Streamlining Moulder Set-Ups

Shop owners discuss ways to make moulder set-up and changeover smoother and more efficient. August 21, 2006

I am trying to increase the efficiency of moulder setups (changeovers) in a 4 moulder shop. I know that a properly organized work area will lead to faster setups and possibly higher quality work. Can anyone provide tips?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor J:
There are a number of things to improve setup time. It starts in the office. Have similar profiles scheduled at the same time. Then to the tool room. Have sharp knives ready and waiting for the moulder. Is there a set of backup knives ready or do you have to shut down and resharpen when you hit a staple? Organization is important.

Another thing to look at - don't have your moulder setup person feeding or tailing (off bearing) when they could be busy setting up another moulder. And one of the biggest things that gets overlooked is experience. The more you have, the faster things get done, the safer they get done and the quality of the product goes up as well. Someone new to the moulder scene can not have all of those at the same time.

From contributor C:
Yep, all the things mentioned above. Preparation is a key issue. How many setup guys for the 4 moulders? We use 2, each being responsible for 2 machines. Take as many of the peripheral details away from these guys as you can, letting them focus on getting the machine set and ready to go. Put a little time and training into your feeders and they can help you out here. Ours help in removing cutterheads and take the used or dull tooling to the grind room while the operator follows behind setting the new ones. They change feed rollers from metal to rubber if needed, reposition feed rollers on the shafts if needed, pre-set the automatic infeeds we have on a couple of machines, make sure the raw material is loaded at the front and the completed profiles cleared from the back. Show them the lubrication points and grease nipples on the machine and they can keep the adjustments free and easy for your setters. It doesn't take much in the way of training, helps in setup times and creates a little interest in what can be a boring job, which in turn has the bonus of these guys staying around longer so you don't have as much employee turnover at those positions (at least that's what I've found). Our 2 setters are checking quality and tolerances, prepping for the next job, keeping the associated paperwork straight, etc. while their machines are running, but you get a couple of good "B-level" operators and 1 guy could look after 4 moulders.

From contributor J:
That's a good point. Sometimes I guess I get too controlling - I want to do it all because it's "my job." The thought of a feeder opening the hood of the moulder makes me edgy. But we are getting another Weinig in about 14 weeks. Things will be a little faster paced.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I really appreciate the advice. I really like the idea of getting the feeders involved. Right now the main planermen on our shifts are the supervisors, which can overwhelm them from time to time. I would like to make setups more of a team task. I would also really like it if I could get advice regarding the layout of workbenches or carts for setup people working at the machines.

From contributor J:
We have great shop flow with a layout in a U-shaped pattern. The orders come in and hit the planer, twin rip saw, moulder, sander and back out the door. One even motion and nobody is crossing paths or getting in the way. Our table saw, jointer and shaper, etc. is kind of in the middle towards the back. But you're right to think about this. The more even the flow, the better everyone can work.

From contributor Y:
I'm not as production oriented as you guys it sounds, but we have 2 moulders and we are a full custom shop. This requires us to need quick change and setup to be profitable. Do not want to sound elementary, but are you dedicating heads for profiles? Long term this is great for us, can really find deals on heads after shopping a while. We also have each piece of moulding labeled and all our head positions labeled as well on the test piece. If we had 4 moulders, I would probably organize the moulders to coincide with the mouldings so that minimum setup is required. Like s4s and casings because only one head is required to be changed out. We also have an optical magnifier which has helped us tremendously to keep our axial const so that the readout on the moulder puts us more accurate. This will also help the life of your knives. Go insert on most common profiles. Use Terminous knives for s4s.

From contributor T:
I recommend forming a team of the people involved in doing the setups and deciding who will lead the charge. Then launch a project to evaluate the current state by videotaping a setup. Review the tape as a team and break down the various components of the task and note how long they take. Some aspects of the task will jump out as taking up the lion's share of the total time and they should be paid special attention to. Brainstorm with the team about what changes to make. Come up with the list of action items and allow everyone to volunteer to do some of them. Set goals for the times when action items will be completed. Meet regularly to review progress. Videotape again after changes have been put in place. Go another round if need be or move on to the next area in the shop that needs improvement. Write out what the team has decided is the best practice for setup and distribute this.

The key here is to get complete buy-in from those doing the actual setups. The team approach will likely achieve this. This is all pretty basic stuff from Lean Manufacturing. If this is new to you, check out "Lean Thinking" by Womack and Jones. There is another book that is devoted to applying Lean to the small shop.

From contributor J:
Personally, I don't like someone "helping" me set up the moulder. Two people under the hood is too crowded. And there are so many things that could go bang. I can't just assume that he backed the chip breaker out of the way. For safety reasons, I like to do it myself, or have another moulder op do it himself.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor O:
In my shop only the operator should setup the tooling in the machine. The operator is responsible for entering the tool diameters, setting the heads, adjusting chippers and hold downs, clearing the timber pathway making sure all is clear of wood, tools and collars, etc; and closing the machine to the new parameters all the while keeping close eye on all movements of feed beam and heads. We use compressed air to make sure the bed is clean and clear also. The operator then knows exactly what has been done before he starts machine and feeds it.

As for tooling: After we grind the knives and measure/label them with little stickers with the tool diameter affixed on the ends we load them on a cart in order of install on the machine for the operator. The operator removes tools from the machine and replaces the same spindle with new tool without moving barely a step or two. After all spindles are loaded, tool diameters (which are in plain sight on ends of tool) are entered into the processor and tool man removes the cart and starts grinding/sharpening tools for next run. The carts are small, and roll very easy and have wood tops. We use dedicated heads for those profiles that are most popular.

We use all HSS, use Wienig technology, and change-overís are very quick due to this system. The operator can almost do this blind because of the consistency of our tool man. In other words he is not wandering around the machine looking for this and that and wasting time. Three minutes going after some part or piece will cost 200 LF of moulding production. Do that 5 times a day and see what you lose? These guys do not run or even rush. The system is a controlled movement from the tool room to the output of the machine.