SMED Events: The Quickest Way to Get ROI From Your LEAN Deployment

I have implemented SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies or Quick Changeover) at several companies in my career as a Lean and Six Sigma consultant. SMED events are a fantastic way to gain quick ROI to fund an implementation; however, without the infrastructure for and sustainment of Lean and Six Sigma, these SMED efforts will eventually revert to the old (unimproved) way. In this blog, I will talk about some misconceptions of the SMED methodology.

Many of the organizations that I transform have had a previous SMED effort. Typically, I am brought in to Implement Lean and Six Sigma, which includes reducing Setup or Changeover Time.

As part of our SMED event, we have a primer on the first day to cover the purpose of Lean, Six Sigma, and SMED. In class, we discuss what happened during the SMED event that preceded our company’s (SSDSI’s) efforts.

Most of the time, I hear the same thing. In companies that have cells of machines (or machines in a line or a “U” shape that are dependent on the previous machine), the event members tell me that the previous SMED efforts taught them the tools to speed up their machines. This is beneficial to learn, but they had not been taught how to speed up the cell as a whole.

They had not been taught how to think of their cell as a combined entity.

SMED: The Basics

SMED is a lean production principle. This is the process to do more with less and deliver maximum value to customers. The SMED system is designed to speed up the process of changing equipment and machinery. It encourages employees to complete as many steps before a changeover as possible, work in teams and standardize and optimize the process. Single Minute Exchange Dies is a way to reduce the time of any changeover, from hours to less than 10 minutes. Dies are specialized manufacturing tools that need to be re-set up to accommodate any changes to production models. This results in downtime. Shigeo Shigo, a Japanese industrial engineer who pioneered SMED and reduced the changeover time in companies by 94% on average. In most cases, it is possible to reduce the time required to replace your machinery to less than 10 minutes.

What are SMED events in lean six sigma?
What are SMED events in lean six sigma?

What Most SMED Implementations Are Missing

The SMED education was to reduce the changeover time of their machine. What is missing is the focus on the constraint in the cell setup.

If I reduce the time to set up my machine by 20 minutes (from 40 minutes down to 20 minutes) but another machine that I am dependent on takes 60 minutes to set up, then my net setup time for the whole cell is 60 minutes.

We find in this departmentalized thinking (reducing the setup time of “my” machine), the operator, after finishing his/her setup, starts working on external tasks (tasks that can be done while the machine is running). These tasks are being performed while the cell is not producing.

SSDSI teaches the operator an alternate understanding of SMED events; one where the focus is on reducing the setup time of the cell not just their machine.

They learn to focus on the longest setup in the cell.

They determine before the setup begins what the best “choreographed dance” is that would allow the team to flex (move to another machine) and set up other machines.

This allows them to optimize the capacity of the cell setup so that they can reduce setup time.

This kind of thinking usually reduces setup times by 30-50% without making any other improvements. Once we make improvements to the setup time of each machine, the net setup time of the cell is further reduced.

Do you have a changeover process in your organization that has multiple processes in a line or cell?

Have you had an internal effort to reduce setup/changeover time that did not work?

Let us know in the comments below!