Importance SMED & Changeovers

Importance SMED & Changeovers
Description and implementation of SMED

Customer demands for small batch sizes and individual production are forcing companies to retool machines and systems more and more often and to change products. In production, however, the goal is to reduce set-up times in order to keep production downtime as short as possible and thus minimize possible losses. This dilemma poses difficult hurdles to the manufacturing process and solutions are needed.

Impact of Product Variations on Downtime

We are only at the beginning of the new great fourth industrial revolution, but change within the world of work is happening faster than in previous times. With Industry 4.0, digitalization has found its way into all areas of the working world. Processes are mapped digitally, digital work instructions support employees in their individual work steps and electronic systems work fully independently. Everything is changing, the industry is evolving and trying to position itself in a more modern and contemporary way. In the meantime, standardized mass production is no longer the goal, but individualized production and manufacturing is becoming increasingly important due to the individual wishes and needs of our society. Currently, there is hardly an industry that does not have to face the increasing demands of customers for smaller order quantities and shorter delivery times. In addition, mass production or the production of large batch sizes leads to high stock levels and space problems and thus to higher costs. Solutions are being sought to manage these new demands.

What is SMED?

The SMED method is ideal for reducing setup times and producing small batch sizes. In today's world, it is becoming increasingly important to respond flexibly to individual demand. Machines and processes have to be changed over more often, smaller batch sizes are required. Large batch sizes also tend to be a disadvantage, as they entail high inventories and long lead times. It is therefore important to minimize setup times in order to respond to the need for individualized manufacturing and reduce costs. SMED is the successful method for rapid changeover of machines and systems and means "Single Minute Exchange of Die", i.e. the changeover of a machine or system from one product to another in a single-digit minute cycle. This method was developed in Japan in the 1970s by Shigeo Shingo, who was a key external consultant in the development of the Toyota Production System (TPS). It involves shortening the setup time through organizational and technical measures. Here, the setup change includes not only the tool change on the line, but all the processes involved in changing over from one product to another. Set-up time is defined as the time from the end of production of the last good part of a product to the time from which good parts of the next product are produced. The aim of the SMED method is thus to change over machines and equipment to a new production process without disrupting the production flow, in order to minimize inventories.        

Application of the SMED method

The SMED method is ideally suited to meet the demand of individual customer requirements. Batch sizes are getting smaller and therefore machines, equipment or systems have to be retooled more often. This causes idle times for machines and systems and therefore higher costs. The SMED success method attempts to produce batch sizes from a quantity of 1 in such a way that waiting times are minimized. Another advantage is that larger inventories are kept low at the same time. The SMED method is used to additionally analyze set-up processes, to define measures to minimize set-up times and to evaluate potentials. The application of this successful method proceeds in four or five steps. There are external and internal steps, which are first determined in an ACTUAL analysis. External makeready steps can be carried out if they are possible during ongoing production. Internal steps can only be carried out when the machines and equipment are at a standstill.

SMED therefore typically follows the following steps:

  1. Separation of internal and external setup processes (organization) or evaluation of the ACTUAL state
  2. Transfer of internal to external setup processes
  3. Optimization and standardization of internal and external setup processes
  4. Elimination of adjustment processes
  5. Parallelization of setup processes
SMED Process

The steps are repeated several times in the correct sequence until the setup times are in the single-digit minute range. Each step, relative to the previous step, should usually result in disproportionate investment. The final goal is reached when a machine or system in production can be retooled within one production cycle. This makes batch size 1 production possible (one-piece flow).

How exactly can this work?

Each company must find the best way for itself to apply the right measures that fit the production process in question. Detailed digital documentation is important to record all steps of the changeover. Digital work instructions and checklists facilitate the process and the application of the SMED method. The following techniques are often used:

  • Use of clamps instead of screws
  • Sliding tables instead of cranes
  • Automation of the production process
  • Mechanization
  • Standardization of setup activities
  • Parallelization of set-up processes through increased personnel deployment


With the SMED method, not only can setup times be reduced within production, but inventories can also be kept low. This means that considerable costs can already be saved in the company. Lot sizes are significantly reduced and adherence to schedules and flexibility in production planning and production are increased. The method, which originated in Japan, was successfully applied there early on at Toyota. A major advantage in favor of using this method is that throughput times are reduced. Thus, customer satisfaction increases and also the performance and the result should achieve better values.


In today's world, where individual demand is becoming more and more important, such a method is an important part of any company's manufacturing process. Product differentiation is ubiquitous and faster product changes and small batch sizes will become more important. When properly applied, the SMED method leads to lower costs and capacity is created within the company. It is important that employees are also involved in the process so that it also leads to the desired success. The SMED method is effective and ensures the company's competitiveness and the way to a successful future.

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