Team 1 Plastics Realizes Significant Improvement in Changeover Process
Continuous improvement in all aspect of its business is a constant focus of Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the transportation industry. One specific area of focus over the past year has been to reduce the amount of time that it takes to change from one production job to the next. The company is pleased to report that the average changeover time has dropped by 70% since November 2017, and is working to improve that percentage even more.
According to Dave Sanford, Quality Manager for Team 1 Plastics, the company projected about a year ago that sales for 2018 were going to be similar to 2017. Sanford said, “We realized we needed to make some changes to how we operate to become more efficient and profitable in 2018 with similar sales as 2017.”
The company began looking for areas where they could become more efficient and realize cost savings. One of those areas was the changeover process – changing from one production job on an injection molding press to the next job. Sanford said, “Our tool changeover process was reviewed. We found that there was a significant amount of waste and that Team 1 was nowhere close to industry average.”
The changeover process, performed by Team 1’s Die Setter, includes things like ending the production run on the press, extracting the current molding die from the press and inserting a new molding die, adjusting robots, and sometimes other equipment depending on what the next molding process requires, and then starting the press back up with the new molding die to run production. While this is happening, the material handler is removing the material from the last production run and bringing in the new material for the new production run.
Sanford said that when Team 1 reviewed the changeover process last year, the company utilized four Team Members as Die Setters, and the average changeover time was 227 minutes. “By reducing our changeover time, we could perform the same amount of tool changes each week while reducing staff, increasing capacity, and decreasing planned overtime.”
The company put together a cross-functional team made of Process Techs, Shift Captains, Material Handlers, Die Setters, and Quality. The team set a goal of 45 to 60 minutes for an average changeover and then began the process of problem solving how the changeover process could become more efficient in able to meet the goal. “We involved all key team members from the beginning, and everyone’s input was appreciated and accepted,” Sanford said.
Several ideas for improvement began to be implemented. The most significant changes were creating and using a changeover checklist, reorganizing the Die Setters’ tool cart so it only contained the tools that were needed for a changeover, and storing molds next to the presses that they would be used on. Implementing these changes had dropped the average changeover time by March 2018 to 119 minutes, and enabled the company to reduce the number of Die Setters from four to two.
Sanford said that there was some initial “push back” by Team Members when the company announced that it was reducing the number of Die Setters . “But, once everyone was on the same page, saw the data that had been collected, and understood our goals, they were on board.” He added, “No Team Members lost their jobs while we made the transition from four to two Die Setters.”
Not satisfied yet with the average changeover time, the company spent three months tracking the reasons for delays and charting the number of occurrences. It was discovered that the top three delays were caused by preparing end-of-arm-tools to install on the robots to pick the parts from the mold for the next job, waiting for the barrel temperatures on the press to either increase or decrease, and waiting for molds to heat up to the appropriate temperatures.
The company devised solutions for all three issues, and as of September 2018, the average changeover time was reduced to 67 minutes. Sanford said the company continues to work on reducing the time – continuous improvement. “We’re still working on our tasks from the Kaizen event that we had in September to further improve our time.”