If you are looking to boost your output or increase your responsiveness to customer demand but want to avoid the significant capital costs of purchasing new equipment, take a look at reducing your changeovers or setups. If you typically spend one hour to change over a machine and run eight to 10 setups a week, you are wasting a whole day a week, or up to 52 days a year, of potential machine time. Try focusing on these few things and you can spend less time in your changeovers almost immediately.

1) Have everything ready for the changeover next to the machine ahead of time. This means everything – material, tooling, tools, fixtures, paperwork, check gages, etc. Our goal is not to leave the machine to search for anything while doing a changeover. No more walking around and searching. Create a home location staging area for these items or use a tool setup cart and make it easy to find these items in order of need. Anyone – the machine operator, the setup person, the leadperson, the supervisor, a temp employee or even one of the office employees – can really lead this activity once trained in what needs to be collected. Even if you don’t do any of these others items listed below, DO THIS ONE.

2) Use a checklist. The easiest and simplest way not to forget any items needed for each changeover is to list everything on a checklist and use this list to verify things are not missing ahead of time. A pencil and paper is all that you need to create a checklist.

3) Fix broken equipment. When gages, tools and equipment are broken, we force the setup operators to work around these problems? Find what is broken and repair it.

4) Keep up with current events. Make sure all the data (program numbers, machine settings, etc.) are the latest and greatest. The only thing worse than not having information is to have conflicting or incorrect information. Review all of the standard setup documents and make sure all the correct information is recorded and consistent.

5) Just ask. By simply talking with the setup operators and asking what would be helpful to make setups easier, you can find out what they need. If you ask, be prepared to act on this information fast. If not, you will be sending a message that management doesn’t care, and this valuable source of information can be lost in the future.

6) Look for cheat sheets and share the knowledge. Some operators who perform changeovers have a log book or have setup notes to help them remember setup information. Use this information to look for helpful “tricks” or techniques that is undocumented. Officially record this information to eliminate the need for having personal notebooks and share it.

7) Improve homemade work aids. Perhaps the setup operator has made up some cool homemade work aids to position, lift, gage hold, align or perform some other function in a setup. How can we improve these homemade devises?

8) Double up the changeover team. Most setups are done by a single person, which can add to the wasted time in a setup, especially when we need to work on both sides of the machine. What would happen if we used a two-person team for changeovers? More likely, we can cut our setup time in half and do tasks in parallel.

9) Don’t skimp on the tooling. Invest in additional sets of tool holders so the tooling can be pre-set ahead of time. But before you wake up your purchasing person to start ordering all of this brand new tooling, do a plant-wide sort (Step 1 from 5-S) and see if there is any underutilized tooling that can be used. Check the auction pages for potential sources of used tooling. Go to local shops or manufacturing facilities to see if they are willing to sell any of their tooling. You don’t have to duplicate all of the tooling immediately to make a big impact. Target a few critical setups and concentrate on getting a few holders to start.

10) The best changeover is no changeover at all. What opportunities are there to dedicate equipment to certain parts, thereby eliminating the setup completely?

11) Don’t screw around. How much time are we spending bolting, fastening, blocking and clamping the tools? Can we reduce the number of bolts and clamps? Can you use quarter-turn bolts or other quick clamps? Can we replace manual tools with an air ratchet?

12) Throw away your hand tools. Taking the last step a bit further, can we eliminate the need for hand tools altogether? Instead of using Allen head screws or bolts, can we use hand twist, quarter-turn fasteners?

13) Put it away later. Sometimes in our eagerness to maintain an organized workplace, we have conditioned ourselves to put things away immediately. This is a great behavior, but don’t delay a setup by putting items away. Wait until the machine is up and running and then put everything back in its home location.

14) Don’t go the mountain; make the mountain come to you. What resources demand that the setup operator leave the machine? For example, do we have to take the first piece parts to a quality lab for approval? Instead of going to the quality department, what if we had the quality department come to us? Take a close look at our quality procedures and requirements with the goal of approving the part at the machine with no waiting. What do we need to make this happen? Can’t we get the quality inspector to be at the machine when needed? Do we really need to use that monument QA equipment instead of portable check gages or go/no-go gages?

About the author:
Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is currently a senior operations consultant for Gemba Consulting North America LLC. He also writes a blog called “Got Boondoggle?” featuring lean and Six Sigma topics.