The Professor, Part IV: The Price of Changeovers

So far the meeting with The Professor had proven very valuable John thought. He was anxious to hear the other suggestions The Professor had.

The Professor began to speak. “Changeovers are what really hurts ACME’s uptime and hence productivity.”

Pete was surprised. “Even you were impressed with our system of having a white board to document logistics status for each future job.”

“You are correct,” responded The Professor. “However, a changeover takes you about 2-3 hours and you have one or two changeovers per line per day.”

“We have a high product mix business; it’s what we do,” said John.

“The good news is, you can cut your changeover time to 30 minutes,” shared The Professor.

“How?” asked John.

“By using feeder racks,” explained The Professor. “These racks allow you to set up component reels for the next job while the current job is running. Admittedly they cost about $30,000, but they will pay for themselves in weeks. Right now you lose more than two hours per changeover loading feeders onto component placement machines. With the feeder racks, you just roll them and lock them in place.”

Pete moaned, “We already have feeder racks. We only used them once, because they stick on the carpet when we move them.”

This comment caused The Professor to groan internally, but he hid it well. He had noticed the frayed carpet near the component placement machines.

John was beside himself. “It’s a good thing we are not The Professor’s students … I don’t think we would be headed for an ‘A,’ “ he thought. “Pete, let’s get facilities to remove that rug and start using the feeder racks ASAP.”

Patty listened to all of this with comical fascination. She had harassed Pete about using the feeder racks several times. While the meeting was going on she drew a sketch of The Professor, who is notoriously camera shy. Oh, and she decided on the restaurant, Olives in nearby Boston. Maybe they can pick up a Red Sox game while they’re there.

Epilogue: Six months later ACME’s uptime was a respectable 30.4%. John never had to buy another line. The improved productivity enabled ACME to increase its market share. Patty’s dinner and ballgame were a complete success. She handled her victory modestly and she and Pete became best friends. Pete also joined the ranks of The Professor’s admirers.

Dr. Ron’s note: I know that a story like this seems too comical to be true. However, every point and the associated uptime numbers, lost time, etc., is based on a real situation with no exaggeration. The names have been changed to protect the innocent (guilty?) What is your uptime?

This entry was posted in Dr. Ron and tagged , by Dr. Ron. Bookmark the permalink.

About Dr. Ron

Materials expert Dr. Ron Lasky is a professor of engineering and senior lecturer at Dartmouth, and senior technologist at Indium Corp. He has a Ph.D. in materials science from Cornell University, and is a prolific author and lecturer, having published more than 40 papers. He received the SMTA Founders Award in 2003.