Case Study: Lean & Continuous Improvement

Electronics Manufacturer Increases
Capacity by 25% Through SMED
And Focused Investment

Case Study: Continuous Improvement

Electronics Manufacturer Increases
Capacity by 25% Through SMED
And Focused Investment

Helping clients

Achieve more by
thinking lean

Case Study

This NZ based electronics manufacturer needed increase and sustain manufacturing capacity to meet their on going increasing order and customer based requirements.
We were asked to help evaluate the capital investment options of a new machine to provide the increase in capacity with a budget of approx. $200-300K available.

How we helped

Our client, a growing New Zealand Based Electronics Manufacturer were starting to see capacity become a concern and knew it would start impacting delivery performance and the ability to take on new work, they would have to either turn it away or hire more staff and run longer hours. The company had decided to invest in new equipment to increase their capacity rather than more staff & longer hours so asked us to help them review these options. The key factors when looking at this process were depending on the direction the company was moving with it's business mix it would have a major impact on the equipment to be selected

  • High mix / low volume runs would drive a focus on fast changeovers rather than machine speed,
  • High volume / low mix runs would drive a focus on machine speed with some sacrifice in change over times
  • The current set up was built around total flexibility and the machines were in a standalone configuration having to be manually loaded & unloaded which increased downtime but was perceived to be more flexible.
  • A desire to minimise training times and learning curves for new machines

We recommended that if the company did want to buy a new machine, they then should invest in the latest generation of what they had to reduce training time and allow reuse of existing equipment, this would give them 40% increase in capacity. However, this was our least preferred option.

As we reviewed the process through a series of observations, timings, data analysis and interviews with the team what we found was that the current processes were very wasteful.

The amount of time the machine was placing parts was only a small fraction of the real available time. A lot of the time the machine was idle waiting on new SMT boards to be manually loaded or unloaded, waiting on more parts to be added or in set up mode. All boards were being fully inspected prior to the main oven used to solder the boards because of a lot of manual placement and parts moving during transit between stations.

Furthermore, the amount of time lost in change overs was dramatic linked to work being done on line that could easily be done offline in a prep process.

All of this resulted in a lot of unused capacity that if we made the rights steps could become available for a lot less than the company felt they would need to spend, in many cases there was no cost at all other than time to implement and train the new process.

The answer to this challenge was to implement some basic lean thinking and SMED operations.

The Outcome

Achieving the
right Results


When we boiled down the real problem the solution was to apply investment and training that would address the quality issues, reduce machine set up and loading times to increase the time that the machine had available to place parts.

The ideal solution would be to change the mode of operation of the company from manual loading to auto loading systems on the existing machines & add conveyors to the process to move parts to & from the machines.

By investing in converting the machines to automatically load the boards we would remove a lot of manual handling as well as 75% of the lost time linked to manually loading them. This investment was relatively small, approx. 4% of the original budget.

The 2nd investment we made would be to purchase linking conveyors that would connect all the machines and create single board input buffers to ensure there was always a board waiting to be built at the machine but keep WIP to a minimum. Again, this increased the time actually placing by reducing waiting time.

The final part of the investment was in implementing a SMED (Single Minute Exchange of die) approach that would allow us to dramatically reduce time lost at the machine while changing over jobs. As the company were a hi mix low volume manufacturer, they would typically change over at least twice a day which could result in up to half a day lost in production. By purchasing some 2nd hand equipment, we were able to move a lot of this online set up offline, i.e. it could occur when the machine was still running. This meant that the change over itself could be done in around 20 minutes for the full line rather than 4 hours.

We worked with the team to focus on being ready for the change, that meant monitoring the output of the line in term sof quality and boards produced per hour and to know the target time for the runs. It also meant that we would introduce a daily stand up where we would review the runs for the next 2 days and hourly run boards to track performance.
This allowed us to ensure all the parts were available in advance for the next produciton run and we knew the right order to build in.

This then would result in:

  • A consistent & repeatable faster loading process 
  • Additional capacity from the reduction in loading times - an average of 60 seconds down to 14 seconds per panel of boards
  • A reduction in machine set up times creating free capacity
  • Improved through put of the line
  • Less rework from handling issues
As a result we spent only 14% of the origonal budget, dealying major investment for another 2 years.  We also increased output by just over 25% and avoided the need to hire additional staff to run the extra equipment. Importantly we also increased the quality at inspection by 17%

If this new capacity generated the same revenue per hour as the company currently achieved this would equate to be between $750,000 - $1 Million in additional sales for the company.

Key to all of this was that we also gave the team the tools to understand the benefits of some basic lean thinking to improve thier business.
Lean Solution Summary

Ready To Start Your Continuous improvement Journey?

Make a booking now and find out how we can help you engage your team and supercharge your productivity!

Ready To Start Your Continuous improvement Journey?

Make a booking now and find out how we can help you engage your team and supercharge your productivity!

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

To Get Regular Updates on ISO | Lean | Free Resources
Sorry we need your name
Invalid Input - Sorry we need your last name here
Sorry Can you just check your email address as well
Invalid Input

Latest Blog Post

Trees That Count
memeber of New Zealand Institute of Directors