Slashing Set-up Time for a Global Manufacturer

Daniel Penn - Case Study

Client: A global designer and manufacturer of cable and antenna systems and active and passive RF conditioning modules for wireless infrastructure.

Situation: To change over production on its cable welding line from one product to the next, the line’s team averaged five hours.

Goal: Reduce changeover time by half; increase production.

Objectives: The DPA consultant worked with a five-member employee team in a Kaizen event to reduce the line’s changeover time from an average of 5 hours to less than 2.5 hours.

Tasks: The Kaizen team was trained in basic lean and set-up reduction concepts. They reviewed a video of the company’s current set up, which they timed at 5 hours 26 minutes. The team analyzed the tasks that took the most time within the setup. Then they brainstormed ways tasks could be eliminated or made more efficient.

Findings: Seven products run on the company’s welding line. After reviewing the video, the team observed that the tooling for the next job had not been made ready for the setup; machine components for the next job were not at the machine needed; and raw materials were not at the line. The flow of work was not organized in an efficient manner. Some tooling bolts were stripped, requiring extra effort to swap out components. The positioning of tools and components required the operator to travel extensive distances back and forth across the line.

Actions: The team devised a new changeover process that required workers to be totally prepared for the next setup while the current product was still running. To reduce waste of motion, they placed the appropriate tools and components next to the parts of the set up that required them. To speed up changeover time and improve safety, they added one operator to the team for a portion of the changeover. To make the machines’ components easier to remove and install, clamps were used to hold tooling instead of bolts. Portable tables were set up at the front and rear of the line to hold parts during changeover. The team worked to improve communication before, during and after each changeover.

Results: Using the above improvements, the team was able to reduce the welding line’s changeover time to one hour 57 minutes in its first trial, a time savings of 61%. The company projects that the increased capacity it gains from reducing setup time will enable the line to produce an additional 461,000 feet of cable per year. The reduction in setup and changeover time will also enable the company to shorten production runs, reduce inventory levels, and have more flexibility in meeting changes in customer requirements.