If a machine or a production site, i.e. individual facilities or entire production lines, is set up for a special processing operation and equipped with the necessary tools, the duration of this changeover is referred to as set-up time. Usually, the set-up time occurs between the production of different parts, which means that the production facility is at a standstill during this time. The set-up time thus includes the time span between the production of one part and the production of another part on the same machine.

During set-up times, nothing is produced, which is why the reduction of set-up times in a value-added chain always represents a potential for optimization and is a decisive factor for flexibility in production.

Set-up time or the setup operation

The setup procedure usually consists of the following four steps:

1. Set-up preparation
2. Tool change
3. Setting
4. Testing and adjusting

Set up time in practice

  • The produced parts for A are transported away and the order is logged off in the system, followed by the registration of the new order. To this end, the new materials and machines required for the production of the parts for B are then provided (see Just-in-Sequence, Just-in-Time).
  • The tools and devices required for the parts of B are attached; this process, the tool change, takes the least time in most cases. Once the new tools are set up, they are adjusted and the corresponding process parameters are set.
  • The last step, testing and adjusting, usually takes the longest. Samples are produced, which have to be checked and evaluated, which may lead to a correction of the parameters and a further test run.

Advantages of low set up times

Short set up times are essential for high flexibility in production. They enable smaller batch sizes, thus also a faster reaction to customer requirements and short-term order changes. Machine running times are extended due to shorter set up times and production capacity is increased. Throughput times are also reduced, as are storage and buffer stocks.

Optimization of set up times

The optimization of set up times is an important factor for companies in terms of profitability and competitiveness. A reduction in set up times is achieved by standardizing the setup process. There are several specific procedures for this purpose, such as the SMED method (Single Minute Exchange of Die) or standardisations in other areas which also affect the set-up time, such as the 5S method. The aim is to reduce set-up times through both organizational and technical measures.

Editor’s note: In some factories, in order to avoid ‘person-intensive’ set up times, productions are specifically assigned. If, for example, production takes place at night, orders, which can be produced fully automatically, are shifted to this time to save costs.

Set-up time in intralogistics

Normally, the logistical operation (replenishment, material provision) and the production line are planned in parallel, since a changeover of facilities within the logistical processes is hardly conceivable for cost reasons. However, in some production facilities, for example in bicycle manufacturing, it is possible to buffer the necessity of retooling with pre-assembly or intermediate assembly. Zones are made available in the warehouse in which work processes that actually require a set up time are outsourced. After pre- or intermediate assembly, the product, in this case the bicycle, is returned to the actual production line.

Summary of set-up time

Set-up time is not one of the value-adding process stages within production and logistics. If machines have to be converted, it is usually because different products are manufactured within this facility. In order for the owner to be able to produce different products and thus serve different markets, he must continuously optimize his set-up time.

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