A Major Profit-Builder: Eliminating Waste in Changeovers

By on July 14, 2020
Eliminating Waste in Changeovers

In today’s hyper-competitive market place, all manufacturers face the challenge of making more products at less cost and higher quality. The two major barriers to meeting these twin challenges are:

  • Employees whose creativity and intelligence have been largely untapped.
  • Non-Standardized work processes bloated with waste.

And for many manufacturers the work process that stands as the most potent barrier to making more products at less cost and higher quality is the process used to change production from one product to another.

Over and over again, I’ve observed employees doing changeovers that are obviously bloated with wasted time and motion.

“Where’s the shim I need?”

“I need a screwdriver to adjust the die sensor. Where is it?”

I’ve also observed employees following different processes in doing the same changeover. While observing changeovers, I’ve asked employees, where are your changeover checklists? One employee responded:

“I don’t know. I never look at them. They’re out of date. They’re probably around here some place.”

And I’ve observed a management team operating in a silo.

“Do you know what the target time is for having this work station up and running?”
Answer: “No.”

No manufacturer can afford to tolerate these kinds of waste.

There is a solution. Virtually all manufacturers have heard of it. But too many have failed to use it.

Commonly referred to as SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies), this process used to optimize quick changeovers was developed over 50 years ago by Shigeo Shingo. Shingo was a protégé of Taiichi Ohno, the prime architect of the Toyota Production System. Ohno challenged Shingo to reduce the time of a changeover that had been taking eight hours to complete. Shingo more than met the challenge. He reduced the time to do this changeover to ten minutes.

Eight hours to ten minutes.

What does a leadership team need to do set in motion the use of Shingo’s powerful SMED process?

Before starting anything, they need to individually and collectively affirm that reducing changeover time is of vital importance to their personal success and the success of their company.

Additionally, they must accept that their commitment to making SMED deliver for their company has to be highly visible, vocal, and continuing. If it isn’t, an outcome such as this is predictable.

I asked an employee why the quick changeover process they had implemented several years previously with considerable success hadn’t been sustained. His reply? “It worked great for us but when the consultant who helped us implement SMED left, improvements stopped.”

Further, the management team needs to discuss what has limited their work in reducing changeover time. They need to reach consensus on what needs to be done to give a real boost to improving changeover time. They need to discuss the impact of “communications silos” if they exist. They need to agree that not communicating clearly regarding startup time targets will make a difference. And agreeing that it will, they need to define exactly what they will do to improve the quality and frequency of communication about the importance of continuous improvement of their changeover processes.

Following this, they need to deliver a briefing to all employees impacted by this work, describing the reason for improving changeover times, how doing this will remove struggle from their work and will also have a positive impact on their personal futures and the future of their company. In addition, the leadership team needs to state the goals and timeline for making this happen.

And then they need to implement the SMED process:

  1. Document reality by videotaping the current changeover process being carried out by an employee recognized by his/her peers as a high performer.
  2. With impacted employees in a conference room, step through the video of the current process, collecting their observations on improvements that could be made. And to address any reticence they might have in sharing improvements that could be made in the process, reminding them of Taiichi Ohno’s dictate that “it’s all about processes, not about people.”
  3. Introduce employees to the process of separating and shifting internal activities to external. Discuss how this will be applied to the changeover process being targeted for optimization.
  4. On the line, separate and shift internal activities to external and videotape the process of doing this.
  5. Bring the team together to view the impact of shifting internal to external. Discuss what they’ve viewed, addressing these questions: Do they agree that major improvements have been made? Can they see how these improvements would eliminate struggle in the changeover process? Do they agree that doing this will radically reduce equipment downtime?
  6. Introduce the team to the process of streamlining external processes. The primary tool in doing this is 5S. Apply the first 3Ss:
    a. Sort: Removing all items in the workspace that are not needed for the changeover process.
    b. Store: Putting all remaining items in positions that make their retrieval quick and easy.
    c. Shine: Making the work area as clean as possible.
  7. Streamline internal processes by analyzing and eliminating adjustments by doing, for example, things like the following:
    a. Storing tooling and supplies at the point of use to reduce time and motion waste.
    b. Reducing fastening time with quick clamp fasteners or power tools.
    c. Creating duplicate components that can be swapped out for cleaning or adjustment.
    d. Standardizing dies, tooling, and fixtures with common alignment devices.
    e. Eliminating the need to do adjustment with pre-loaded settings.
  8. Practice the new setup process, videotaping and reviewing it with employees. Solicit suggestions on how the new process could be tweaked to improve it.
  9. Document the new process, developing a Standardized Work Document that illustrates and describes exactly how the changeover process is to be done.
  10. Do multiple runs, precisely following the new process, establishing benchmarks against which the continuous improvement of the changeover process will be measured.
  11. Set in place a system to drive continuous improvement of the changeover process. Assign a manager to take responsibility for monitoring the use of the changeover process, coaching employees in the use of the process, training new employees in the process, and driving the continuous improvement of the process. Have this manager report monthly to the leadership team on the application and improvement of the plant’s changeover processes.

Shigeo Shingo’s SMED/Quick Changeover process will drive dramatic improvements in your changeover times. Your first use of it may not approach Shingo’s eight hours to ten minutes, but 30–40% reductions in changeover time with the first application of his system are not uncommon.

In addition, applying Shingo’s process as I’ve described it, will deliver an incredibly important ancillary benefit. It will greatly increase employee engagement in the improvement of work processes. It will demonstrate over and over again that it is their individual experience, creativity and intelligence that will make SMED really deliver for themselves individually and for their company.

St. Louis Community College has a well-tested SMED training series that will make SMED deliver for you and do so in a way that is sustainable. We’d greatly value having the opportunity to discuss this series with you. Just contact Eric Whitehead at 314-539-5022 or George Friesen at 314-303-0612 and let’s arrange a time to talk. We believe you’ll find this time very well spent.

About George Friesen

George Friesen serves as Business Practice Leader - Lean Manufacturing for the Workforce Solutions Group of St. Louis Community College. He has led the College's Lean business practice area since 2000. Prior to joining the College, George worked for Maritz Performance Improvement Company. Over the past 35 years, he has served a wide variety of Fortune 500 companies, specializing during the past eleven years in Lean Manufacturing, focusing especially on the 5S System, Lean leadership and thinking processes, Value Stream Mapping, and Lean team building. George is a graduate of Washington University (AB), Webster University (MA), and United States Air Force Flight Training.

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