The Importance of Setup Reduction/Quick Changeover

The Importance of Setup Reduction/Quick Changeover

Why is Setup Reduction Important?

By: Dean Simmons

One of the biggest challenges manufacturers face today is high mix, low volume customer orders. The market demands shorter lead times of more frequent and smaller lots (batches) of product. This creates a dilemma for those manufacturers that deal with excessive setup or changeover time of equipment.

Although changeover times on equipment may vary, (average of 42 minutes according to a study from Performance Solutions by Milliken), some equipment may experience setup times of six hours or more to switch from the last good part of the current run to the first good part of the next run. Excessive setup time robs companies of valuable production capacity that can be utilized towards significantly shortening overall lead times, becoming more responsive to customer demands, while potentially capturing additional market share.

Setup reduction builds on the principles of Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED), a systematic approach used in manufacturing to reduce the time it takes to change over a machine or production line from making one product to another.

Single-Minute Exchange of Die

Single Minute Exchange of Die, a system developed by Shigeo Shingo, involves identifying and eliminating any unnecessary part of the changeover process to reduce setup time. When a piece of manufacturing equipment needs to be replaced, the changeover time can lead to costly, unexpected downtime.

The overarching purpose of the SMED system is to convert as many changeover steps as possible to being performed while the equipment is running, and to simplify and streamline the remaining steps. The name Single Minute Exchange of Die comes from the goal of reducing changeover times to the “single” digits, meaning less than 10 minutes.

The changeover improvement process leads to no or low-cost solutions to reduce changeover time, allowing manufacturers to meet customer demands for high-quality, lower cost products, delivered quickly and without the expense of excess inventory.

A successful SMED program will have key benefits such as:

  • Lower production cost: faster changeovers result in less equipment downtime
  • Smaller lot sizes: quicker changeovers enable more frequent product changes
  • Better responsiveness to customer demand: smaller lot (batch) sizes provide more flexible scheduling
  • Improved inventory control: lower inventory levels are possible with smaller lot sizes
  • Streamlined Startups: standardized changeover processes help maintain consistency and quality

Setup Reduction

The primary goal of setup reduction is to minimize downtime and increase the efficiency of manufacturing processes. There are several advantages of setup reduction, including:

    1. Less Downtime: The most significant advantage of setup reduction is in machine or production line downtime. By implementing SMED techniques, manufacturers can switch between products more quickly, resulting in increased machine utilization and production capacity.
    2. Increased Productivity: Reduced setup times mean more time spent on actual production, leading to higher productivity. This can also result in cost savings and increased profitability.
    3. Flexibility: Setup reduction enhances a manufacturer’s ability to respond to changes in customer demand or production requirements more quickly, crucial in today’s dynamic business environment.
    4. Lower Inventory Levels: With quicker changeovers, manufacturers can produce smaller batch sizes more economically. This reduces the need for excessive inventory and storage space, saving costs.
    5. Improved Quality: Setup reduction often involves standardizing procedures and processes. This can lead to improved product quality due to a more consistent and controlled setup process.
    6. Employee Engagement: Involving employees in setup reduction efforts can boost morale and engagement, as they can see tangible improvements in their work environment and efficiency.
    7. Cost Savings: Minimizing downtime, reducing batch sizes, and improving efficiency, can lead to significant cost reduction in terms of labor, materials, and energy.

There are some disadvantages of setup reduction to consider, including:

    1. Initial Investment: Implementation may require an initial investment in training, tools, and equipment, which can be a barrier for some organizations, especially smaller ones. However, the SMED methodology considers low cost, no cost solutions first which can typically result in a 30% reduction in changeover time.
    2. Resistance to Change: Employees and management may resist changes in established processes and may need time and encouragement to adapt to new methods and procedures. In these environments, it is recommended to run pilot projects and let the results (higher quality, shorter changeovers) speak for themselves.
    3. Complexity: The setup reduction process can involve the analysis of existing procedures and the development of new ones which may be a challenge to manage and implement.
    4. Risk of Errors: When processes change too quickly, there’s a risk of errors occurring during the setup, which can lead to production issues and quality problems. However, an effective setup reduction methodology emphasizes safety and quality above all, and  includes the application of mistake proofing and audits to build quality at the source.
    5. Not Suitable for All Operations: While setup reduction is highly effective in many manufacturing environments, it may not be as applicable or beneficial in certain continuous or highly automated processes where changeovers are minimal.


In summary, setup reduction is a valuable approach in manufacturing to reduce downtime, improve efficiency, and increase flexibility. While it offers numerous advantages, such as cost savings and improved productivity, it may require an initial investment and could face potential challenges related to resistance to change and process complexity. Its applicability depends on the specific manufacturing processes and goals of the organization.

In our Continuous Improvement Champion Certification (CICC) training program, CONNSTEP reviews the principles of setup reduction and the SMED system. We also show you how to apply the changeover improvement process using a simulation exercise to achieve setup reduction. Learn more about CICC at

Let’s Get Started!

Contact us today to see if CONNSTEP is a fit for your business.

Related Items

Continuous Improvement Champion Certification (CICC)

This course provides comprehensive exposure to the principles and practices needed to develop and sustain a Lean Enterprise. You will receive immediate reinforcement of the classroom learning by applying your training to a real-life project within your organization.

[Poster] 5S Guide

Often basic housekeeping is overlooked in favor of “productivity.” This is a common practice but one that costs you over the long run. Putting a basic 5S program in place is inexpensive and yields a great return on your (small) investment.

[Case Study] Improvement to Process Flow Increases Productivity

By enrolling an employee in CONNSTEP’s CICC program, the company streamlined their workflow, resulting in significant operational gains and reduced lead times, ultimately enhancing their overall performance