The #1 Benefit of Frequent Changeover No One Thinks About


The #1 Benefit of Frequent Changeover No One Thinks About

Lean operating systems recognize that frequent changeovers are any operation’s secret weapon.  There are two obvious advantages of frequent changeover: reduced work-in-process inventory and shorter lead-time.  However, one benefit greater than both of these is often overlooked.

Reduced Work-in-Process Inventory 

Airlines compensate for their oversized equipment with frequent changeovers.

(However, oversized equipment is their problem. Smaller taxi size airplanes would provide us all with greater flexibility, but that is another blog).

Imagine five Pittsburgh passengers who want to fly to Charlotte, five who want to fly to Los Angeles, and five who want to fly to Sydney.

If the airline wanted to minimize the frequency of their changeovers – loading the plane, preflight inspections, flight plans, and takeoffs -it would wait until it could get as many passengers as possible wanting to fly to Charlotte, and likewise Los Angeles  and Sydney.  Given the size of the airplanes, the airline would have to wait days to fill all the seats.  It would require a whole lot of inventory (customers) to get the 15 original passengers to their destinations.

Instead, the airlines invest in frequent changeovers.  They take everyone to Charlotte.  They changeover by unloading and reloading the airplane, perform their preflight inspections and flight plans, and takeoff again.  Then in Los Angeles, they changeover again and finally fly to Sydney.

The airlines are able to get the original 15 passengers where they want to go as well as several others with far less inventory (customers) in the system.

Shorter Lead-Time 

Again, even with the size of the planes, the airlines can offer daily flights to almost anywhere because of the frequent changeovers.  Customers do not have to wait days to catch a flight to Oklahoma City.   They will have to go through Charlotte, Chicago, or Phoenix if they want to get there from Pittsburgh, but they can usually make it the same day.   They will have to connect to another flight – which is the airline’s word for changeover.

The Overlooked Benefit

A large metal casting facility in central Pennsylvania increased the number of mold changes from one per week to two per day.  The lean sensei asked his students, “why is it so good they are doing so many more changeovers?”  The response was the same from most, “to reduce work-in-process inventory and lead-time.”

“No,” he said, “the real benefit is they will continue to get better at changeover.”  When you only change the molds once a week, you do not get much practice at it. As a matter of fact, you dread it coming. You forget how to do it. But twice a day, you get practice. And like anything else, with practice you eventually get better.

Encourage your organization to do more changeover. It is the secret weapon for any operation.

And the next time you miss your changeover in Chicago you can blame the size of the planes.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” now available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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