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A Case Study of Crankshaft Grinding
By Rick Smith
Setup reduction is one of the most used and most valuable Lean tools.
Shorter setup times allow the production process to achieve greater
flexibility, maximize machine capacity with little or no additional
cost, and shrink lead times.
A diesel engine remanufacturer determined that crankshaft grinding,
a key step in the engine rebuilding process, was not meeting its
TAKT time requirement. Actual grinding time on each crankshaft
was well below TAKT time. However, overall cycle time (including
setup time) exceeded TAKT time by 30 minutes.
To correct this deficiency, the company had 2 clear choices:
purchase another crankshaft grinding machine, or reduce the setup
times by at least 30 minutes.
Crankshaft grinding is a key step in the engine rebuilding process
Organize the Project
With TCA's guidance, the remanufacturer formed a setup reduction
team and charged them with these objectives:
- Increase capacity in crankshaft grinding through setup reduction
— Reduce setup time from 105 minutes to 75 minutes
— Create tools for crankshaft grinding employees to measure and
report on-going setup performance
- Develop recommendations for implementing improvements
that will reduce all crankshaft grinding setups
- Document the project and results as
a learning tool for other employees
Train the Team
After bringing together a team of machine operators, maintenance
technicians, and engineering support personnel, our first step was
to teach them the principles and techniques used in setup reduction.
In a short half-day session, TCA delivered the training and made
initial assignments for collecting data about the current crankshaft
Analyze the Setup
One of the best ways to analyze a setup process is to videotape
the entire setup. Using this technique, the setup reduction team
identified each of the steps in the actual setup and recorded the
Distinguish Internal and External Elements
Shifting internal activities to external activities is the first
key concept in setup reduction. In many cases, as much as 50% of
the time consumed in a typical setup can be removed by shifting
internal setup element tasks to external.
• Internal elements are activities that
must be done while the machine is down or turned off. An example
would be changing a grinding wheel.
• External elements are activities that
can be done while the machine is still operating. An example would
be staging tooling next to a machine in preparation for the next
After identifying the elements of the setup, the team began to
examine each element to determine whether it could be made into
an external setup element. In this case, the team was able
to identify only 3 elements that could be accomplished externally.
These elements reduced the internal setup time by 18 minutes.
Streamline Internal Elements
The next step was to make additional reductions by streamlining
the remaining internal items. After thorough evaluation, the team
determined to implement additional improvement ideas that further
reduced internal setup times by 25 minutes.
Finally, the team continued to work the remaining steps in the
setup reduction process. In further analysis, the team noted that
several elements of the grinding process might be eligible for streamlining.
Rough estimates of cycle time reduction from these three ideas may
total another 10 minutes.
After following the remaining steps in the process, the team began
the process of implementing their ideas. Once the improvements were
made, a setup reduction performance measurement board was constructed
and placed next to the machine to track setup time performance over
the next few weeks. This assured that improved methods soon
become habit and reductions become permanent.
Final results of the setup reduction project on the crankshaft
grinding process yielded net savings of 43 minutes, exceeding the
original goal by nearly 50%.
The setup in this example — that of changing from one style of crankshaft
to another — was only one of a number performed in the
crankshaft grinding process. Others such as repositioning
the crankshaft during the grinding process, occurred much more frequently.
The same setup reduction process was applied to these other setups
with similar results.
The total benefit of these setup reduction improvements was much
greater than originally hoped for. The training, hands-on application,
and team approach to setup reduction exceeded the initial objectives
and has completely eliminated a long-term bottleneck in the engine
rebuilding process. The company is currently applying the same setup
reduction techniques to other operations and expects substantial
improvement in overall flexibility, cost savings, and increased
responsiveness to changing demand.