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The right equipment makes all the difference in the world, so use the best you can "logically" afford and stay aware of new advancements and technologies that might help you. Of course “expensive” and “new” don't always mean better. Software companies are notorious for regularly releasing new versions of their software, for example, but the latest version may not significantly impact your production needs. It's only common sense, but before you spend your hard earned money, make absolutely certain that whatever you buy provides you with enough value to make it worth the expense.

Also, it is not always necessary that you own all of your equipment. As we discussed in “Finance,” it may make sense from a cash-flow perspective to lease or rent equipment that you use only occasionally. This may make sense from an operational perspective as well. If space is limited, for example, you may prefer to reserve it for your regular production activities as much as possible. Remember that outsourcing is always an option as well. You don't need to do everything in-house.

What areas of your production process might be improved through new or improved technologies or equipment? Feel free to dream a little here.

What new equipment is currently available that could do this?

What would it take for you to decide that it was time to make a change? This could be a financial decision, it could be a space consideration, or it could even be that the technology you would like is not yet reliable enough for your needs.

Equipment Maintenance

In order to get the maximum potential from your equipment it must be properly maintained. Depending on your business, this could mean anything from a simple cleaning to a full safety inspection. Whatever your needs, equipment maintenance will save you time, aggravation, and money.

Properly maintained equipment works better, needs fewer repairs, and lasts longer. Unexpected breakdowns can bring your business to a grinding halt, but properly maintaining your equipment helps to reduce the risk.

Equipment Maintenance System

Designing your Equipment Maintenance System is a similar process to designing your Facility Maintenance System. You will need to schedule all of your regular equipment maintenance activities while allowing for the occasional spot repair.

For some businesses, it may be appropriate to combine this system with the Facility Maintenance System.

Setup Reduction

Setup Reduction (SUR) – the time for “set up” is defined as the time between the last good unit produced from the last batch to the first good unit of the next batch. SUR is key to improving flexibility without losing capacity, and therefore reducing inventories and lead times. Problem solving, improved methods, training and practice all make big differences to what can be achieved. SUR is an excellent opportunity to let shop-floor teams take ownership of the projects and be responsible for making tangible improvements in the process.

There are huge gains to be made in production by minimizing setup times. Not only does it keep your production rolling, it makes it less costly to produce goods in smaller batch sizes because you don’t have to account for extra down-time while new processes are being set up.

These concepts can be applied to much more than production facilities. If your office sales staff are using a number of programs and templates to complete a single order, you can reduce costs by focusing your attention on the systems in use and streamlining them.

In 1969, Mr Shingeo Shingo reduced changeover time on a 1,000 tonne press at Toyota's Honsha plant from four hours down to ninety minutes. Further, he claims over the next year to have reduced the changeover time to 3 minutes using his "Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) technique.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

The main objective of this technique is to increase run time of machines towards the ideal of zero breakdowns. Conversely, many traditional businesses operate with the mentality of “run to breakdown” and early experiments with preventive maintenance (PM) often prove costly in terms of administration, spares stockholding, etc. As an alternative, PM should become a “total concept” similar to total quality where all employees are responsible for maintenance not just the engineers and maintenance craftsmen. TPM challenges everyone in the company to take a personal involvement in the task of achieving zero breakdowns.

In this chapter you should have designed, shared, and made a plan to review your:

  • Quality Control System.
  • Maintenance System.