.

Idle Time Can Be Put to Good Use

The ideal time to carry out regular maintenance is when the equipment is not scheduled to operate. One reason is that you might be able to use idle hours. In this way, idle time can be utilized to the fullest extent, minimizing downtime. Make sure you track the time it takes to complete those tasks because if the demand for the asset rises, you’ll be able to get a better understanding of how long it will take to get the asset offline.

Downtime Represents Lost Productivity

Another reason is that idle time doesn’t necessarily represent the loss of productivity. However, downtime, on the other hand, does. When deciding how to increase the reliability of equipment, You’ll need to consider downtime and not lump it in with idle time.

How to Manage Downtime

From heavy-asset-based businesses to professional services – everyone has to deal with the issue of downtime.

There are two significant causes that cause employee downtime.

Planned Downtime

Every business experiences both a slow and busy time. Understanding when these demand cycles occur is essential to manage the downtime effectively.

Does your business have a seasonality? Do you have times when your business is busier than other stores?

Businesses that have a solid understanding of their demand cycles are usually able to develop new strategies to keep employees productive, even when the economy is slow.

Unplanned Downtime

A significant reason for downtime occurs when it happens in the moment, which is when businesses are not prepared to deal with the issue quickly.

Unplanned downtime could be:

  • The malfunction of machinery. Machines fail frequently. If they do, businesses that can’t move their workers to another production line or job will incur downtime expenses.
  • Network crashes. It can be highly frustrating when everything stops working as the internet is down in this technologically-driven world. Depending on how long the outage will last, the employees could have lots of time to themselves in their schedules.
  • Workload bottlenecks. Sometimes work is stuck in the inbox of someone else’s. It happens when an employee is finished with their task but isn’t sure what to do next.
  • Crisis or disaster situations. Nobody knows the exact date when disasters will occur. Look at 2024. But, having a well-constructed business continuity plan and disaster recovery strategy implemented can ensure that you have as little downtime as possible.

Strategies to cut the downtime

The Scheduling of Preventive Maintenance

Implementing and running a well-planned preventive maintenance program will get you ahead of the curve for maintenance, which allows you to spot and correct minor issues in the early stages before they turn into major budget-destroying problems.

The program could include two primary focus areas, inspections and tasks. To conduct inspections, you may include everything from classic facility walkthroughs to look for puddles beneath assets to a comprehensive leak detection and repairs (LDAR) program to reduce the emission of fugitive volatile organic compounds (VOC) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).

Monitoring Maintenance Metrics and KPIs

It is impossible to cut down on the amount of downtime that is not planned to a minimum. With all the moving parts and people, numerous things can be wrong.

You can always become better, and one way to measure your progress is by evaluating how you’re performing today. By analyzing your maintenance metrics and KPIs related to failures, you’ll identify ways to prevent downtime and make each period of downtime less.

What Can A CMMS Do to Help in Reducing the Amount of Time You Are Down?


One of the most challenging aspects of modern maintenance management is the data. It is necessary to gather the data, protect it and up-to-date, communicate it, and finally make it actionable.

When using spreadsheets and paper and spreadsheets, they’re challenging to use and are impossible. Because you’re relying upon everybody to input your data manually, it’s likely to make mistakes. Even if you obtain the perfect information, there’s no way to share it quickly. There’s a chance that you’ve got all the data you need. However, they’re not doing your team any good if they’re tucked away on the document or spread out on spreadsheets in the office.

Modern CMMS solutions can make your life much easier. Your data is stored in one central database, which means you are assured that it is accurate and readily accessible. Everybody is working with the same data sets and has immediate access from any device connected to the internet.

It is possible to use the software to create to schedule, monitor, and record PMs. Once you have sufficient information to work with, you can use auto-generated reports to determine critical KPIs and metrics to gain insights into how the team handles mistakes and ways to improve.

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