What is a Setup Time?

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  • Written By: Terrie Brockmann
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2019
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Setup time refers to the time from the last production unit on one job to the first good unit of a new job. More specifically, it is the time it takes to remove the dies and tooling from one job order and replace it with the dies and tooling for the new job. Changeover, turnover, and prep time are some of the common names for it. Although it usually refers to manufacturing machinery, setup time may refer to other types of businesses, such as the time it takes to change bands' equipment on stage. Toyota introduced a campaign to reduce setup times in 1971, and many other manufacturers have since followed its lead.

There are many reasons for reducing setup time. Even though the initial cost may be expensive, manufacturers have found that reducing turnover time increases productivity and profit. Many businesses have changed to just-in-time, or JIT, processes, and having quick changeover times helps them reach their goals of 100-percent customer satisfaction. Fast setup times also mean that the workers have less idle time, such as time to wander and talk.


The ability to quickly set up a new job means that a company can run multiple products on the same machine, which saves money and increases profit. There are two types of setup time: external and internal. External setup times are the parts of the changeovers that a worker performs while the machine is running. The internal time is the amount of time a worker uses while the machine is stopped. The goal is to shift the percentage of internal to external time to continue production while preparing for the setup.

The types of methods that can help reduce setup times depend greatly on the type of business and type of process. It will be different for a person working in an office than for a machinist in a manufacturing facility. Some examples of ways to reduce setup time include quick-change dies and tooling, computer-numeric-control (CNC) programming, and pallet changers. Sometimes it can be as simple as using a two-person team to do the changeover. Other methods include standardizing bolts and pins so that they fit multiple machines, having tools and equipment nearby, and using power tools instead of manual or hand tools.

No matter what field the setup time is a part of, there are some basic rules that can improve any changeover. Proper training ensures that the worker is using the latest and most efficient method. A worker needs easy access to the information about the new setup and the method needed to complete it. The materials for the new job must be available, and the tooling, dies, or fixtures should be stored nearby in readily accessible storage. These simple steps help workers do as much as possible during the external time.


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Is 'lead time' a combination of 'setup time' and 'labor time'?

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