“Setup” Your Business for Success (Lean Part 3)


On the surface, setup reduction might not seem to provide a significant payback, since set-up time in most manufacturing facilities usually represents 10 percent or less of total processing time. In other words, if the facility completely eliminates set-up time, the increase in capacity would not exceed 10 percent. Naturally, you might ask, “Is it worth all the effort?”

Increasing capacity is clearly an important motivator for improving set-up time. Looking closely at capacity issues can reveal that most problems are caused by limited output of just one or two machines or processes. These bottlenecks can limit an entire facility’s output, and are probably responsible for most late orders. Focusing time and effort on reducing set-up for key machines is going to be a good investment.

Most organizations effective at reducing set-up times discover big benefits in lead-time reduction and increased customer responsiveness. Reducing set-up time also allows companies to reduce batch sizes, which results in an equal-percentage reduction in lead time and the ability to meet customer demands quickly without the expense of excess inventory.

In a relatively short amount of time, a company can reduce lead time by more than 50 percent. Just recently, Metallized Carbon, an Ossining, NY manufacturer of engineered self-lubricating carbon and graphite products, cut costs by almost $30,000 by implementing a short setup reduction program. Their improvements makes batch sizes more economical, while reducing Work In Progress (WIP) and inventory levels. An estimated total time saved as a result of their efforts is 1,112.5 hours per year, or 46 total days.

However, a set-up reduction program’s most significant payback is that it may be the most crucial element, and usually the first step in implementation, of a successful Lean manufacturing program. Without the reduced batch sizes, none of Lean manufacturing’s other components can be implemented to its highest effect.

Below is a list of questions to help you identify the state of your company as it applies to potential setup reduction rules and methods:

  • Do you treat all external activities as true external activities? External activities refer to those that must be done while the machine is running, such as retrieving parts for an incoming order, while internal activities are defined as those done while the machine is stopped, such as changing the probes on a welding machine.
  • Do you make sure to limit as many internal activities as possible? Do you get tools and other needed items ahead of time?
  • Do you pre-heat parts offline that need to be hot to operate properly?
  • Do you make sure to orient and position things so that changeover operators aren’t required to move more than necessary?
  • Are your machines and parts color coded or labeled in an efficient way to prevent mistakes?
  • Do you review changeovers for improvement opportunities?
  • Are your work areas well-organized?
  • Are your material handling systems lengthy or overly complex?

Addressing these and several more questions will make for less waste, better quality, more flexibility, improved on-time delivery, decreased costs, and ultimately less stress.

For more information on the application of setup reduction or for help answering these questions, contact Business Development Advisor, Ralph Brown, at 914-393-98765, or ralph.brown@hvtdc.org.