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Setup Reduction

By AICC Staff

July 30, 2018

width=400Who would have thought that you could change four tires and fill a tank of gas in less than three seconds? Well, if you’re a member of a Formula 1 pit crew (or watch the sport, I suppose), then this is not a surprise at all.

Setup reduction is a powerful tool to improve your business. There are many reasons and benefits for completing a setup reduction kaizen. Setup reductions are a low-cost method to find hidden capacity in your operation. Reducing setup times will allow you to reduce your run quantities, especially with inventory orders, so that your scheduling and customer service versatility can be enhanced. From a cultural point of view, team members will feel more engaged as they are included in the improvement process.

The first time I ran a setup reduction kaizen on a flexo, we ended up taking 70 percent of the time out of the process. What business wouldn’t want that kind of improvement?

The first thing to understand with setup reductions is that there are four main components in the anatomy of a setup:

  1. Gathering and preparing. Pulling together all the tooling, ink, board, production tickets, and so on.
  2. Mounting and dismounting. Print plate and cutting dies are taken off and put on the machine.
  3. Aligning and tuning. Ink viscosity checks, print plate alignment to centerlines or zero marks, and steel segment dies are aligned.
  4. Trial runs and adjustments. Print cut placement is fine-tuned, folds and slots are adjusted, and pressures are corrected.

When I think of an ideal setup process, I picture a SWARM of production team members all united in their approach to setup. SWARM represents:

  • Sudden. Don’t wait, attack it, have the pit stop mentality.
  • Work. Work like a team! The setup is not the time to sit back. Help each other and balance the workload.
  • Aligned. Know and work the plan. The various types of setup should each have a play, and there should be a playbook for each machine.
  • Rapid. Move from one task to the next without delay.
  • Measured. If it’s not measured, it can’t be improved. Ensure all crews are measuring setup from the last good box of the completed order to the first good box of the next order. Set improvement goals.

The two most critical concepts to grasp before taking on a setup reduction are that of internal and external steps. Internal steps or tasks are defined as things that can be done only while the machine is down or idle. External steps or tasks can be done while the machine is running—either during the previous order or once the next order is up and running. Identifying and separating these two types of activities is key to realizing the improvements.

The setup reduction process has four steps:

  1. Define current state. Map the process using a value stream mapping exercise. Be sure to identify all steps as either internal or external tasks. Next, you will want to time the steps to determine where the big rocks are to target and prioritize kaizen. Lastly, I’ve always found that mapping the routes that each crew member takes tells a very good story. Asking why (five times, ideally) during all parts of this step will flush out the root causes of the current state.
  2. Separate internal and external steps. Move external tasks to outside of the down/idle time. You may need to think outside of the box for this, as this is usually where you start to hear “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
  3. Remove the waste. Now that external and internal steps are separated, it’s time to reduce or eliminate the eight wastes, balance the workload across the entire team, eliminate manual tools, and create the setup “play.” Think of the last box going through the machine like the snap of a football.
  4. Fine-tune. Just because you’ve discovered the time savings opportunities in the previous step and put counter­measures in place, you’re not done. Look at your new and improved setup, and find more waste.

Automation and equipment advancement in recent years have generated significant improvements in setup times. Things like catwalk systems on multicolor machines and interchangeable cutting die sections/cartridges have enabled previously internal tasks to be done externally. Despite these innovations, there are still opportunities to gather the team and run a setup reduction.

Minutes and seconds add up. Thinking this through based on an eight-hour shift, five minutes saved per setup can equate to 25 minutes per shift, which adds up to two hours in a week. Taking this a couple of steps further, those two hours saved each week generate an extra shift over the month, and by the end of the year, you’ve gained a full week of production. Whoa!

MikeMike Nunn is vice president of operations at Ideon Packaging and is Lean Black Belt-certified. He can be reached at 604-524-0524 or, or followed on Twitter @mikednunn.