Leveraging new technology to overcome changeover inefficiency

Changeovers are critical in production and companies must be ready to adapt when a line or workcell changes what it produces. Cloud-based technologies can help the changeover process.

By Lauren Dunford January 3, 2023
Courtesy: Guidewheel


Learning Objectives

  • Learn how changeovers impact manufacturing operations and the consequences of downtime.
  • Get insights on how cloud-based technology advances can help improve information flow and remove bottlenecks during changeovers.
  • Learn how input/output (I/O)-agnostic systems can provide a cost-effective solution without requiring a full rip-and-replace.

Manufacturing changeover insights

Manufacturing has become more flexible and customized due to advances in automation and changes in what people want. This has led to more changeovers on plant floors.

Inefficient changeovers can lead to serious downtime issues and add stress to workers who are already stretched thin.

Cloud-based technologies can help by providing users reliable information more efficiently and sync the data up so everyone is operating with the same knowledge.

When productivity is trailing behind, the main suspect on the factory floor is typically changeovers. One possible solution is leveraging cloud-based technology advances as a foundation to attack inefficiencies can help.

Changeovers are critical in production, especially in the ever-changing economy and market. Companies must be ready to adapt and produce when demand for certain products shift and flip. They also are inevitable as manufacturers must make the most of the physical floor space they have and getting as much value from each machine in their facility. Changeovers are a common part of the manufacturing process. The amount of time between each changeover matters—and process inefficiencies can be critical.

Inefficient changeovers drain time, money and resources and can harm overall productivity. The stress on limited resources adds up quickly, and if the process remains unaddressed, it can result in major losses. Losses due to unexpected downtime during changeovers can measure up to 25% of total available production hours, and can cost a business tremendously. However, this problem can be alleviated.

The days of letting changeover time losses fly under the radar are long gone, as developments in manufacturing technology are changing the game. Many manufacturers and consultants used to use a physical stopwatch between each product change and manually capture important data by hand, that is no longer needed. Technology now makes it easy to get a clearer picture of where the buckets of opportunities lie and manage the impact of inefficient changeovers.

Key machine metrics can be viewed on a smartphone. Courtesy: Guidewheel

Key machine metrics can be viewed on a smartphone. Courtesy: Guidewheel

Using cloud-based technologies for improved information flow

Automatically tracking and monitoring machines lays the foundation to eliminate losses from changeovers. New cloud-based technologies can streamline this process using clip-on sensors that can provide visibility into any machine. With this visibility, teams gain confidence with accurate changeover tracking across the team, providing data everyone can see and trust. From there, a good first step is comparing across machines and identifying opportunities for the operators that are best at certain types of changeovers to provide training or best practices so the whole team can improve – such as having material prepped in advance, tools at the ready, or staging procedures to reduce additional work and downtime during the changeover itself.

Teams often build on that foundation of visibility by setting up customizable alerts. These allow operators to get prompted if any problems are approaching and also can help leaders provide quick support and real-time training if changeover time is above standard for a particular machine and product. Operators also can use the system to tag machine, maintenance or process areas holding them back, which can signal real-time support and allow historical tracking and analysis to identify where additional resources should be invested to streamline. Successful teams will build on the visibility and alerts by getting in a rhythm of regularly reviewing and taking action on their Pareto analysis – the 20% of problems causing 80% of the impact – by identifying and tackling the top causes of downtime together as a team.

Being able to have confidence in data drawn from the machines and team in real time helps these conversations be more productive and efficient because they are based in data everyone trusts. It also helps ensures the team concentrates in the areas that can truly have the biggest impact on runtime and overall productivity of each machine. Everyone across the team, from operators to maintenance to leadership, can see and understand where to use resources and improve processes most effectively.

Given the importance of changeovers to business results in manufacturing, applying continuous improvement to this area is tried-and-true – from single-minute exchange of dies (SMED) to NASCAR methods. What has changed, however, is the accessibility and ease of implementation of cloud-based technology enables manufacturers to apply these methods with unprecedented speed and sustainability of results. From improving changeovers 26% in just three months, to increasing uptime on equipment and opening up capacity to provide a foundation for factories of any sizes to quickly see returns from addressing changeover inefficiencies.

Machine metrics can vary in view according to person and screen, as needed. Courtesy: Guidewheel

Machine metrics can vary in view according to person and screen, as needed. Courtesy: Guidewheel

In sum, inefficient changeovers will always be one of the main suspects when it comes to a factory’s productivity slacking. While there is no way around changeovers, new advancements in cloud-powered solutions can empower the team to achieve more reliable, faster changeovers, lessening the team’s burden and letting them focus on what matters most.

Lauren Dunford, CEO and co-Founder, Guidewheel. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, cvavra@cfemedia.com.


Keywords: cloud-based technology, changeover


See additional information about how automation improves manufacturing productivity.

Automation advantages: 4 ways automation can empower a team to win





How are you handling changeovers in a manufacturing facility and what has worked?

Author Bio: Lauren Dunford is co-founder and CEO of Guidewheel.