How FactoryOps can change your changeover inefficiencies

July 8, 2022
"Optimizing changeovers to be as lean and efficient as possible can have a significant impact on the bottom line."

Changeovers represent one of the biggest sources of waste in manufacturing. Whether they span just a few minutes or even take weeks, changeovers can contain loads of inefficiencies. Additionally, long changeovers typically happen repeatedly, consistently draining your money every single day, week and month. 

Frustrating? For sure. But that also means that changeovers represent one of the biggest levers for improvement. Let’s take a look… 

Benefits of focusing on changeovers

Optimizing changeovers to be as lean and efficient as possible can have a significant impact on the bottom line, enabling manufacturers to get more from their existing machines without requiring additional capex. Improving changeovers is one of the single biggest levers on unit economics because it gives you more capacity to sell; every hour you save on changeover time is additional capacity on your machine that you can turn into products you can sell. 

Oftentimes, changeovers are overlooked as they don’t have the same urgency as a machine breaking down, or lack of labor to operate a machine.

However, unlike machine breakdowns, changeovers are planned and known to reoccur, which gives manufacturers the opportunity to identify trends to improve upon. This provides manufacturers one of the greatest opportunities to capitalize on historical data and make educated, profitable changes that drive straight to the bottom line. 

Not only is there room for reducing lost revenue due to lost production time by optimizing your changeovers, but reducing changeover time can also enable your team to confidently run more frequent changeovers and have smaller lot sizes without risking disruption, which can dramatically increase your production flexibility and ability to respond to customer demand. As an additional benefit, streamlining these changeovers can not only improve efficiency but also reduce scrap because teams are making fewer adjustments to setup.

The improvement potential for optimizing changeovers can be dramatic. For example, in a study done at a power electric-controls company, researchers found that by reducing changeovers, WIP of plastic components reduced from 5 to 1.09 days of work corresponding to a WIP cost reduction of more than 80%.

Methods for tracking changeovers

Systematically understanding and controlling the true impact of your changeovers is more important than ever. In this economic climate, more manufacturers are looking for ways to be as lean and efficient as possible to reduce lost production time, and changeovers are often one of the biggest levers.

One of the first ways to begin understanding and controlling your changeovers is by getting real-time visibility into your machines—and the good news is that getting that foundation of visibility is now 100X faster than it used to be. FactoryOps systems, for example, can get started quickly by using sensors that clip onto any machine in minutes and use the electrical current drawn by the machine to track how it is running. Then, from any phone, tablet or desktop, manufacturers can see main reasons for downtime and compare by machine, shift, day, etc. Once they have a foundation of real-time visibility into their machines, manufacturers can quantify the impact of their changeovers and get actionable, data-driven insights to improve. 

Simply starting to drill into the details of downtime due to changeovers can quickly expose opportunities for teammates to learn and share best practices across shifts or geographies. For example, looking at visuals of changeovers, you might find that Eric’s day-shift changeover is much quicker than Luke’s night-shift changeover. Eric takes one hour while Luke takes two. After identifying this discrepancy, Eric and Luke can chat about how they are managing these changeovers; maybe Eric keeps his material in a certain place to maximize changeover speed. From there, Luke can follow Eric’s example to get back that hour of lost production time on his shift.

Traditionally, technology that provides this foundation of real-time visibility has been expensive, time-consuming to implement, and cumbersome to use, but advances in technology have put this within reach of every manufacturer. Any machine, no matter the age, make or model can now be connected to cloud-based software that easily analyzes data and provides real-time information to optimize changeovers. Technology makes it possible to get this type of information within days, and then quickly scale across multiple plants. 

Specific ways to improve changeovers

Once manufacturers have visibility, they can take a number of direct actions. First, they can increase on-time delivery by identifying obvious areas of lost production time—start-ups or breaks running too long, for example—and taking action such as setting up alert escalation to get those hours back and increase capacity moving forward. 

Next, they can use data to identify opportunities to apply best practices to optimize changeover efficiency. These best practices can be as easy as keeping a checklist of steps by a machine to stay organized during a changeover and make sure critical steps are not forgotten. Another example could be similar to the example with Eric and Luke—keeping material close to the machine to avoid downtime while retrieving new material. Similarly, defining clear roles and responsibilities for each changeover can help reduce unnecessary motion and waiting, making the process as systematic as possible. More generally, teams can apply the process of continuous improvement with great results to optimize changeovers by identifying the biggest opportunities to improve, testing an action or change, and then measuring the result. 

Lastly, manufacturers can quantify the impact of initial actions on lowering costs to determine which changes to scale across more machines and plants. Making initial progress with faster changeovers that result in less equipment downtime and reducing lost revenue due to that lost production time typically provide quantifiable impact that can justify even further optimization. Wins beget wins. 

Improving changeovers can drive significant positive impact within manufacturing operations. Taking action to get a single source of truth, to identify the biggest levers to improve, and to measure progress and the financial impact of optimizing changeovers is within reach of any manufacturer. 

By Lauren Dunford, CEO of Guidewheel