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Machine technology that slashes changeover (sidebar)

Small vs large plants
In our first report we noted that there were some sizable disparities in the responses from packagers at small vs larger plants. For example while only about a third of all respondents reported two or more changeovers per shift 45.9% of the smaller plants said they changed lines at least twice per shift. In contrast only 24% of the larger plants said the same.

The small plants may have more changeovers but theirs typically don't take as long. One in five responses from the large plants said changes take five hours or more. Just slightly more than 4% of the smaller plants report that. More than half of the respondents from the smaller plants (54.2%) said line changeovers take 30 minutes or less; 40% of the large plants claimed the same.

A similar disparity was evident in the number of workers involved in changeovers. In large plants over 54% claimed a change required three or more workers. At smaller plants over 62% reported that one or two workers handled line changes.

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There were fewer differences when we asked which workers were responsible for changing over equipment. Machine operators were cited by 61.5% of the respondents from smaller plants by 48.1% of those from large plants. The major difference in the response to this question is that the large plants were far more likely to have packaging mechanics involved in changeover (14.8%) compared to 3.8% from the smaller facilities. What this probably means is that the larger plants are more likely to have workers identified as packaging mechanics than are the smaller plants.

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