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SMED: Shigeo Shingo's Single-Minute Exchange of Die

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I am a trainer and consultant in Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, quality management, and business management.

Single Minute Exchange of Die (Shigeo Shingo)

Shigeo Shingo’s Single Minute Exchange of Die or SMED is the lean tool or technique used within lean manufacturing to reduce the setup or changeover times for your process. As the name suggests, the aim is to literally reduce this setup time to single minutes.

This article is going to look at setup reduction through SMED in detail as well as give you examples and guidance as to how to implement it. We will look at:

  • Development of SMED
  • Examples of SMED
  • Why do we need SMED?
  • Benefits of SMED
  • How to implement SMED
  • The 7 stages of SMED with details and diagrams/photos
  • The SMED process
  • Standardizing your setup process

Improve your production Processes using SMED

The Development of Shigeo Shingo's SMED

This technique has been developed within the Toyota Production System (TPS) by an engineer known as Shigeo Shingo. He started this process looking at changeovers of tools on 500Tonne Presses producing body panels. The tool change over could take several hours or even days, now they take a few minutes.

The process has been introduced to the west through his own book, which is essential reading if you are going to implement SMED.

In fact, as a young engineer, I watched the changeover on a similar press in one UK car plant take around seven hours, then watched a whole line of interlinked presses changed over in less than five minutes a few days later in another factory.

Toyota wanted to implement Just in Time and produce smaller batches of materials but changeover times were a major problem. They had to be able to reduce their setups so that they could run smaller batches without affecting productivity.

It was Shigeo Shingo's development of Single Minute Exchange of Die that allowed them to achieve these goals.

I have experience of this in action, having worked with these presses, a company that I previously worked at had managed to get a production line of 4,500 tonne presses to change completely over from last part of one component to the first good part of the next in just 10 minutes.

If you have ever seen these machines and the tools that weigh several tones in their own right, you would wonder how this could be achieved.

Formula One Pit Stop - SMED in Action

SMED Real-Life Example

I guess the most famous application of Shigeo Shingo's SMED or single minute exchange of die that most people have seen is the action of changing a tire.

How long does it take you to change your tires and how long does it take the Formula One team in the pit lane to change all four of theirs?

SMED is all about removing those wasteful steps in the changeover process that will enable you to turn your production process setups from being the roadside tire change to the Formula One race (business) winning changeovers.

Why Do We Need SMED?

Within Lean Manufacturing and Just in Time (JIT), we are aiming to reduce the waste within the system—waste being one of three main areas as defined in Lean / Toyota Production System (TPS). The Waste of Muda (Non-Value adding), Mura (Unevenness) and Muri (Overburden).

SMED tackles all of these waste areas but its greatest strength is in helping us to achieve the elimination of Mura (Unevenness). To gain a smooth predictable flow and help us to meet customer demands we need to be able to process smaller and smaller batches, the biggest obstacle to having smaller batches is the change over time of our equipment.

Developed by Shigeo Shingo at Toyota, SMED is probably one of the most important lean manufacturing tools, if not the most important, for enabling JIT production.

If changeover times are many hours, then we try to maximize our output from these machines by minimizing the number of non-productive changeovers that we do, running as large a batch as possible to make the process “economical” to use.

The only way that we can make smaller batches possible is to reduce the length of time each change over takes, we need to minimize the setup as much as possible to the point where it is of little consequence to our process. This is where SMED comes into play.

SMED benefits

SMED benefits

Smaller batches from SMED

Smaller batches from SMED

Benefits of SMED

The aim of SMED is to reduce the setup time to enable smaller batches to be run enabling Just In Time Manufacturing (JIT) and Kanban. The benefits of this are manyfold:

  • We reduce the amount of cash tied up in stock.
  • We reduce the amount of handling and handling equipment required.
  • We reduce floor space required for stock.
  • We reduce lead times through our company.
  • We increase our flexibility to produce a variety of products.
  • We increase our capacity.
  • We improve our quality.
  • We reduce scrap levels.
  • We reduce the level of operator skills required.
  • But most importantly: we reduce costs and improve profits!

Here's a broader discussion regarding the benefits of lean manufacturing.

Implement Single Minute Exchange of Die

Implement Single Minute Exchange of Die

How to implement SMED on your Changeovers

We normally break SMED implementation down into seven steps, many of which are iterative—we repeat them over and over until we get to our target.

The aim of SMED is to reduce our setup down to single digit minute—less than 10 minutes, the quicker the better.

Implementing SMED is a team activity, involve those people from the process who actually conduct the changeovers, cover all shifts worked so that you gain everyone’s perspective. Involve other people from other areas for alternate ideas.

SMED Process Steps

The following steps are followed when implementing setup reduction through SMED:

  1. Separate internal and external setup activities
  2. Standardize external setup activities
  3. Convert internal to external setup activities
  4. Improve internal changeover tasks
  5. Improve external setup tasks
  6. Mechanize setup
  7. Eliminate changeover

These seven stages of SMED are explained in detail below.

SMED External vs. Internal Activities

SMED External vs. Internal Activities

SMED Stage 1. Separate Internal and External Setup Activities

The first stage of SMED is to look at each step of the setup process and separate internal from external activities. Internal activities can only be done when the process is stopped, such as unbolting the tool in the machine, whereas external activities are those that can be done whilst the process is still running such as fetching the next tool.

Do not rely on what should be done for the setup; go and actually watch it, if possible, record a video of it so that the whole team can watch it over and over, analyzing each and every step of the process.

Record every step of the process and define if it is possible to conduct it as an external or an internal activity.

Standardise External Activities

SMED Standardization of External Activities

SMED Standardization of External Activities

SMED Stage 2. Standardise External Setup Activities

The second stage of SMED is to look at the identified activities that have been classified as external—those that can be done whilst the machine is still running and standardize them. We want to ensure that everyone conducting the setup does it in the same efficient manner; this is very similar to the first few stages of 5S or 5C.

We need to make sure that everything we need is available, in the right place to be used, and that the process is documented to ensure that we do it right.

Setup Reduction Video

SMED Stage 3. Convert Internal to External changeover activities

The more that can be achieved whilst the process is actually running, the less time the process or machine actually has to be stopped for. So if we can look at the activities that we have identified as being internal and somehow convert them to being external, then we can further reduce the setup time.

Some examples of this can be pre-heating dies or moulds before putting them into the machine so that you don’t have to wait for the machine to heat them. (Formula One tires are heated to driving temperature before fitting so the driver does not have to wait for his car to get to temperature!)

Other examples can include having additional sets of clean common tooling that would otherwise have to be cleaned, setting cutters and other equipment off line, having “intermediate” fixtures to set and just slide in when the machine stops.

Improve Internal Activities SMED: Defined Die Locations

Improve Internal Activities SMED: Defined Die Locations

Bolt Options SMED

Bolt Options SMED

Standardise Tool Height SMED

Standardise Tool Height SMED

SMED Example

SMED Example

SMED Stage 4. Improve Internal Changeover Activities

Shigeo Shingo once said “Only the last turn of the bolt actually tightens it, the rest is just movement (waste).” Look at everything that is done as part of your internal activities and see if they can be eliminated or made more efficient.

Bolts can be replaced with shorter ones, spring-loaded clamps that are pushed into place, or wing nut headed versions that require only hands not tools, and so on.

Location points can be made “more positive” so that things do not have to be measured or gauged into place.

Tools can be modified to give a standard fit to the machine.

Your team's imagination here is the limit—consider every action:

  • What is the purpose of it?
  • Do we need it?
  • Can it be done quicker?
  • Can it be done a different way?
Improved External Activities SMED

Improved External Activities SMED

SMED Stage 5. Improve External Setup Activities

Review what you have done in earlier stages and further improve on what you have done to improve changeover times, look at your layout, sequence of activities, materials and tools required and placement.

Again, record video and list out every step of what you do, what steps of the process are wasteful (just movement for instance). Review every step in the way you would for 5S, considering each of the seven wastes.

At this point it is worth revisiting the entire process, beginning again at the first stage and repeating the entire process to see what additional improvements you can make.

Quick Changeover Video

SMED Stage 6. Mechanization of Setup

This stage of the process is not always required or justifiable; in most cases you will already have achieved your single-digit target for your changeover.

However, in some rare instances you will need to consider actually mechanizing the process to achieve the saving that you require.

SMED Stage 7. Eliminate Changeover

The ideal situation would be to totally eliminate the need for any type of changeover—how would it be if there was no need to ever make another setup?

This is achievable in some cases with a little thought and by going back into the design process. Often we can design out the need for multiple versions of a component and make do with only the one, thus eliminating the need to make setup changes at all.

Another option is to look at the design of the process and tooling. For example, instead of having several injection molding tools producing several components, could they all be incorporated into one tool like an Airfix model aircraft kit?

SMED is one of the most important tools within Lean Manufacturing. It is the philosophy by which you will methodically reduce your changeover times allowing you to implement Just in Time (JIT) and reduce waste from your processes, thus reducing your costs and making you much more profit!

SMED Process

SMED is a team activity not something that should be implemented by an experts and forced onto those running the process. It is vital that everyone that is involved in the process is involved in setup reduction.

Do not stand over people with a stopwatch when conducting SMED, use a video camera and video several changeovers. If there are different operators and different shifts try to video as many different variations as you can.

Have the whole team review the process from the videos; the team can then time the steps directly from the video and look at differences between the methods that different shifts and individuals employ.

Standardize the Setup Process

To ensure that everyone conducts the changeover in the best possible way it is important that your setup is documented. Unless you have a documented process that shows best practice, then you will get variation as well as potential quality problems.

Your setup reduction team should aim to fully document the process as your new standard to improve on by the team in the future. Setup instructions, work instructions, or Standard Operating Procedures are very simple to create with today's computers and digital cameras. Just a few pictures with a couple of notes is often enough to document most changeovers.

If you have any questions or experiences that you would like to share regarding implementing SMED and other lean tools please leave them in the comments box below.

Help With Your SMED Implementation

If you want to implement SMED and are not sure where to start, then setup reduction online can provide you with all of the SMED help that you need to ensure that your changeovers are reduced down to single minutes.

The following are useful links for business support and lean manufacturing resources that may be able to provide you with more information or even physical help with Implementing SMED or any other Lean Manufacturing tools.

Manufacturing Improvements The Institute for Manufacturing at Cambridge University has a group dedicated to helping manufacturers to improve their processes. They can give you more information, often run seminars, and can even provide you with consultants to help you implement single minute exchange of die or other lean improvements.

Quality Institute Chartered Quality Institute situated in London has many publications which can help you with getting more information and can also point you in the direction of more tangible help and support.

American Quality Society American Society of Quality can provide help and support just as the UK version can.

Manufacturers Association American National Association of Manufacturers can provide you with support and guidance on many lean tools.

Business Innovation and Skills Improvement UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills can help you with finding trainers and consultants to implement SMED, they may also be able to provide you with funding.

Business Improvements UK Business Link are another government body who can provide you with support, they may be able to access other areas and funds as well as the Manufacturing advisory service.

Motor Manufacturers and Traders Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders have many publications on subjects such as SMED and other lean tools as these ideas have been initially developed and spread through the automotive industry.

Automotive Industry Action Group Automotive Industry Action Group can provide you with help in the same manner as the SMMT above.

These links will help you to find more information regarding Lean Manufacturing, Just in Time and Shigeo Shingo's SMED, Single Minute Exchange of Die to help reduce your setup times.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


ADWAITH on May 17, 2018:


can i get some more information about this SMED system

priya on March 19, 2018:

can i get some more clear ideas about "what is baseline?"

what is the criteria to set a baseline

ALAMREW AYALNEH on October 13, 2014:

It is wonderful article which really help in implementing this system.

Can i get some more article done specially in garment industry.

you can share me using this mail address:

Wavhal on October 17, 2013:

Very helpful & informative article.

Ganesh on February 19, 2013:

very thankfull for this information

Emma from Houston TX on March 12, 2011:

Outstanding article,thanks for sharing.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on February 21, 2011:

Thanks for your praise, I am glad that you liked what you read about SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die).

I hope that you go on to use what you learned in our industry.

sgtemo on February 21, 2011:

dude this is realy helpful im learnin this stuff in college but even the teacher was impressed with this so 10/10 for it

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on January 27, 2011:

Thanks for your very kind comments regarding my SMED Single Minute Exchange of Die Hub westocean.

WestOcean from Great Britain on January 16, 2011:

An outstanding hub, Leanman. Should be the benchmark for content on this topic on the web.