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Scheduling Changeovers for Maximum Operating Efficiency

In process industries, investment in new technology does not always mean that operations will be more efficient. In most situations, technology needs to be paired with the right processes. Automation does not lead to operational improvement by itself. When it comes to improving facility operations, timing is essential. Whether it is to implement a maintenance schedule, adjust equipment settings or administer training, determining the right schedule and sticking to it is paramount.

“Efficient changeovers increase production flexibility.”

The key to successful changeovers is in the planning
Facilities that produce two or more product types know that time can often be lost when switching gears. It takes significant time and effort to alter equipment from one group of settings to another. Accordingly, when implementing changeovers, preventing accrual of downtime is a major consideration. This is accomplished by analyzing the production schedule and determining the best time to make a switch. It may be that a switch from product “A” to “C” is more efficient than a switch from product “A” to “B.” Figuring out these small differences, facility operators can create the right changeover schedule and stick to it. The improvements add up over time and the company is able to save time and money while producing more at the same time. A Lean Journey mentioned that efficient changeovers increase production flexibility, reduce inventory costs and lower defect rates.

Another area of scheduling that is important with regard to changeovers is the staging area. Not only is it important to know when to perform changeovers, but it is also essential that facility technicians take care of the job as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is to make sure that staff members are ready to do the work when the time comes. Having fully stocked staging areas, maintenance staff on standby and process documents in hand can help companies save even more time when performing changeovers.


Scheduling changeovers at the right time can improve operations

Maintenance is not meant to be reactionary
All plant assets require regular maintenance. Some facility operators only do maintenance work when something breaks, but the better strategy is to implement a reliability centered maintenance program. This involves checking and fixing equipment on a regular basis. Reliability Web advised companies to schedule inspections at regular intervals, to discard items before some specified time limit and pay attention to hidden-function items that can lead to functional failures.

The right scheduling can improve facility operations.

Maintenance work is not meant to be reactionary. Alternatively, having a proactive approach ensures that equipment will run longer and more efficiently without interruption. To implement a RCM program, facility operators must designate specific times when the work will be done. The best time may depend on each individual asset and should definitely not interfere with the production schedule. Facility operators can think of RCM as taking insurance out against having to do more significant repair work down the road.

Training is not an option
Because process industries involve lots of equipment, software and technical issues, instituting an ongoing training program is a good idea. Training is one of the main tools employed in the Continuous Improvement methodology. There are many benefits that come with managing a culture of education. Staff will always be updated on best practices in the facility. Furthermore, ongoing training ensures that valuable tribal knowledge accumulated in a facility does not dissipate as aging experienced workers retire. IndustryWeek pointed out that in the manufacturing industry, filling skilled production jobs is already difficult. Regular training can help alleviate this problem because younger workers can learn to take the place of their managers and companies will not have to work so hard trying to hire from the outside