What Is Changeover Time? (Definition and Ways to Reduce)
Changeover time is a measurement of how long it takes to transition a machine or production line from working on one product to another. Paying attention to changeover time can be important for any manufacturing plant, as reducing it can help a company save money and produce more products. If you currently have a job in manufacturing, it might be helpful to learn about how to reduce changeover time so you can take steps to improve your production processes at work.
In this article, we define what changeover time is and explore some of the benefits and ways of reducing it.
What is changeover time?
Changeover time refers to the time that passes when a team adjusts the machines or assembly lines in a manufacturing plant to start producing a different product. The process of changeover typically involves tasks like identifying which tool or machine parts a specific product needs for production and replacing unnecessary parts on manufacturing equipment with the needed ones. To properly measure a manufacturing plant's changeover time, the team can start keeping track of time as soon as the production of one product ends and stop the measurement once the production of the next product begins.
For example, if a dental supply company transitions from producing toothbrushes to toothpaste tubes, they might switch out tools for attaching bristles to brushes for tools that fill tubes with toothpaste. They might also have to adjust machine settings and replace materials in each machine. The time to complete these tasks is the company's changeover time.
What are the benefits of reducing changeover time?
Reducing changeover time typically has many benefits, such as giving a manufacturing facility more time for other processes. This can be especially valuable for companies that produce a large number of products, as having high changeover times can reduce the time each day that teams have to produce products and complete other work. Another benefit to reducing changeover time is that it can make it easier to transition between production processes, as minimizing changeover time often results in discovering methods for enhancing the process. Teams can then use these methods for future changeovers and continuously improve their operations.
How can you reduce changeover time?
There can be many ways to reduce changeover time. Here are some of the most common ways to reduce changeover time:
Prepare materials before starting changeover
One of the easiest ways to reduce changeover time is to gather and prepare the materials that a team might need before changeover begins. This can help manufacturers get organized and can allow them to quickly start the changeover process when the time arrives. For example, if a team knows they have a changeover scheduled for the next day, they can consider which machine parts, tools and manufacturing materials they need for the new product and gather them in a central location. Then, when the current product's production ends, they can immediately start the changeover process.
Ensure all equipment is functional at the start of the day
Making sure that any manufacturing equipment a team plans to use is functioning properly can also help to reduce changeover time. This is because if a team begins changeover and later discovers a faulty part or malfunctioning machine, they often have to stop production until they address the error and might have to restart the changeover process. To avoid this, it can be helpful for a team to inspect all equipment and tools they plan to use at the beginning of the workday so they can make any necessary repairs before production starts.
Related: 6 Types of Manufacturing Processes
Use a checklist
A checklist can be another great way to reduce changeover time because it can minimize the time that a team spends determining what they need to do. To use a checklist for the changeover process, a manufacturing team can list each task they need to complete and provide a space where people can mark off each task once they finish it. Creating a checklist at least one day before the changeover occurs can be beneficial because the team can simply look at the list and complete each task once it begins.
There are also many ways to create a checklist, such as using a pen and paper or a cell phone application, but it can be helpful to ensure that everyone on a team can access the checklist either digitally or in a central location in the workplace.
Create reference materials
Reference materials can include items like logbooks for tools and notes that explain how to complete a machine's setup. While many employees in a manufacturing plant might be familiar with where materials are located and how to prepare equipment, having a standard set of guidelines that everyone can reference can reduce confusion and help ensure that everyone has the same level of awareness. This can also reduce changeover time by minimizing the time that a team spends asking each other how to do something or where a particular item is, as everyone can reference the logbook or notes.
Once a team creates reference materials, it can be most helpful to place them in a location where everyone can access them easily, such as online or posted on the wall in the workplace.
Organize used materials at the end of changeover
It can be a common practice in any workplace for employees to return any items or materials they use to their storage places immediately after using them. However, during the changeover process, this can increase the time that a team spends switching out equipment, as they might have to pause or travel to different parts of a plant to put tools or materials away.
This is why it can be ideal to place items from the previous production process in a designated central location during changeover that's close to the manufacturing line. Then the team can organize the used items after changeover is complete.
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