Clever cost reduction with set-up time optimisation

by Lothar Bildhäuser
Faster, bigger, more flexible, better - in times of globalisation, digitalisation and increasing cost and competitive pressure, anyone who wants to survive in the market must be active and clever at the same time. But what does this mean in concrete terms for manufacturing companies? What challenges do they have to face? And what opportunities are there to help you stand out from the competition?

1. Objective (Why?)
Hidden potential for cost reduction
Our machines must become even better and more efficient! - This is a typical opinion of many entrepreneurs when it comes to increasing economic efficiency. In addition, companies today have to be particularly flexible and requirement-oriented in their response to increasingly differentiated customer demands. It therefore makes sense to regularly optimise existing plants and machines or to invest in new ones. At the same time, however, many companies often accept long set-up times and the disadvantages associated such as high batch sizes and inventories, low flexibility and, of course, standstills.

And this is exactly where there is great potential for savings: The setup processes take up a heavily underestimated component of the production processes and by extension also of the costs, because during the setup times the production stands still - and standstill is time span in which no money is earned.

By systematically reducing these set-up times, downtimes owing to machine standstills can be reduced by up to 80 per cent, which saves time and money. In addition, production processes become much more flexible, enabling companies to produce small batches or change products more frequently. This more flexible way of plant utilisation gives companies a major competitive advantage.

Developing the economic capability for small batches through rapid set-up
In addition to the above, this means developing the ability to produce each part again and again at the shortest possible intervals. The development of this capability is a continuous process.

The progress of the flexibility of a production chain can be determined with the indicator EPEI (Every Part Every Interval). An EPEI 1 means that any part could be produced every day.The biggest operating lever for continuously decreasing batch sizes, as mentioned above, is the drastic reduction of the time required for the individual set-up processes. With the same output, the number of set-up operations is increased accordingly. This also reduces wastage due to overproduction, which is evident from the reduction in inventories between the process chains.

However, it only makes sense to set up more frequently if the production control system consistently refrains from combining quantities into large batches.

If the number of setup operations is increased due to the reduction of individual production lots, the risk of malfunctions often increases, especially during start-up. With the TPM concept (Total Productive Management), this can be remedied by increasing machine availability (OEE) and virtually eliminating unplanned downtimes. Reducing the processing time gives you a third manipulated variable to make the process more stable and secure. If all possibilities are used to produce in a cost-efficient manner in small batches, this can also be strategically used and communicated by sales and marketing as a competitive advantage.

The advantages of set-up time optimisation at a glance

  • short throughput times - flexible plant utilisation - production of small batch sizes - increase of OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness = total plant efficiency)
  • Cost reduction due to lower inventories
  • easier retrofitting due to standardised setup process schedules
  • improved processes in the setup processes - fewer interruptions

Up to 80 percent less downtime with the SMED method
The SMED method is a proven method for reducing set-up times. SMED stands for Single Minute Exchange of Die. Die (In English) = tool for forming machining). This means that the retrofitting of a system or machine from product A to product B (= product change) is in the single-digit minute range, i.e. less than 10 minutes. This is achieved by organisational as well as technical measures.

The procedure is standardised and begins with an intensive analysis of the current situation. Subsequently, the separation into internal and external setup processes as well as the relocation of the internal steps to external steps takes place. The aim is to reduce internal and external setup processes.

2. Procedure (How?)
Procedure for the SMED method

  1. Actual analysis: Inventory of the current setup process
  2. Separation into internal and external setup processes [internal: when the plant is stopped; external: when the plant is running]
  3. Relocation of internal setup steps to external setup steps [Setup preparation and post-processing; reduction of machine standstills]
  4. reduce internal setup
  5. reduce external setup
  6. regular repetition for a continuous improvement process (CIP)

Practical implementation through SMED workshops
A two-day SMED workshop is appropriate to ensure that the SMED method can be professionally guided and consistently implemented in the company. Here, all participants receive the necessary input and new impulses on how to control their production processes much more efficiently. In many cases, set-up times can be reduced by up to 80 percent. The target groups of such an SMED workshop are managers and employees from production, development, work preparation, material and production control.

Together, we analyse the current situation in your production and consider the entire setup process. We uncover weak points and opportunities and then define concrete measures with which you or your employees can gradually and sustainably achieve your goals - for a continuous improvement process.

Such an SMED workshop can be conducted both internally and externally. The advantage of the internal workshop is the work in your own company on site - directly on the machine. In this way, all steps can be individually adapted to your own requirements - with measurable results. On the other hand, the external workshop in the host company has the advantage that work can be carried out here independently of one's own operational processes.

SMED-Coach - the internal SMED expert
Qualification as SMED-Coach is suitable for consistent implementation in your own company and a continuous improvement process: This coach is able to plan and successfully carry out appropriate workshops and trainings for process improvement in his own company, to recognise potentials and to initiate improvements. The SMED coach trains his colleagues and thus contributes to significantly more efficient processes.

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Lothar Bildhäuser is an expert for setup time optimisation/SMED and workshop trainer. With Diploma in Engineering (Uni) for Industrial Engineering and Ergonomics, he has 20 years of professional experience in the field of SMED setup time optimisation and SMED workshops in over 70 companies. He believes that: Every company has the potential to increase productivity by optimising set-up times.