Two concepts that work so well together in streamlining production processes are the 5S System of workplace organization and quick changeover. These concepts are so interrelated that it’s hard to imagine anyone significantly reducing setup times without having a good understanding of how to achieve an organized workplace. The 5S vision is that there should be a place for everything, and everything should be kept in that place. Quick changeover concepts stress preparing things in advance to minimize machine downtime during setup. Organization, standardization, measurement and continuous improvement are the foundation of both of these concepts.
Let’s look at the 5S’s and see how they can each lead to reduced setup times.
The first S—sort—states that things not needed for the job at hand should be moved from the work area. Sorting focuses on removing anything that clutters the work area, thereby making it easier to locate the items that are needed. When setting up a machine, we need certain tools, fixtures, materials and possibly supporting equipment. Anything else in the work area will just get in the way, so it needs to be moved somewhere else. If we know the proper location for these unneeded items (which we do in a vast majority of cases), we should put them there. If we do not, we should take them to a holding area pending finding a home or disposal. If we do not move unneeded items out of the way, we run a number of risks. First, and most importantly, they could pose a hazard and cause an injury. Second, we may use them in a way they were not intended. For example, the wrong tools might be used to produce bad parts, or the wrong gages might be used and yield confusing or inaccurate measurements. By sorting out what we don’t need, we reduce the time spent looking through things and, in the worst case, wasting time trying to make things work in applications for which they were never intended.
The second S—set in order—requires that all things needed for a job be organized so that anyone can find them in short order. (Some people believe that anyone should be able to find anything in a work area in 30 seconds or less.) Set in order techniques include labels, lines, signs and other visual indicators to convey clear messages about where things belong and if they are missing. When setting up a machine, advance preparation requires finding everything you need quickly. If we are trying to prepare the next job while the current job is running, we cannot spend extended periods of time away from the machine searching for things we need. This means that tools need to be put in designated locations, raw materials and supplies should be organized and identified, fixtures should be conveniently located and clearly labeled, and auxiliary equipment needs a permanent home. A good system of organization will reduce the time we spend searching and allow us to complete our setups sooner.
The third S—shine—requires that equipment, floors, benches and other work surfaces be kept clean and free of debris. In addition, as we maintain a clean area, we have the opportunity to inspect things to ensure that they are in good working order. With setups, how often do we experience delays resulting from leaks or minor equipment problems that could have been spotted and corrected with an effective cleanup routine? It has been proven time and again that a clean and well-maintained machine will run better and last longer.
The fourth S—standardize—stresses that our organization efforts should be repeatable and easy to practice. An effective standard makes keeping things organized easier than not doing so. Standard practices that transform workplace organization into a daily routine go a long way in helping streamline setup activities. For example, a workplace organization standard calling for certain tools to permanently remain in all machines will reduce the time required to load and unload tools. Likewise, a standard that identifies the hand tools to be used on all machines, along with the location of these tools at the machines, will support repeatability of the setup process from one machine to another. Finally, a workplace standard identifying how and where to locate general-purpose and special fixtures will contribute to improvements in setup time.
The fifth S—sustain—requires that we monitor our workplace organization efforts on an ongoing basis to ensure that we stay organized and do not fall back into old habits. Checklists, audits, meetings and ongoing communication tools help focus attention on workplace organization. Ultimately, a workplace that remains organized supports better and faster setups, allowing you to make greater use of your machine tools.