I did some digging around a couple of years ago to learn more about the history of set up reduction efforts at Toyota. A man named Katsuya Jibiki was the first team leader at Toyota to be in charge of set up reduction efforts in production in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. He rose to become a general manager of the press shops in Toyota and the retired from the company. As is often the case the reality around set up reduction is far more interesting than the propoganda you often read.
For starters here is the extent of the set up reduction gains made over a couple of decades. From a 2-3 hour average in the 1950’s Toyota went down to a 3 minute average in 1973. (Note: not all machines were capable of this standard since it is just an average as I will show later).
Employees like Mr. Jibiki worked for years making small improvements in setting up stamping dies and shortening change over time. The methods they used were fairly simple and often involved writing down the work elements, recording the times for each step, identifying problem areas and coming up with a countermeasure. The form used to study changeover work looked something like the following document.
The common view of improvements at Toyota is that “methods” based reduction is mainly what went on. According to Mr. Jibiki, Toyota Company History, and Toyota’s Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology however, that is only part of the picture. A big part of the set up reduction gain was made possible by the introduction of new technology. And oddly that technology came from the United States in the form of Quick Die Change (QDC) machines from Danly Corporation.
The Toyota museum has a restored Danly machine on display and even conducts example change over work at an appointed time during the week. The installation of these machines gave Toyota many great ideas for further set up reduction work and brought down the company average changeover time significantly.
Here is an old picture of the Danly machines in Toyota on the shop floor some years after installation.
If you look closely you can make out the QDC (Quick Die Change) logo on the Danly machine in the foreground. To the left is a Japanese machine made by Komatsu.
Danly was not the only non-Japanese stamping press on the shop floor in Toyota in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Also there were large Schuler transfer presses as well. These larger Schuler machines never reached single minute exchange of die capability according to Mr. Jibiki due to the work content and complexity involved. These transfer machines were the exception however. The vast majority of stamping machines when I worked for Toyota decades later were all in the single minute range.
While Set Up Reduction is thought of as mainly a Toyota Prodution System concept the reality is that it owes a lot of its roots to simple industrial engineering techniques (time and motion study, work element analysis, etc.) and some equipment with QDC features from the United States.