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In the words of Carlos Ghosn, celebrated CEO of Renault-Nissan,"If you want to make consistent and prolonged improvements to your operations, it is crucial that you implement and follow SMED techniques in your production lines." Within modern business environments, continuously improving and streamlining operations to gain competitive advantage is an imperative. Single-Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) is one powerful strategy that C-level executives can leverage to achieve this objective.

Understanding SMED

Coined by industrial engineer, Shigeo Shingo, the SMED approach focuses on minimizing the time it takes to switch production processes—or dies—from producing one product or process variant to another. It aims at reducing changeover time to less than 10 minutes, hence the term “single-minute." Streamlining such changeovers to be as efficient as possible is critical to reducing non-productive time, increasing equipment utilization, improving delivery speed, and optimizing overall Operational Excellence.

Why the SMED Strategy Matters

Changeovers are inevitable in any manufacturing and production process. These changeovers, if not optimized, can create significant downtime and reduce overall productivity. Contrary to the traditional volume-driven manufacturing ideology, the SMED process enables organizations to produce in smaller batches, allowing for greater flexibility and responsiveness to market demand. This approach results in reduced waste, improved Quality Management, and enhanced customer satisfaction—pivotal components of Strategic Management.

Implementing SMED Best Practices

The SMED methodology employs certain strategic steps and best practices, designed to reduce setup times, enhance efficiency, and elevate overall Productivity Management.

  1. Separate Internal and External Setup Tasks: Internal tasks are those that can be performed only when the machine is stopped, while external tasks can be executed while the machine is running. By identifying and separating these tasks, organizations can complete external tasks during operational runs and significantly reduce total changeover time.
  2. Convert Internal Tasks into External Tasks: With strategic planning, many tasks that are currently internal can be converted into external, further reducing overall setup time.
  3. Streamline Remaining Internal Tasks: This is achieved by simplifying, standardizing or mechanizing procedures wherever feasible. Techniques such as parallel operations and efficient motion principles support this step.

Benefits of the SMED Approach

The implementation of the SMED methodology within organizations offers numerous value-driven benefits, including:

Case Insight: Toyota's Success with SMED

One of the best-known applications of the SMED technique is by Toyota— a major player in the Lean Manufacturing revolution. By implementing SMED, Toyota successfully reduced their setup times from hours to mere minutes, enabling more flexible and efficient production and setting a new standard for Operational Excellence in the automotive sector.

SMED: A Methodology for Innovation and Growth

Mastering the SMED methodology is more relevant today than ever in the context of disruptive Digital Transformation and increasing market volatility. For C-level executives, it is critical to acknowledge the value of SMED as a strategic enabler for continuous Process Improvement, Operational Efficiency, and Adaptability. It streamlines operations, strengthens Performance Management, and contributes to innovatively navigating the complex landscape of Strategic management. Combining it with Lean Principles and other forms of Quality Management, leaders can drive sustainable growth and retain their organizations' competitive edge.


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