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Transforming wasted time into productive time: how Tridec reduced unproductivity

13 May 2022
Article by Beatriz Ribeiro, consultant in Industrial Engineering and Management at INEGI.

The term kaizen is now an unavoidable word in the industry. Of Sino-Japanese origin, it meant «improvement» in this language, but it was adopted by the leaders of continuous improvement, and later by the entire industry, and its meaning evolved to encompass an entire industrial management philosophy.

Although the kaizen methodology is commonly associated with the automotive sector, its essence is applicable to any activity that involves carrying out operations - logistics, transformation, development or even administrative. It is based on the principle of eliminating any and all waste derived from operations and processes, in order to increase efficiency in the daily lives of companies, reduce costs, and add value to the customer.

One of the most useful kaizen tools is called Single Minute Exchange of Die – better known by its acronym, SMED – and it is commonly translated as quick tool change or tool change in less than 10 minutes. It has a clear objective: to reduce the loss time as much as possible, that is, the time that elapses from the production of the last unit of a series, to the first of the following series, under the same conditions.

By decreasing unproductive periods, wasted time is converted into productive time. Consequently, eventual investments in equipment to reinforce production capacity are also discarded and, therefore, results in a direct and indirect reduction of production costs. Additionally, due to the short changeover times that can be achieved, it becomes permissible to produce in small quantities, making it possible to reduce stocks – and, once again, costs – shorten delivery times, achieve greater flexibility and therefore better customer service.

Tridec implements continuous improvement initiatives with support from INEGI

Aware of the value attached to continuous improvement, Tridec, a world leader in the production of systems, modules and components for commercial vehicles, challenged INEGI's Industrial Engineering and Management consulting team to support the implementation of this methodology in pilot areas of its production.

The implementation of SMED took place in five stages:
  1. Work Study: To gain a clear understanding of the process, it is essential to record it and account for both productive and inactive periods. This recording of the entire process was filmed using video and stopwatch, or other tools.
  2. Distinction between internal and external work: determine the tasks to be carried out, those that are mandatory, with the equipment stopped, and those that can be carried out with the equipment in operation.
  3. Converting internal to external work – and organizing and sequencing tasks
  4. Reduction/elimination of internal work – achieved after a simplification of tasks
  5. Reduction/elimination of external work – through the use of visual means or other kaizen processes.
In addition to the phases described here, this partnership included the holding of workshops, in order to contextualize the teams about the process itself and the steps that would follow. During these workshops¸ the images collected were analyzed in order to study the improvements to be implemented and discussed the commitment to implement the established actions.

The efficiency of the SMED implementation leads to the standardization of tasks (including the sequence of execution, expected duration, person responsible and necessary tools), resulting in the improvement of the working method itself. As a complement, it should also be mentioned that the task registration supports the training of other operators and a more effective production control.

However, and being a process linked to continuous improvement, it is certain that setbacks and opportunities for improvement will arise over time. These should be recorded, discussed with the team and actions to be implemented to reduce or cancel the negative impact caused by them should be found. Care in the methodology must be continuous and never forgotten, and audits are an excellent way to ensure not only its implementation, but also its follow-up as determined.

The implementation of pilot projects at Tridec is ongoing, but the first data indicate a potential for a 50% reduction in setup and work preparation times. A result that will translate into less waste and less costs, and proves that improvement is always possible.

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