When it comes to streamlining your business and following the principles of lean manufacturing, it’s important to think about changeover. In most assembly-line type work floors there are significant amounts of changeover that occur on a daily, weekly, monthly, or as-demanded basis. Changeover itself is the process of taking a machine or series of equipment producing one thing to another. Depending on the product being made and the adaptability of the machinery, this can take anywhere from a few seconds to weeks at a time. Any assembly line producing large machinery (construction equipment, automobiles, etc.) is likely to have a long changeover time.
What’s the Benefits?
What we’re going to do in this article is take you through a process that can help you cut down on changeover times within your industry. This will help to make your assembly lines more flexible and efficient in their ability to go between making various products or versions of a similar product. Other benefits of improving changeover times include a reduction in the rate of defects as a machine is ready to start producing the new product from the very first unit. You can also reduce inventory costs because you can make smaller batches of items; when you can switch back and forth between goods with minimal loss of time, you don’t need to create as many of each unit to be held as stock before changing your machine over to do something else. This can also save you space and reduce the need for potentially redundant operations. Improved flexibility means you can also respond more quickly to orders from customers, producing and delivering goods faster than before.
There are three basic stages of changeover that need to be analyzed:
- Clean-Up: The removal of any remnants of the previous product.
- Set-Up: Any conversion of the equipment that needs to occur to ready it for a new task.
- Start-Up: The time one will spend fine-tuning the machine after changeover to ensure it is working exactly as intended.
Looking at the Steps
The first step to fast changeover is to eliminate non-essential operations. Look at the way that a machine is changed over and try and pick out inefficiencies: How many people really need to be involved in the process? Is the equipment in a position that makes change over awkward or imprecise? Are there some parts you’re changing that could be universal, or could be adapted to be universal?
Next take a look at your external and internal setup. Make sure that you have everything you need – tools, materials, etc. – in easily accessible places. Take an inventory to make sure you always have everything on hand before beginning your changeover. Make sure that your internal factors are as hands off as possible; try to use cams and adjustable winch pins to reduce or eliminate the need for new internal parts during changeover.
Finally, test and measure everything. You won’t be able to tell if your changeover is really quicker and more efficient without timing it against old processes. Also, don’t think that just because your changeover time improved there’s nowhere else for you to go from there. Look to improve your process constantly to hone your operation to a razor sharp point of efficiency.
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