The work performed at ALFA had as its natural objective the improvement of the production system, and was divided in the following phases:
1. Analyzing the setup operations on the shop floor;
2. Separating internal from external operations;
3. Converting internal to external operations;
4. Streamlining all aspects of the setup operation;
5. Assessing the impact of the methodology implemented;
6. Preparing the diffusion of the new SMED methodology.
Analysis of the Setup Operation on the Shop Floor
In the original stage of the analysis, the strategy implemented was based on the observation and assessment of both the production system and the setup operations, and in individually interviewing the team of workers that carried out the setup operations. The second stage involved gathering documentation on the several observed setups. For that purpose data from ALFA's information system were compared with data picked up through the observation of the production process. The analysis of the production system took place during the setups and the following aspects were analyzed:
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• The standard procedures;
• The communication among workers;
• The performance of each worker in accomplishing his or her function;
• The capability and motivation of each worker in the performing of their respective tasks;
• The difficulties felt by workers during setup operations;
• Settings, calibrations and adjustments during the setup;
• The coordination among the production, quality and logistics departments.
Part of the analysis included interviews with personnel involved in the SMED operations. After interviewing the workers involved in the setup operations it was decided to carry out interviews at several hierarchical levels.
Several interviews took place with the workers involved in setup operations. These interviews targeted the knowledge of the whole setup process, namely the sequence of the operations, the major difficulties faced, the type of training, the development of skills, the quality assessment, etc.
After the interviews it was decided to gather and analyze data of the setup operations. ALFA possessed some data in its information system regarding production and setup times that were helpful during the analysis. These data constituted an initial work base, because it was possible to obtain production times, setup times and detailed times of setup operations. Yet, some data did not match with reality due to mistakes in the recording process of the setup activities.
In order to overcome this problem an analysis of the organizational procedure of the setups was performed involving the logistics department, the production department, the heads of the production sections, the production line supervisors and the SMED teams. The procedure was approved by the production manager. Therefore, it was possible to characterize the setups and to detail all the procedures in order to facilitate a more realistic analysis, which involved the identification of all operations and its evaluation using some videotaping and stopwatches.
The readiness and the cooperation of the SMED team helped us to notice how the whole setup process worked in full detail.
The new data generated were compared with those recorded in the information system. When differences were found the correct data were introduced in the data base. With the implementation of the procedure and the gathering of data of setup operations it was possible to conclude that the setup process involves a large number of people and departments. Accordingly, if the interaction among them is not adequate, the inefficiency may endure. Throughout the study it was possible to conclude that this interaction was one of the greatest problems in the setups and it originated a lot of inefficiency in the whole production process.
Separating Internal from External Operations.
In this phase the setup operations were analyzed in order not only to separate internal from external operations, but also to identify external operations that were taking place together with internal operations.
Separating internal from external setup operations involves distinguishing all the activities of the setup operation and to divide the setup in stages. Thus, the setup was divided into the following four stages:
1. operations to be accomplished one hour before the machine stops;
2. operations to be carried out immediately before the machine stops;
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3. operations to be carried out during the setup operation;
4. operations to be accomplished after the machine is back to normal production.
Converting internal to external Operations
Another important observed aspect was the total lack of previous preparation of the Die. In fact, the Die is placed and inserted in the machine just as it was stored. A possible solution for converting an internal operation to an external one is to turn on the heating resistance of the Die fifteen minutes before the setup is planned to begin, in order for the Die to be at a working temperature when placed in the machine
With the implementation of this measure this operation takes place as an external one and not during the setup. Moreover, it is estimated that the heating of the Die before the setup operation has another important advantage: it saves between five to seven minutes of the operation of calibrating and adjusting of the machine. Another important problem faced was the stabilization of the operating temperatures of the Die, which takes between five to fifteen minutes. If the company used an internal heating control device, extra time could be saved during the setup.
Streamlining all aspects of the setup operation.
In this phase the objective is to accomplish the different setup operations in an easier, faster and safer way. In order to obtain positive pervasive effects of the application of the SMED methodology it was decided that firstly it would be mandatory to generate an internal knowledge perspective so that the improvements be deployed throughout the organization and secondly, after the firm has internalized this new knowledge, to deploy the SMED methodology for the rest of the firms in the GROUP. As mentioned before, during the diagnosis it was possible to witness a lack of coordination of the various setups, due to poor production planning as well as poor coordination of the workers involved in the setup. In order for the first step to be successful it was decided to focus on two different strands: at an operational level as well as at an organizational level. At an organizational level it was decided to propose a SMED supervisor due to the lack of communication between the workers and the SMED teams. This SMED supervisor would be responsible for the training of the members of the SMED teams and for the programming and control of all the setups on the shop floor. During the project, and in order to avoid any misunderstandings within ALFA's organization chart, this SMED supervisor would report to both the Production manager and to the logistics manager (in fact, this SMED supervisor was role playing a project coordinator role in a matrix organization).
With this SMED supervisor it was possible to achieve the following advantages:
• to facilitate the SMED procedures among all teams and team members;
• to plan all the setups with the logistics and production managers;
• to deploy the SMED procedures following a learning-based approach in which all the SMED team members can contribute to a better setup control;
• to prepare in advance all the setups reducing the time with external setup operations and minimizing the internal setup operations.
At an operational level it was possible to coordinate the various setups and to define new standards for all the setups. In the mean time both the logistics and the productions managers could internalize the intricacies of the SMED procedures and were better acquainted with the new improvements. With their involvement it was also possible to improve the data base with the timing of the startup operations, and to present the results to ALFA's board of Directors.
Economic Impact of the SMED Methodology
With the implementation of this SMED Project, and after converting internal to external operations it was decided to analyze the economic impact of the actions so far implemented. In ALFA it is possible to witness the time gained with the new SMED procedures for each group of machines. The base for comparing both results, the previous and the new procedure, was based on the average time involved in the setup times.
Preparation of the Diffusion of the SMED Methodology
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The first strategic step involved the deployment of the methodology implemented at ALFA to the other firms of the GROUP. This involved the training of the SMED team members as well as other production employees in order to spread out the results so far achieved within ALFA. This step was achieved in a short time frame which is between 20 to 30 days.
At the operational level all shop floor operations involving set up activities must be analyzed systematically and for each one of them a checklist containing the description of the activities, the identification of internal and external operations, the average setup time and the operators with training to perform them must be developed. This checklist will allow the SMED coordinators to assess all setup activities.
Once a steady state of SMED operations has been reached at ALFA, the continuous quality improvement teams should include in their portfolio of activities the identification of internal and external setup operations for all operations, the conversion of internal setup operations to external ones, the reassessment of all conventional procedures in order to generate the improvement of the setup times and the deployment of brainstorming sessions to integrate aspects not yet included in the analysis of SMED activities such as plant layout, total quality management, total maintenance management and equipment design changes.
The actions of the continuous quality improvement teams should be moderated with the definition of new targets for the setup times of all SMED operations as well as for the need of continuous adjustments during the production ramp-ups.
All the efforts in reducing the average setup times are doomed unless there is an effort to deploy and co-ordinate the production process planning with the SMED teams. Accordingly, after adequately training all personnel involved in SMED operations the SMED teams were organized around the different modules/sections of the shop floor. Taking into account the type of equipment and the modules/sections of the production departments, it was recommended to organize the SMED teams following a matrix organization. Those teams were led by experienced
SMED team members of the different modules/sections and reported to the production manager. All improvement efforts were focused on improving setup times and with this type of organization the production manager deployed all the resources and teams involving the different sections of the shop floor. Following this matrix organization the production manager controlled the SMED procedures as well as the setup times right after the involvement of a SMED team.
After the implementation, and taking into account a longer time frame as well as the operational and deployment stages, it was recommended to top management to define a brand new organizational structure that involves production planning, production process control, maintenance, quality and SMED teams. With the acquisition of new technologies to improve even further the results achieved, a new solution is to be analyzed by the top management level as it will also involve the definition of new setup times, new production layouts, new production schedules, new training and new SMED procedures. This was expected to be achieved in one year's time. Finally, and after the production manager has succeeded in operationalizing the SMED teams, the introduction of quality and maintenance management continuous improvements in the modus operandi of the SMED teams will be highly recommendable in order to achieve better goals.