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    How to Optimize Your Setup Processes with MachineMetrics

    (Up)Time is Money

    Several years ago while I was visiting a customer’s manufacturing facility, the plant manager acting as my tour guide stopped suddenly outside the door to the main production floor. He turned to me with a knowing smile and asked, “Do you know what that sound is?”

    There could be no mistaking the source of the thunderous booming on the other side of the heavy metal door. “I assume that’s your stamping press?” I answered.

    To my surprise, he shook his head no. “That’s the sound of money. If I walk by this door and don’t hear that sound, I know we’re not making money. And that means trouble.”

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    This plant manager was known for his wry sense of humor but what he said has stayed with me. If there is one universal truth in manufacturing, it’s that every minute a machine is not running is a minute that the machine is not producing the goods needed to make money.

    For this reason, downtime is manufacturing public enemy number one.

    Inefficient Setup Processes Increase Downtime

    For high-mix, low-volume manufacturers such as job shops and contract manufacturers, one of the biggest contributors to downtime is setup. In these types of environments, most of the products produced require machine operators to perform a unique setup process to ensure that equipment is prepared for each specific job.

    Common setup activities include:

    • Tooling: Removing and exchanging existing tools for the new ones required for the next job. This can often include a visit to a tool room where tools are laid out in advance or they self-select what they need from the tool inventory.
    • Calibration: Ensuring the machine’s program knows exactly where the part’s zero or centerline is and properly setting up the fixturing to keep parts firmly in place.
    • First Run: Slowly running the first piece to test that each tool path is running properly.
    • Quality Checks: Conducting various quality checks throughout the first run to confirm that the setup has been done according to the job’s specifications.

    If any element of the setup process is done incorrectly, it can result in high scrap rates, low yield, poor product quality, and missed orders. Understandably, operators take the setup process very seriously.

    But achieving the required level of precision and attention to detail also takes considerable time, even more so if the company has not established crystal clear communication between departments or struggles with workforce turnover. For companies with a large number of jobs, this time can add up in a big way.

    Optimized Setups Require Process, Communication, and Training

    When an R&D team develops a new product, the engineers are largely focused on making the product the best it can be. But the engineers’ efforts do not always take into consideration what is required to efficiently produce the product at scale.

    For example, engineers will likely provide documentation on which tools to use and how the machine should be calibrated, but they can often leave too much room for interpretation by the machine operators who will ultimately prepare equipment for production. Operators are often left to work out for themselves the exact steps in the process, the order in which those steps should be completed, and which steps can take place concurrently.

    Additionally, these complex processes can be difficult to learn. For manufacturers struggling with retaining employees, this can often mean new or inexperienced operators are completing setups without having received comprehensive training.

    Needless to say, if a manufacturer has not established a standard setup process or experiences high rates of employee turnover, job setups can create costly delays and inefficiencies.

    Timing is Everything

    The first and most important step in optimizing setup processes is to have an accurate measure of how long each setup is taking.

    For manufacturers that don’t have technology in place to accurately track their setup times, this is much easier said than done. Supervisors are often relying on such rudimentary methods as timing their operators with a stopwatch or asking operators to self-report their setup times, adding more tasks to an already complex process. This is clearly inefficient and inaccurate.

    With MachineMetrics, manufacturers can accurately track exactly how long each setup takes and use real-time reporting tools to quickly pinpoint which setups are running inefficiently and identify if those setups have any commonalities - is it always the same machine, the same operator, or the same job type? - in order to address the problems. Additionally, MachineMetrics customers use these tools to identify which setups are running most efficiently so they can establish best practices that can be applied more broadly.

    What does this process look like in MachineMetrics?

    SETUP TIMES_No caption

    ACCURATE SETUP TIMES: Machine operators interact with MachineMetrics through the Operator Dashboard via devices throughout the shop floor. To capture accurate setup times, the machine operator selects "Start In Setup" at the beginning of each new job. Once the setup process has been completed, the operator simply selects "Start Production."

    SETUP VISUAL No Caption

    VISUAL PROGRESS: Throughout the Setup process, the Operator Dashboard provides machine operators with clear visual cues and the ability to call for assistance if required.


    SETUP ANALYSIS: Using MachineMetrics' reporting capabilities, supervisors can easily compare Actual Setup times to the Expected Setups. Users have the ability to slice the data by a number of factors - such as machine, shift, job, or operator - to detect commonalities.


    PINPOINT SETUP ISSUES: MachineMetrics provides a quick view of Setup performance that can be filtered by machine, job, or operator in order to quickly identify areas that require more attention.

    How One Precision Part Manufacturer Solved the Setup Problem

    To get a better sense of what these high-mix, low-volume manufacturers are up against, let’s look at an example from a customer that was able to use MachineMetrics to dramatically improve their setup processes.

    General Grind & Machine produces quality precision parts for a number of industries including agriculture, construction, and heavy equipment. With a diverse range of capabilities to meet their equally diverse customers’ needs, General Grind was conducting 126 setups on 20 different machines during just one month’s setup period.

    Company leadership knew they could do better and embarked on a continuous improvement program to increase overall equipment effectiveness. They recognized that this would improve throughput, allowing them to continue their growth trajectory and boost their levels of customer service. Ultimately, the goal was to gain complete control over their machine and operational data to reduce downtime, identify production bottlenecks, and improve reaction time to factory floor issues.

    Using MachineMetrics, General Grind was able to accurately measure their setups, which accounted for a total of nearly 212 hours of non-production time in just one setup period. Moreover, their actual setup times were taking an average of 35 minutes more than their standard expected time-per-setup. When you add that up, the setup overage was costing General Grind nearly 74 extra hours of valuable production time than they had planned against.

    Armed with accurate data and visibility into which setups required their attention, General Grind’s production team now meets every week to review the MachineMetrics reports and uses that time to learn best practices from top performers.

    Additionally, the company has also implemented a bold new setup strategy that they expect to pay dividends:

    “We’ve also established what we call the pit crew. This involved putting together a team that's exceptionally good at doing different setups. They have a daily schedule that details what's going to be set up and roughly when, so they have a better idea of exactly what to expect. They can get everything prepared, complete the setup, leave, and everything starts running smoothly. We expect this to further reduce our setup times.”

    — Blake Bieri, COO of General Grind & Machine

    All told, since implementing MachineMetrics, General Grind & Machine has gained an additional 6,900 hours of machine capacity and increased machine utilization by 100%.


    Accurate Data Drives Process Optimization

    MachineMetrics gives manufacturers the tools they need to get a clear view of what is happening on their shop floor and enables them to pinpoint the areas in need of attention.

    The benefits of accurate data and insights from MachineMetrics cannot be overstated:

    • Accurate data allows manufacturers to quickly identify which setups are occurring as expected and which are in need of attention.
    • Comprehensive reporting capabilities enable manufacturers to identify commonalities among “trouble” setups to guide them to the root issue.
    • Broadly accessible data ensures all staff are on the same page, removes ambiguity, and allows for clearer lines of communication between departments to solve problems together.
    • Clear processes and best practices eliminate guesswork and empower operators to focus solely on the critical work of properly completing a setup.

    Capture Accurate Data to Optimize Processes



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