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Assessing the True Cost of Operational Downtime

Despite innovations in print and mail production, operational downtime still hurts productivity and profit.

If an employee works a little longer, they can fix minor interruptions in output that come from equipment failure. But when that downtime stretches to hours and days, the loss can hurt permanently.

To assess the true cost of operational downtime, Bell and Howell conducted a study to examine the concerns with respect to operational downtime in print and mail.

More than 625 professionals in commercial mail operations participated in the study, reporting their issues related to downtime. The questions assessed their primary concerns regarding operational downtime, as well as the number of incidents of downtime they faced in a typical year. Furthermore, participants also shared how downtime negatively impacts their customer experience. Plus, how they combat, or plan to combat it, with preventative maintenance and other proactive efforts.

Key Findings from the Study

More than 80 percent of respondents of the study belong to a mail presort operation, while close to 46 percent are from a company with more than $10 million in annual revenue.

Operational Downtime

It’s interesting to note that idle employees was the biggest concern when dealing with operational downtime. And just as downtime can be minimized with a good maintenance program, so can idle time with good workflow management tools. Respondents also noted customer satisfaction as the primary concern when it came to operational downtime.

Downtime Incidents

When asked to report the number of downtime incidents within the past 12 months, more than 54 percent responded with more than three. Additionally, almost 61 percent reported between two to six hours of average duration of downtime incidents at their operation. Interestingly, more than 52 percent reported that zero to six hours is the maximum length of downtime per incident they are willing to tolerate before it negatively impacts their customer experience. Having a successful preventative maintenance program outweighs the cost of unscheduled downtime. Additionally, an overlooked benefit of a contracted maintenance program is reduced downtime due to the recognition of components being obsolete.

Preventative Maintenance

The goal of a successful preventative maintenance program is to establish consistent practices designed to improve equipment performance and safety. More than 66 percent of respondents reported that they had preventative maintenance performed more than four times a year.

Data Protection and Recovery

Operational downtime poses a major threat to business continuity for mail operations of all sizes. That is why many print and mail operations are turning toward data protection and recovery to backup and restore their operational data and system configuration. More than 61 percent of respondents reported that they average backing up their system configurations between one and four times a year.

Optimal Efficiency

The ability to run a successful business relies on their equipment’s operating at optimal levels. More than 47 percent of respondents rated their critical equipment’s optimal efficiency as average, as compared to new. Additionally, more than 52 percent rated their critical equipment’s optimal efficiency as average when compared with others in the industry.


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