SMED is one of the classic tools of the Lean Manufacturing arsenal, but does it still have a place in today’s market? Actually, that’s a rhetorical question. Nowadays, speed, reliability, and custom-made production are an absolute must if a company wants to count itself among the elite in its industry. Therefore, ‘flexibility’ and ‘meeting client demand’ are even more important in the current market dynamics.
SMED, or Single Minute Exchange of Die, is the methodology for reducing conversion time on a production line. The name refers to the exchange of a die in Toyota in under 10 minutes (Single digit - or fewer than 10 - Minutes), whereas that used to take hours. The methodology consists of a structured 4-step approach and is refined by ongoing improvement (‘kaizen’). The reason for the development of the SMED methodology was to reduce batch sizes. The fact is that shorter turnovers meant changing more often and more flexibly with smaller batch sizes, so that production was better geared to client demand. Bonus: they were able to reduce stock levels.
The SMED methodology also has other purposes. The time savings don’t have to be used to change repeatedly, but can also be used to plan in extra production volume on your line. This means you can sometimes create that little bit of extra capacity in your production cheaply and quickly to keep pace with rising client demand. You can also see here the analogy with the F1 pit stop (see photograph); optimising the turnover so as to leave as much time as possible for production. You can also apply SMED for the optimisation of other planned stoppages. This is how we have also offset major shutdowns in recent years and reduced them in time.
SMED has also been given a new dimension as part of IoT and Industry 4.0. Due to the growing complexity and increasing number of PLCs in current production lines, the electronic changeover is a factor not to be underestimated. Here, too, the SMED principles can be the guiding hand in the refinement process.
And so, in short, SMED is HOT. It is without exaggeration the ideal tool for optimising your production in today’s difficult context. If you carry out an accurate scan of your company with its specific context and market and apply SMED, it is not impossible to force a major breakthrough in just a few weeks.