SMED. Or Single Minute Exchange of Die; reduce setup times by up to 90%

The SMED, that is the technique that allows to reduce the set up times in order to be more competitive and more easily reactive to the changes demanded from the market.

It seems complicated using this definition, but we will see now first what SMED means, from where it comes, besides techniques and examples.

SMED: meaning and origin

First of all, SMED was created to address one of the major challenges that companies face almost daily, namely the demand for flexibility almost instantaneously.

This need is linked to the speed with which they change and transform the markets, continuously varying the requirements of the customers, but also their successive final markets.

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However, for a company to be flexible is not so simple: it is not only a question of response time or the definition of a solution for the customer, but also the realization itself. And this is strongly influenced by production processes, often very rigid and standardized.

Here comes into play one of the methods for the realization of Lean Management: the SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die), designed by Shigeo Shingo.

In the 1970s and 1980s, in fact, the European market was swept away by Japanese cars, which were cheaper but of high quality. All thanks to the method invented by this consultant.

He, in fact, understood that the time of equipping a machine, carried out precisely with this stop, was time lost, that did not produce value. He then thought of optimizing this “hidden” operating cost by shifting the activity to zero productive value in the time when the machine was in process.

How to apply SMED? Techniques

As anticipated, SMED is a “lean tool“, that is, part of those “mental” tools (or cognitive approaches) that help simplify and streamline production.

To understand how new techniques can be implemented, one must first understand how one works at the moment.

To record everything, of course, it is not ideal to rely on paper and pen and manual counts, inaccurate and dispersive: it would be better to record a movie.

Obviously, some precautions are needed, such as a privacy waiver by operators, who must of course be informed of all this;
the problem, however, could also be related to the fact of feeling observed so the solution could be to give directly to those working on the production line also the camera.

In this way, operators will feel personally involved and will be more inclined to achieving a common goal.

For example, Staufen is a company experienced in the implementation of this method, successfully.

Here is the method to implement SMED:

  1. Record (film) the entire setup phase;
  2. Discuss with the operators the different operations and criticalities of each
  3. Study in detail the timing, movements and modalities of each phase.

    During the study, it is then necessary to divide the activities of INTERNE and EXTERNAL SETUP; it is therefore a matter of

    Internal IED (Inside Exchange of Die), therefore activities that are necessarily carried out with the machine stopped, like the insertion of a mold;
    External OED (outside Exchange of Die), that is those tasks that can be performed when the machine is in operation, will have to take place in those moments. These are phases such as research and preparation of materials and tools, documents filling… 

The objective, therefore, is to transform the IED activities into OED, so as to streamline the process. Obviously, it is a matter of seeking rational, simple and effective solutions.

Advantages of a SMED approach

The application of the Shingo method in the 1970s led to a 90% reduction of set up times. 

Today, although already much more efficient in the production chain, this approach can improve production by lowering costs, as well as allowing the production of smaller and more customized batches. 

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