Halving changeover time at a cosmetics manufacturer

Background
The client is an international manufacturer of cosmetics with three production sites in Europe. The company wanted to stimulate growth by increasing efficiency in production and reducing unit costs. Both are fundamentally influenced by plant efficiency (Overall Equipment Efficiency), organisational structures, specialization at production sites and changing planning philosophy.

A major feature of production, which has an annual output of c.30 million units, was its diverse range of packaging and products. As these require numerous set-up and changeover processes, optimising the set-up and idle times was vital to increase plant availability and reduce unproductive downtime.

The client chose T.A. Cook as its partner for the analysis due to its proven track record and depth of experience.

The Task
The aim of the two-week analysis was to raise the overall equipment efficiency (OEE) of the production lines from 60% to 75%. The analysis of OEE-performance killers and the evaluation of OEE target values was conducted at two selected filling lines at one production site. Potential opportunities to reduce unit costs, increase process efficiency and enhance OEE were to be identified and defined. During the review of the production process, particular attention was paid to recording, categorising and evaluating problems that occurred and how workers responded to them. A further focus was the changeover process, which involved the systematic charting of set-up times and switching from one product to another, as well as cooperation between the changeover and set-up teams. Times for each task were recorded while each step of the process was examined and categorised. The results of the changeover analysis were then assessed, and a Gantt chart and comparisons of performance in different work shifts were compiled. Finally, concrete measures for implementation – including the Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) technique - were defined.

The Approach
T.A. Cook not only examined the various changeover procedures at the plant in isolation, but also methodically investi-gated all influencing factors to find opportunities to increase efficiency. A structured evaluation of the entire operative planning, execution and controlling processes in production, including all interfaces, roles and responsibilities, was carried out. All weak points identified during the analysis were mapped on a “Brown Paper” flow chart. This enabled staff to understand  processes as they were being executed and identify weaknesses (“aha” effect), while also motivat-ing them to come up with their own ideas for improvements.

Furthermore, T.A. Cook accompanied workers on-site to chart and assess the activities of the assembly line and maintenance staff during different shifts. This included:
•    What tasks were carried out during changeover, and how? (tools/other aids)
•    How did workers cooperate? Were there discernible differences in their qualifications?
•    How did they prepare for the change-over?
•    What part did maintenance play in the changeover process?
•    In what order were the different machines along the production lines switched on?
•    What happened when shifts changed?
•    What problems occurred during pro-duction and how were they dealt with?

Based on the duration of the changeover processes and tasks, benchmarks were determined for each shift, best-practices were compared and a critical path for the changeover was identified. Targeted evaluations of key data across the whole value chain were assessed to provide further opportunities for initiating improvement.  

Results
The analysis revealed that the following problem areas were responsible for losses in efficiency:
•    A binding changeover process for all shifts at the plant did not exist. Each shift had developed its own methods over time.
•    Communication losses occurred be-tween different departments.
•    Resource allocation of available work-ers in terms of the critical path was not optimal.
•    Key data: No KPIs existed that could be used to actively manage the changeover process.
•    Organizational structures: the maintenance department was not involved enough in the changeover process.

As a result, T.A. Cook derived concrete measures that could be implemented to improve efficiency: remodelling the changeover process to use SMED, thus optimising non-productive times such as cleaning and staff breaks, as well as undertaking various technical improvements. T.A. Cook recommended that the maintenance team be fully integrated into the changeover process so that problems arising after retooling in the startup phase could be responded to more quickly. It was further recommended that existing documenta-tion be improved and that the changeover matrix be expanded to in-clude target times specific to each product, machine group and task, including all required resources for each step.

Benefits
The analysis showed the client what areas needed to be tackled and how much potential existed to quickly improve the changeover process and increase the effectiveness of the plant. The improvement potential was determined as ca. 50%, which would result in an increase of ca. 10% in OEE.

The related optimisation of costs would, as intended, support company growth and ensure a measurable and long-term competitive advantage.