Reducing the changeover time in your main production practices is a great way to ensure that more time is spent contributing to productive tasks, and that a minimal amount of waste is generated in the course of the job. There are many ways to approach this problem, and the solution would ultimately depend strongly on your specific industry, but as long as you keep some general pointers in mind, you should be able to see some pretty good results with relatively little effort. The most important point to remember is that standardization paves the way to great improvements in the optimization of your workflow, so that’s the general direction you should be looking in.
Deploy SMED in Your workflow
By far, the best improvements to most organizations’ workflows can be realized through careful application of Single-Minute Exchange of Dies or SMED for short. It’s a proven, established technique that can produce great optimizations and can reduce your changeover time significantly, but it does require a good deal of preparation and intricate knowledge of your production processes.
The main point of SMED is to separate the key processes in your organization into discrete steps which can then be analyzed separately. SMED also takes care of processes which should normally be externalized but are treated internally in your organization at the moment for some reason. When applied correctly, it can significantly streamline your whole operation and help you ensure that you’re maintaining a low profile in your changeover time.
We mentioned this above, but it’s definitely worth expanding on. An organization with proper standardization of its processes can identify bottlenecks much more easily and trim the fat with greater efficiency. When something is done in a certain way across the entire company, issues with the structure of these processes will often start to pop up, and you can work on them more directly. On the other hand, if you’re working in a sort of ad-hoc way for every project, it will be quite difficult to ensure that you see any opportunity for improvements. These details will just get lost in the major noise.
This also applies to the tools that your team members are working with. Even if they produce the same output from the same input, it’s also important to ensure that the actual process through which these results are achieved is kept consistent between the different tools. Otherwise, you risk running into serious performance issues when someone has to switch to a different workstation temporarily for whatever reason, in which case you’re likely going to observe a sharp reduction in performance with regards to changeover times.
Use a Checklist
This is somewhat similar to the point about standardization, but not quite the same thing. When you have a rigid checklist that everyone can follow in their workflow, this can reduce the time needed to change a workstation significantly, especially when the process is more complicated and requires the verification of its steps at some point. A checklist is simply one of the best tools for minimizing human error and ensuring that things are kept in check from every critical angle.
Plus, checklists are very simple to implement, and most people in your organization should already be familiar with them as a technique anyway. You can start the process by simply going around and asking everyone responsible for a certain process to try and distill it down to a specific set of steps that form an algorithm-like procedure, and then work from those lists for the actual checklists that will be deployed across the different workstations.
It’s important to actively get feedback from your workers regarding the implementation of those checklists though, as they can sometimes backfire if not designed correctly. Issues in this area should be resolved as quickly as possible.
There are various ways to ensure that the changeover time in your organization is kept to a bare minimum. As long as you keep a standardized approach to your processes, and familiarize yourself with the specific needs of each department, you should be able to see significant reductions in the overall changeover time, and you may even be able to remove some processes from the workflow completely once they become redundant.