A few months back Chris called to say that he was losing line capacity and didn't know where it was going. He needed help and I went.
The product was contact lenses and saline in glass vials. Five and 10 milliliter vials were used to identify whether there was one or two lenses in the vial.
Equipment, speeds and production requirements all looked about right. I didn't understand why so much overtime to make the numbers.
Then he showed me the vials. The problem was not immediately visible but I finally noticed that the 10ml vial was not only taller, if was also seven thousandths of an inch larger in diameter.
"How long to do a changeover between vials?” I asked.
"About 90 minutes," he replied. "It's a three dimensional changeover on five machines."
“Next question. Suppose your vials were the same diameter?”
"That would require a simple height change on three machines.” Chris mused, “Probably about five minutes."
"Fiddlesticks on lost capacity! There's your loss," I told him. "You're losing 85 minutes daily on changeovers. That itty-bitty difference costs about 20 percent of your capacity. Standardize vial diameters and watch your production skyrocket."
I caught up with Chris a couple months later.
"Everyone agrees the diameters are a problem," he told me. "It would have been simple to fix in initial development. Now we can't change it because of regulations. Looks like I am stuck with the loss."
Size matters. Standardize, standardize, standardize.
KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of Changeover.com, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at email@example.com.