From 4 Hours to 3 Minutes with SMED!

By on March 6, 2014
Achieving Quick Changeovers with SMED

Achieving Quick Changeovers to Improve Productivity & Processes

Yes, four hours to three minutes for a changeover on a 1,000 ton press 50 years ago at Toyota Motor Company. Shigeo Shingo, a consultant, was able to collaborate with Toyota engineers on a method that made this dramatic changeover possible. That is pretty impressive for 50 years ago, right?

This method became known as SMEDsingle minute exchange of dies – a system focused on significantly reducing the length of time it takes to perform a changeover. Shingo went on to document this in his book A Revolution in Manufacturing: The SMED System.

I sought out some clarification on the phrase “single minute.” As it turns out, it does not mean that all changeovers and startups should take only one minute (whew, that is a relief, eh?), but that they should take less than 10 minutes (in other words, “single-digit minute”).

The SMED system is one of the many lean production methods for reducing waste in manufacturing processes. It provides a rapid and efficient way of converting a manufacturing process from running the current product to running the next product. This rapid changeover is important to reducing production lot sizes and thereby improving flow. Rapid changeover can also have a significant impact on the waste of overproduction, commonly referred to as the “mother of all waste.” When this happens the amount of warehouse space needed to store overproduction is greatly reduced. One manufacturer reported an 80% reduction in the amount of warehouse space needed.

And what exactly is a changeover? A “changeover” refers to the amount of time taken to change a piece of equipment from producing the last good piece of a production lot to the first good piece of the next production lot. In a non-manufacturing environment, it would be the last good unit of one type of work. The pit crews at NASCAR races are a great example of a superb quick changeover in action – where every move is tightly scripted, and every single element of work carefully analyzed.

Speed is still the name of the game in many applications. The ability of a NASCAR pit crew to get a car back onto the track as quickly as possible often means the difference between being a winning car in front of the pack or a losing car trailing at the end. This really is the same concept for producers of any product or service. The ability to make a product or provide a service as quickly as possible is still valued as long as quality is maintained. A fast snail with no quality does not win the race over a slow snail with trustworthy quality/performance, you might say!

Why are quick changeovers so important? Well, okay I get it in the NASCAR example but what about in daily production flows or process flows? The first reason I came to realize is that a quick changeover leads to the reduction of lead time. It is all about velocity. A quick changeover equals increased velocity. Increased velocity makes creating value faster because in our manufacturing example your machines are running and not sitting idle. And I suppose the same would go for any standard office process-increased velocity would lead to greater efficiency.

A quick changeover is also important for customer service. Having a quick changeover process leads to shorter lead times and smaller lot sizes. Shorter lead times and smaller lot sizes may significantly reduce the time between when a customer orders a product and when he/she receives it. This equals happy customers. We all love it when we order something online, receive free shipping and receive it at our doorstep within three to five days. (I am also a big fan of all the little extra value added touches I sometimes receive with my order such as handwritten notes or goodie bags with free samples).

Really, what we are talking about is achieving an overall greater level of flexibility which equates to better on time delivery performance, reduction in inventory levels which will reduce costs and increase cash flow.

Is your head spinning yet with all these terms? Mine kind of is but I want to learn more. Do you?

Do you want to learn more about how SMED and quick changeovers could help your organization? Then the Workforce Solutions Group’s latest Lean training seminar Quick Changeovers: Using the SMED Process to Improve Productivity and Processes is for you. Contact George Friesen, our Business Practice Leader for Lean Transformations, to learn more.

About Shayna Howell

Shayna was the Client Development Manager in the Workforce Solutions Group of St Louis Community College. She has over 20 years of experience in the Community College system in training and development, project management, program/course development, grant writing/administration and marketing.