16. Apr. 2018

Create Flow: Less time, More Performance, More Flexibility

by Kaizen Institute

It is fundamental to analyse the last pillar of “how to create flow”. We discussed the optimisation of stoppage time and it is in this context that we apply a KAIZEN™ methodology called ’Single Minute Exchange of Die’ – SMED. Although originally defined as the exchange of a mould in less than “ten minutes”, it does not have to refer literally to this stoppage time, but to a much shorter period than the one initially observed.

SMED was designed during the 50’s in Mitsubishi by Shiego Shingo and later implemented by Toyota. This is a methodology that intended to reduce Non-Value-Added time caused by a changeover, usually called setup time. During production, this period is considered to be the elapsed time between the last good unit, when produced with the required efficiency, and the first good unit of the new product, when produced with the required efficiency. 

On the other hand, in logistics or in services, this definition must be understood as the elapsed time between the last compliant value-added activity is done by the means of transportation or by interaction with the customer, and the time of the first compliant value-added activity done by the same mean of transportation or by interaction with the customer. In fact, thinking that SMED can only be applied in the industry is quite naïve, since using this process, companies in various sectors, globally have seen significant reductions in unproductive times associated with non-added value tasks. We must be able to think outside the box and replace the situation in a production line to, the preparation of a room in an operating room or the change of an operator on the cash registers’ line.

From optimising the stoppage time, it is possible to carry out shorter runs in a more economical way, with an enormous impact on stock reduction, on-time deliveries and quality issues fundamentally leading to better customer service. In contrast, the increase in actual capacity of the equipment allows for a strategic decision to be made by Senior Management to either use this available time to increase production or if deemed unnecessary, reduce operating costs.[SA1] The foundations of SMED is based on a distinction between internal work – tasks that can only be done when the equipment is stopped – and external work – tasks that can be carried out while the equipment is running.  This methodology is structured in five progressive stages, which are:

1) Work study, through observations and analysis of times and wastes
2) Separation of internal and external work
3)Transformation of internal work into external work, through elimination, simplification or with low-cost improvements.
4) Reduction of internal work
5) Reduction of external work

 Although this methodology may seem simple, the application of SMED requires the direct observation of tasks that lead to stoppages. The team participating in the SMED workshop must include the operators that work in the processes being analysed, as they will have the most experience on improvements that can be made.  After trialling the new solutions, it is vital that the operators working within those processes are trained in the new way of working and standards are created.

Benefits from SMED Activities can be found through Over-time saving, number of shifts or subcontracting; billing/margin through an increase of productive capacity; and stock reduction with less cash tied up in stock.

In an increasingly competitive world, productivity and flexibility are cross-cutting goals to every sector, company or work area. Observations, data collection and elimination of non-value-added tasks, will help ensure processes remain efficient with better flow.

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