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Competitive Manufacturing / Set-up Time Reduction

Supplier: QMI Solutions

Many companies believe their machine set-ups are okay when in fact they couldn’t tell you how long they really take. How long has it been since you formally analysed them? How long is it since you improved them?

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Competitive Manufacturing / Set-up Time Reduction

Many companies believe their machine set-ups are okay when in fact they couldn’t tell you how long they really take. How long has it been since you formally analysed them? How long is it since you improved them?

Attacking set-ups on an adhoc basis is not ideal because sustainability of these changes is crucial to the success of a set-up reduction project.

But a quick analysis may be the first step to help you realise the potential savings in time, money and resources are available to you by reduce your set-up times. The benefits are many and varied with efficient set-ups in place.


Batch sizes are decreasing and the number of set-ups is increasing because customers the world over, in all industries, are demanding shorter lead times, more variety and increased customisation.


Set-ups that have been analysed and reduced are typically easier and safer to perform. It is strange to think that a job that once took say 50 minutes to perform and now takes 15 minutes would actually take less effort but our experience in doing this work however, constantly bears this out.


Shorter set-ups enable you to schedule smaller batches. Smaller batches reduce your inventory both in WIP and finished goods.

By improving set-ups you have more ability to deliver what my customer demands, with reduced effort from my employees and reduced cost to the company. Here's how.

The 5 Keys to Reduce Your Set-Up Time

1. Observe

As you would expect with any process, the first step is to observe. The status quo needs to be observed and recorded. This allows a baseline to be established so that the level of improvement can be determined and also provides the raw information that will be utilised by the process.

The best technique to use at this stage is videotaping but it must be handled sensitively. Staff usually have no problems with being videotaped while they perform a set-up provided the importance and process of set-up time reduction has been properly explained.

The tape allows the set-up to be replayed as many times as is necessary to analyse and improve the process.

2. Define

In this step you must identify those steps in your process which are internal and those which are external. Internal set-up elements are those which can only be performed when the machine is not operating. External set-up elements are those which can be performed with the machine operating.

3. Separate

The set-up procedure now needs to be changed so that anything that was defined as external in the previous step is now done while the machine is running.

Probably the most effective thing to do at this stage in the process improvement is to develop a checklist of tasks that have to be performed and tools that have to be collected while the machine is running.

Companies find that this simple process saves them a surprising amount of time but don’t bother doing it, perhaps because it is too obvious. Two other areas to focus on at this stage are function checks and tooling transport.

By doing a function check on the tool before it is loaded into the machine the tool can be repaired if something doesn’t work correctly before production stops.

Improved tooling transport also allows the tool to be transported to the machine before it is required and moved into operation more effectively.

4. Shift

In this step you try to find ways to convert elements which are currently internal to external.

Every internal element needs to be questioned to understand whether it has to stay internal. By unleashing your creativity and problem solving skills, big gains can be made in this area.

 Probably the best way to make the most impact at this stage is to look at the set-up as if you are seeing it for the first time. You have to avoid at all costs old habits and attitudes getting in the way of improvement.

5. Streamline

Big improvements should have been achieved by the time you reach this point, but there is still room for more.

Every element in the set-up (internal and external) needs to be analysed to see if there is any way to permanently eliminate it or reduce the time and effort it takes.

One technique often used to streamline set-ups is through implementing parallel operations. Doing things in parallel may mean that a job that took say 10 minutes with one person takes 4 minutes with two.

The saving usually comes from eliminating the walking from one end of the machine to the other or the walking from one side of the machine to the other. In this example the total amount of labour used and the time taken are both reduced.

Even if the job took say 6 minutes with two people it would probably still be worth doing this way because of the revenue the machine could make in the extra 4 minutes that it is now available to run.

Finally, there should probably be a 6th point - Repeat.

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