In the context, for example, of factory production I often read the phrase "ramp up production" or "a ramp-up in production". To me "ramp down" sounds a strange phrase to use as the opposite - does anyone have a more apt antonym?
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The antonym for "ramp up" will depend on context.
You might use: reduce, decrease, down size, down scale, or wind down (e.g. we talk of our department winding down for Christmas - a temporary gentle slow down in office presence and productivity).
Ramp down is used in some technical settings. For example, when the grid controllers instruct a power plant to reduce its output, that's referred to as "ramping down":
(from a National Grid document on grid balancing)
The oldest reference I can quickly find for a metaphorical use of "ramp down" is from 1970, and again it's a technical electric/electronic reference:
TO the extent that it has an opposite, I think the opposite of "ramp up" is "wind down". These sorts of idioms are not always consistent or literally meaningful.
I'm not sure about the credibility of the source, but according to this website:
In this case, it sounds like "ramp up" refers to a indication of growth, not a synonym of it.
If you're looking to communicate the opposite of growth, Atrophy is a good word.
I've seen this word used in Breaking Bad when Walter described that their chemical work is not going to stop:
Video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyabiLNfjQw