Wood machine set-up: the time-wasting culprit fingered in new study
By Enis Kucuk, Urs Buehlmann - Virginia Tech
November 1, 2016 | 9:31 pm CDT

Secondary wood products manufacturing facilities make many different products on the same equipment and thus have to change machine set-ups frequently. Set-ups typically are time-consuming and require manpower, adding costs while reducing production capacity and income.
Set-up activities can be categorized into two types: external set-up activities, such as activities that do not require production to stop; and internal set-up activities, such as those that require production to stop to perform the necessary set-up.
To minimize the negative impact of set-up activities, lean manufacturing focuses on reducing set-up time through targeted Kaizen efforts called SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies), also known as a single-minute set-up.  The concept of SMED was conceived and perfected by Shigeo Shingo during the mid-1980s and has found widespread adoption in industry due to its benefits. Successful set-up time reduction efforts allow manufacturers to reduce their lead-time and their work in process inventory (WIP), enabling them to shrink their batch sizes.
To find out about existing practices in the secondary wood products industry, a survey conducted by Virginia Tech and FDMC magazine investigated the success rate of set-up time reduction efforts in the industry on widely used basic woodworking machines, including moulders, table saws, shapers, and band saws.

Set-up time and productivity

Mostly, set-up time reduction efforts undertaken by respondents were successful. Only four respondents rated their set-up time improvement as “none” while nine respondents indicated a “0-4.9 percent” improvement, eight respondents stated a “5-9.9 percent” improvement, and eight respondents indicated that their improvement was “more than 15 percent.” As to productivity gains, in two cases (7 percent), respondents indicated that they achieved no productivity gain due to their set-up time reduction efforts. However, in 93 percent (25) of the cases reported, at least some success in increasing productivity was achieved (Table 1).

Time spent

The most time consuming area for a specific machine set-ups are shown in Table 2. For all the four different types of woodworking machines researched in this study (moulder, table saw, shaper, band saw, total of 28 responses), 13 responses indicated that “Mounting and adjusting” is the most time consuming activity during their set-up (46 percent, Table 2).


The study obtained answers for 27 pieces of equipment in respect to training of operators on how to set up their machines. A vast majority of respondents (92 percent) indicated that “company personnel” was the main provider of training for employees involved in the set-up of equipment (Table 3).

Single most important outcome

Respondents indicated that for moulders, the single most important outcome from the set-up time reduction efforts was “improved responsiveness to customer demands” (five responses of a total of 11 answers, Table 4), while for the table saws the most often mentioned outcome was “increasing productivity/capacity” of the equipment (three of five respondents, Table 4). 
Thus, respondents reported different outcomes as being the single most important result of their set-up time reduction efforts for different woodworking machines. For shapers, all three respondents indicated different single most important outcomes resulting from the set-up time reduction efforts including “increasing productivity/capacity,” “more frequent set-ups/improve flexibility,” and “reduced batch sizes.” 

Largest set-up time reduction achieved 

When asked at which machine respondents achieved the largest set-up time reduction in their facility, five out of a total of 15 respondents pointed to “moulders,” and five respondents reported “CNC” type machines, while the remaining answers named different types of equipment (Table 5).

Most rewarding outcome

Table 6 shows the most rewarding set-up reduction effort undertaken in each respondent’s facility. “New equipment technology” followed by “moving internal activities to external ones,” and “searching for tools and equipment while doing set-up” were the most frequently named ones.
Benefitting from set-up time reduction
This study asked questions relating to widely used woodworking machines in secondary wood manufacturing facilities about the set-up time reduction efforts and the benefits gained. To that end, in general, participants indicated their set-up time reduction efforts were successful and resulted in quite sizable degrees of improvement, as only 14 percent of respondents reported that no improvements were made through set-up time reduction efforts in their facility, while 86 percent indicated improvements ranging from “0-4.9 percent” to “more than 15 percent.” Participants also indicated that their set-up time reduction efforts paid back in the form of productivity gains and increased responsiveness to customer demand. 
The web-based survey conducted by FDMC magazine and Virginia Tech was accessible online for 73 days. Twenty-three valid responses were obtained and analyzed. From those 23 participants, 16 participants reported they made set-up time reduction efforts in their facilities while seven indicated that they did not. Data for 11 moulders, 15 table saws, three shapers, and two band saws were obtained. Of the 23 survey participants, eight respondents were plant managers, seven owners, four continuous improvement persons, two operations/production managers, one process engineer, and one CEO. Twenty-two facilities of respondents are located in the U.S. while one respondent’s facility is located in Canada.
The main product category produced in those facilities included Kitchen Cabinetry (6), Furniture (5), Millwork (4), and other (8). Employment sizes in the facilities of respondents ranged from between “1 to 19” in 14 facilities, followed by facilities with “10 to 99” employees in six facilities, “100 to 499” employees in two facilities, and one facility with “500 or more” employees.


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