Are you setting your workshop up for success?

Many shops have embraced CNC technology and do a good job keeping their machines running by minimising set-up or change-over time. On the other hand, many companies have not mastered the art of rapid set-up, and suffer from too much machine downtime.

Having been involved in numerous set-up time reduction projects, as well as conducting set-up reduction training programmes, I have learned that simple workshoporganisation techniques will generate the biggest savings in set-up time. A well-organised machine set-up procedure can reduce job change-over time by 50% or more.
Here are a few organisational tips any company can apply to reduce their set-up time:
1. Prepare all paperwork, material, fixtures…etc for the next job, while the present job is underway.

Advanced preparation is critical to reducing set-up time. Designate who is to perform what preparation activity, but take into account additional factors including cycle time of present part, operator tasks during CNC machining cycle, number of parts being run, complexity…etc.

  • A department set-up person responsible for preparing the next job
  • Besides getting all required items for the next job, this person may also inspect tools and preset tool lengths, review the CNC programme for accuracy and completeness, and more.

  • A department helper
  • This is an effective way of familiarising new employees with machine set-up and operating procedures. Although the helper may not possess all the skills necessary to perform a complete set-up, this person can do the basics, such as ensuring all necessary paperwork is available; getting the tools, fixtures, and material; and can even assist the operator with machine clean-up. This will reduce idle machine time.

  • A ‘Buddy System’ in which teams of operators work together on set-ups
  • For example if there are two machines with two operators, one can be preparing the next job while the other keeps an eye on both machines (loading and unloading parts, checking…etc). A well-organised team of operators can keep many machines running and still handle job preparation activities.

2. Store hardware and common tools in an easily-accessible area.
Many companies still keep hardware in coffee cans or containers, and employees have to ‘dump and search’ to find what they need. A well-organised system of storage is effective in eliminating search time, which is a major cause of most long set-ups. Use clearly labelled drawers for common tools, and develop some type of simple reorder system to ensure there is sufficient stock of critical items. Consider colour-coding collets and other hardware for easy recognition and access.
tool-changer3. Keep frequently-used tools loaded on the machines whenever possible.
There are certain tools that companies use repeatedly. If the tool magazines or turrets are large enough, these tools should be kept on the machines in predetermined locations. If tools are ‘stored’ on the machine, the operator should take responsibility to maintain these tools. Keeping frequently-used tools on the machine eliminates the time-consuming steps of loading and unloading tools.
4. Develop a standard set-up procedure.
All employees should follow the same sequence of operations when setting up a machine. A set-up checklist ought to be developed for each machine and kept close to it. Consistency in set-up procedures leads to consistency in set-up times, which in turn helps with planning and scheduling
5. Make sure everyone practices proper housekeeping.
Housekeeping in a shop means maintaining a clean and orderly workplace. This involves treating all items carefully and returning them to their proper storage area when no longer needed. “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Cleaning up spills as they occur, and frequently removing chips from the machine keeps clean-up manageable.
These are just some of the ways in which workshops can organise themselves to become more efficient. By preparing in advance and being proactive, you can save time and money while increasing output.


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