SMED: Solution Concepts Beyond Conventional Methods

SMED, Setup, Changeover, how to implement SMED


Following a traditional SMED process to reduce downtime during changeover can limit first time efforts to a ballpark 35% reduction gain. In some cases this can be acceptable but if you are going to invest the improvement resources, go beyond these traditional improvements by following these proven and successful methods.

A traditional SMED process basically follows these process steps:

  1. Define the problem (business need)
  2. Form diverse team with mission
  3. Measure current state
  4. Video tape of current setup process
  5. Video tape analysis
  6. Implement solutions
  7. Measure results and optimize
  8. Sustain results with standardization
  9. Continuously improve

It is during step 5 the diverse team is looking to, first identify, and then classify the setup tasks into the four categories (Download the video analysis template below):

  1. External Task Activities which can be accomplished while the equipment is running
  2. Internal Task Activities that must be performed when the process is down
  3. Replacement Task Activities which require removing of attachments to be cleaned, replenished, changed, or adjusted
  4. Adjustments Tasks Activities required to meet quality standards

Many times the setup team will focus too much of their analysis, and subsequent solutions, on converting internal tasks to external tasks. However when recording the distribution of the four task activities, adjustment tasks for example, can consume the highest amount of setup time (Chart 1).

SMED, Changeover, Setup

Chart 1

Concepts beyond Conventional Methods 

One of the first steps then is to record the distribution of setup time tasks (times taken from recorded video). Use it as a Pareto analysis to determine where to start focusing improvement resources.

Video Time Latitude

The definition of a setup is: the amount of time taken to change a piece of equipment from producing the last good piece of a production lot to the first good piece of the next production lot. People make the mistake of starting the video at the time of the last good piece and ending the video when the first good piece is achieved. The video should be started 15 minutes prior to the last good piece because we will usually witness non-standard processes happening like getting the next lot there on time, determining required tools, or retrieving required information. Witnessing these non-standard processes can help the setup team determine standards to optimize Internal tasks to External tasks. The video should be ended 15 minutes past the first good piece as sometimes it is achieved but then 2 or 3 pieces later are not to standard.


If there are tasks that are not adding value then can they be eliminated? For example, I find too many times the Value Stream worker has to complete too many check sheets or enter information where; improvements should have already eliminated the need for check sheets or automatic data collection technology should have been installed. Review authorization processes for quality, can they be eliminated? Well trained Value Stream workers applying standard work are much more suited for determining quality levels. Early Craftsmen had no need for someone to check the results of their applied skills. Waiting for a “check mark” from the quality department or Supervisor creates waiting waste. For tasks that cannot be eliminated look at techniques to reduce task cycle time. The use of ergonomic techniques by moving tools closer to the actual application or providing suitable access to the application can significantly reduce task cycle times. Appropriate designs will reduce worker fatigue.

Setup Tool Improvement

The only value added turn of any connection device is the turn to loosen or the turn to tighten. Racing pit crews started with jacks that took several pumps to lift the car, today it takes one pump. During video tape analysis the setup team must record all of the hand and measurement tools used and then go through a process of tool improvement. All hand tools and measurement devices can be improved by performing an analysis related to tool location (tool to application efficiency), tools missing, faster tools, tool design/condition, and elimination. Ergonomics must be considered during this improvement process as this will improve work conditions for the Value Stream worker. To eliminate some of the hand tools quick connectors can replace screws, Allen screws, and bolts. I found IMAO an organization that is oriented towards providing products for setup reduction efforts. Invite quick connector suppliers for a Gemba walk so they can suggest where their products could save setup time.

setup, smedAdjustment Time Improvement

As indicated in Chart 1, Adjustment tasks can be the most significant time segment of a setup. This is mainly due to the acceptance of average quality levels, coming from upstream. To improve, start with understanding where variation is coming from. Perform an analysis of key inputs and determine if raw materials have the correct tolerances. What I have witnessed is material suppliers have been contracted with the same tolerances for many years, even with changes to product design, machine technology, methods, and environment changes. Most organizations today stay with a 'Goal Post' quality philosophy, they are content with measures within an upper and lower specification. This is not continuous improvement; see our Quality System Management page to understand why. Finally, through a detailed IPO diagram, review all input sources of variation (methods, machine, people, environment etc..) that can affect quality outputs, determine an acceptable process sigma level and once achieved eliminate unnecessary quality checks conducted during the adjustment steps of the setup process. Significant amount of adjustment time can come from lack of visual adjustment and tightening by feel. Having visual adjusting mechanical knobs and gauges can save significant time in setting up for a specific product. Tightening by feel will result in defects from the  setup process and obtaining stability of the machine. The picture of my wearable watch clearly shows defects coming from poor tightening methods applied. This could have been eliminated through tightening to a standard torque setting resulting in prevention of wasted adjustment time and defects going to the customer.

Setup Pit Crews

During setup workshops I always show a video clip of a formula 1 pit crew illustrating the improvements made over the past 66 years. The most common comment from the workshops is 'sure they improved but look at how many people they are using today.' Understand most of the pit crew members are not full time, they have other job responsibilities. The racing team clearly understands races can be lost in the pits so they do not take short cuts with needed resources to meet targets. If long setup times are one of the main causes of the organization not meeting their business targets then more people can be afforded to participate in the setup. Not by adding permanent people but by understanding what is available in the production system. For example, if the throughput of the previous process step is higher, then utilize people from this step to afford support for the setup, especially for Internal tasks converted to External tasks. Also, positions like Lean Water Spiders, Maintenance, Quality, Supervisors, Leads, etc., can also be made available during setups through standardization and improved communications.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Visit

I have always found benefits to inviting the original equipment manufacturer team for a Gemba walk of the equipment being used for production. The equipment can be the automated equipment used to transform the product or it can be as simple as measurement devices used for quality control. Many times I have witnessed the surprise expressions of the OEM team when they observe outdated technology being applied or worn tools causing unnecessary setup times. They are surprised because they have an off the shelf solution that could be adapted to this older version of the equipment. This happens because once the equipment is first purchased there are no follow ups with the OEM to review technology developments.

Continuous Improvement

Shigeo Shingo an author and SMED practitioner, who learned about Single-Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) from Toyota, did not reduce setup times to 2.5% of the original setup time with a single iteration of a setup improvement effort. It took many continuous efforts to identify and reduce the waste, sometimes years. To maintain momentum of continuous improvement efforts start with visual management of each setup, include it in your Leaders Standard Work program, and then use daily Gemba walks to support, teach, and promote continuance of setup time reduction.

These 'going beyond' tasks have proven to significantly reduce setup time. They are mainly based on using available knowledge and resources, your suppliers, the leadership team, and value stream workers.

Another benefit; most of these efforts will not require any significant expenditures; investment is mostly application of available skills, knowledge, and effective time.

It should also be pointed out that not all process steps will require setup reduction efforts, even if setup times are initially considered to be long. Whenever process improvement efforts are anticipated the complete system must be reviewed. This requires the review of process step cycle times, throughput, availability, Theory of Constraint analysis, and what is required to meet the overall strategy objectives.

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