What is included in your setup documentation?

In most companies, the programmer/s will provide – for every job – a setup sheet that tells the setup person how to make the setup for the job. But programmers vary with regard to just how much documentation they provide.


Admittedly, the amount and quality of setup documentation that is required is dependent upon the skill level of your setup people. If you have highly qualified and experienced people, your programmers don’t need to provide much. Indeed, a highly skilled setup person may be able to make some setups without any documentation at all. But as skill levels drop – possibly due to hiring new people – good setup documentation becomes more critical.


One easy way to judge the quality of your company’s setup documentation involves walking the shop floor when setups are being made. Look for times when machines sit idle because the setup person is unsure how to proceed. Maybe they have contacted a programmer or another engineer to help. Or maybe they’re spending excessive time studying – or asking other setup people what to do.


Some items that should be documented are pretty obvious. The location and description of cutting tool components, fixtures, and other needed components should be spelled out. Placement on/in the machine (tool station numbers and workholding device placement) should be documented. Again, the physical items used to make setups are pretty easy to spot.

But again, look for things that your programmer has missed that can cause wasted time during setup:

  • What offsets are used for each tool or workpiece attribute? In many cases offset selection is pretty basic. The offset number is usually tied to the tool station number in some way. But when secondary offsets are used, it can be difficult for setup people to determine which offsets are related to a given tool.

  • Are there any valves to set? With turning centers, for example, the chuck pressure may be changed from setup to setup. The documentation for every setup should spell out the chuck pressure to be used.

  • Is it necessary to change any control parameters? With major change-overs – like placing a rotary axis on a vertical machining center or changing a chuck on a turning center – there may be some parameters that must be changed. Be sure they’re spelled out in the setup documentation.

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