Micron Manufacturing's Lean Team Reduces Setup Time By More Than 50 Percent

Micron Manufacturing, a PMPA member located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, faced a setup problem. More than half of the company's sales came from its Acme Gridley multi-spindle equipment. Unfortunately, the average run quantity was shrinking, thus increasing the number of setups required. Because the setup time was becoming a greater percentage of each order's total time, it was driving up costs.

 Micron Manufacturing, a PMPA member located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, faced a setup problem. More than half of the company's sales came from its Acme Gridley multi-spindle equipment. Unfortunately, the average run quantity was shrinking, thus increasing the number of setups required. Because the setup time was becoming a greater percentage of each order's total time, it was driving up costs.

The Lean Team. Micron management assigned seven people to a "Lean Team" with the goal of reducing setup time by 25 percent over 6 months. The company was looking for a fresh perspective, therefore, none of the team members were from the Acme Gridley department.

During the 6-month period, the Lean Team spent 4 hours each Thursday afternoon working on the project. The team did everything from reading books about lean skills to practicing with small projects.

The team determined that a setup involved changing the collets, cams, feed/speed gears, holders and tooling. A baseline setup time was established and the team divided the setup into tasks performed with the machine off and on.

The spaghetti diagram. One of the tools that helped determine internal from external tasks was a floor plan of the work area showing the paths taken to do a setup. This "spaghetti" diagram included the entire department, but was centered on a machine-specific workspace.

"We divided the workspace into three color-coded zones," says Brian Hoff, a member of Micron's Lean Team. "The green zone was within arm's reach of the machine, the yellow zone was a 10 feet by 15 feet area around the machine, and the red zone was everywhere beyond that area. The team mapped out where the setup person traveled within those zones."

There was a different map for each of the tasks. The maps were used to determine total time, step count and distance traveled. The spaghetti diagram delivered detailed information, including what each of the steps cost.

"The biggest opportunity for savings wasn't in the machine," according to Micron Plant Manager Dan Vermeesch. "About 53 percent of the setup was outside the machine. Up until that discovery, we had spent most of our efforts trying to do things to the machine to make it faster and more efficient. Learning about the time that external tasks required was an important lesson for us."

The spaghetti diagram showed the team that it had to make tooling easier to find and move that tooling closer to where it would eventually be used. "A large portion of that 53 percent of setup was spent looking for things like pusher pads and parts chutes," Mr. Vermeesch says.

The 5S Method. To establish a new method for storing and organizing the items needed during a setup, the team used the 5S method: sort, shine, set in place, standardize and sustain.

"Sort" was the first step. With help from the Acme department, the Lean Team determined what items had to be kept, repaired, replaced, put away, stored, sold or scrapped. This worked very well for collets, gears and cams. The team members determined how and where the items would be organized, and they created storage shelves, cam racks, setup drawers and other storage systems.

The "shine" portion of 5S involved gathering various types of toolholders and identifying them by machine size, cross-slide location and holder type. Each holder was cleaned, identified and inventoried. Any holder that wasn't in working order was repaired or replaced, then color-coded and put on a shelf or "set in place." It was then easy to tell if holders were missing or how many of a particular type were available.

The setup cart. The Lean Team then established a setup cart checklist to ensure that all necessary items were on the cart before it was wheeled to the machine. That satisfied the "standardize" part of the 5S method. The goal was to eliminate "walking around" time. All wrenches, cleaning brushes, screwdrivers and other setup tools were placed on the cart. Each item had a specific location, was shadow-outlined and clearly labeled.

On each setup, the cart operator collected data that revealed details such as how long it took for the carts to make their way through each setup. The experience helped further reduce setup time and resulted in new methods for preparing the cart.

The results. "The results were amazing," Mr. Hoff says. "We reduced Acme setup time by 34 percent in the first 6 months. Remember, the goal was 25 percent. The team now had a documented plan for what it wanted to accomplish. In the first year alone, we achieved a $2.43 return on each dollar invested."

After the first 6 months passed, the Lean Team continued to work on the project, fine-tuning cart preparation and using the 5S method. Setup time was reduced by 47 percent after 1 year, and today the number is at 53 percent.

"We never would have guessed that the majority of the waste was outside the machine, not inside," Mr. Hoff continues. "Using what we learned from the Lean Team, we've saved even more time and money on projects ranging from implementing dedicated gage stations to a shop-wide consolidation of drills and taps. We learned that we can successfully apply lean concepts and 5S just about anywhere in our company."

"Probably the greatest lesson learned was that we finally recognized the need for a process to manage change," Mr. Vermeesch adds.

"We now have a formal, organized method of determining, prioritizing and controlling the pace and direction of change.
"We've created a process of continuous improvement and change management. We've also achieved a cultural change with two-thirds of our employees now on teams. There's no expensive new technology. Just committed management, willing employees, a lot of training and challenging problems."

The setup team welcomes questions from other PMPA members and encourages plant visits. "We would love to hear what works for other PMPA members," Mr. Hoff says. "There's always room for more change."

PMPA offers a more in-depth look at Micron Manufacturing's setup time reduction in a Business Intelligence Report. To read the full story, visit the PMPA Web site at www.pmpa.org.