One definition of waste is any lost time or money caused by disorganization, duplication of effort and misunderstandings. Most setup-reduction programs make eliminating waste a primary goal. You must of course, expose waste before you can eliminate it. Though waste is easy to spot, it's amazing that so many companies do little to expose and eliminate it. Some people think they don't have time to attack waste. In reality, however, the time taken and the money spent to follow the simple suggestions outlined in this column will be returned countless times.
To expose waste in setup, first determine the difference between how long it should take to perform a task and how long it actually takes. The difference will be waste, and fair game for your setup-reduction program.
Admittedly, determining how long a setup task should take is somewhat subjective. But given how much waste exists in most setups, you can be pretty liberal when determining how long tasks should take.
Say, for example, you want to determine the waste related to assembling and measuring cutting tools for your machining center setups. (It's not a bad idea to focus on but one or two of the many tasks related to making setups to avoid getting overwhelmed.) With your setup people, you determine that the average time tool assembly and measurement should take is about four minutes per tool. But in reality, the tasks related to assembling and measuring cutting tools for a ten-tool program are taking an hour and twenty minutes. That 40-minute difference is waste.
By the way, if you have never targeted the elimination of waste in your setups, you may be very (negatively) surprised at how large a percentage of setup time is waste. It's not unusual that more than 50 percent of setup time can be attributed to waste. So if waste can be eliminated, many companies can cut their setup times in half.
With the waste exposed, the next step is to eliminate it. Since most time-related waste can be attributed to disorganization, it's usually pretty easy and inexpensive to eliminate a great percentage of waste simply by getting more organized. As you're evaluating your setup procedures, it's likely that your setup people will have countless suggestions related to eliminating this kind of waste. For instance, in our tool assembly and measurement example, perhaps the setup person must search the shop to find components needed for tool assemblies. Simply gathering all tool components and organizing them in a central location will eliminate the related waste.
Waste can also be caused by a lack of resources. Again in our cutting tool assembly and measurement example, possibly the setup person cannot assemble a given tool because one of the required toolholders is being used on another machine. Either the setup person has to jury-rig a tool that will suffice or wait until the other machine is finished with the tool. Depending upon how often this is happening, it might be wise to purchase more of the tool components.
Confusion and misunderstandings also result in waste. In our example, if the setup person is confused about how a given tool must be assembled—or worse, the setup person thinks he knows how to assemble the tool, but is mistaken—additional time will be wasted while they figure it out. If a mistake has been made, more time will be wasted while the program is being verified. Better documentation and more training can help eliminate this kind of waste.