In our last blog, we shared an overview of the quick change over (QCO) process and why it offers such value to workgroups and businesses. The benefits of QCO are well known – like reducing manufacturing lead-time, mean time to repair (MTTR), labour requirements and maintenance costs…all while increasing capacity, equipment availability and labour flexibility. The specific ideas to remove waste change from team to team, and company to company, but there are some key implementation strategies that we repeatedly see adding value. We share these not as a how-to guide, but rather as a series of principles and considerations that will help you gain greater value and sustainability from QCO efforts.
Implementation key #1 – explore your process through your customers’ eyes
The value in compressing change-over time often relates to a benefit for your ‘customer’ – another team or department. Waste can be overlooked because a team is not seeing what their customers’ needs are and keeping the importance of uptime to them front and centre. Having a customer-centric mindset may also influence what you focus your QCO efforts on. High value for your team may not equate to high value for your customers. The priority is to match your workflow to your customers’ output or requirement – often called the ‘pull of the product’. A simple example is having excess ore produced in the lead-up to shutdown maintenance so that down-the-line processing can continue. If the product runs out due to overruns in maintenance, the flow will stop with no product for that customer.
Implementation key #2 – don’t purely rely on memory
The QCO workshop is critical because that’s where task requirements are assessed – the foundation for identifying, delivering and measuring improvements. These sessions can take several hours to complete. While it’s essential to have the right minds in the room, we know from experience that we’re all capable of forgetting a common task in the moment. Have all documentation on a task – service sheets, work instructions, OEM manuals etc – on hand. They are invaluable reference tools to ensure you aren’t slipping on something that’s critical, and that you cover everything. We use them as a guide and prompt to refine each step.
Implementation key #3 – start with frequency and remember your end points
In many ways, the most critical decision is what to focus QCO on. While the decision process is not the topic of this blog, we encourage looking at your activities of greatest frequency and at your end points – keeping in mind that QCO is as useful for business-as-usual maintenance as it is for shutdown maintenance.
If you haven’t undertaken QCO before, the first will set the tone. Review processes at task level and look for those that have the most hours on them and are delivered with high frequency. You will obviously get more benefit out of the savings achieved compared to a high-profile but less frequent activity (ie the squeaky wheel that gets the attention). Savings on a frequent task let you buy back availability in your schedule to deliver greater value to your overall operation. And it creates the momentum for future QCO efforts.
QCO also often focuses on tasks that are delivered when equipment is offline. The time taken to actually perform the ramp down and ramp up to production can be just as important. Some of the best results we have seen are when teams have applied QCO to these end point processes.
Implementation key #4 – know your critical path impacts
For larger downtime events, knowing the critical path is vital to achieving the greatest gains with QCO. Most commonly, teams will focus on the critical path task. This is a solid strategy. Be mindful though that as QCO results are delivered, the critical path will move (compress). You need to anticipate this and adjust other activities to ensure you can realise the gains made.
If you address a non-critical-path task, remember that improvement will prompt other changes. For example, you may need to rescope the overall process to add more activities while the critical path task is still underway (as that hasn’t changed), or you might simply maximise labour savings.
Then, in either scenario, if maintenance tasks are revised, you may need to revise related strategies and tactics. It’s also important to maintain a connection with your overall business strategy as this will guide decision-making so that gains add optimal value, not just for a site in general, but for its specific season and market cycle (eg seasons where the focus is cost, versus seasons where the focus is productivity).
Implementation key #5 – get other departments involved
Most QCO implementations are big tasks in their own right. They also often delve into process steps that have dependencies with other departments. Aim to get their support early on. The best way to achieve that is to involve people from different departments in the workshop stage. You gain another set of eyes on the task, and immediate feedback on how it impacts them (and, in turn, their customers). Involving them also gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility by having contributed.
Implementation key #6 – measure, measure, measure
With all that QCO excitement, remember to measure the process being performed (eg task durations, tool time etc) before you get started. That gives you the essential baseline to compare your post-QCO measurements to, so you can quantify the benefits. Before and after measurements can also prompt further improvements by highlighting differences between expected and actual gains. Take time to interrogate these rather than drawing a line at the first ‘after’ measurement. There may be more value yet to be achieved.
Overall, how you implement QCO drives how much value you gain. A thorough QCO process can unlock major improvement opportunities, spark innovative thinking from team members and increase ownership at all levels. We have seen it add measurable value over and again. In our next blog, we’ll share some quick wins for QCO.