Changeover Excellence applies everywhere

The technique of SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) aka Changeover Excellence, developed in the Automotive industry, can be applied in many ways.

In recent weeks I have been attending a variety of conferences extolling the virtues of continuous operational improvement.  In one of my presentations I recalled an example of an 11 minute changeover on a rolling mill.  This mill was the bottleneck in the whole manufacturing chain and the work rolls were changed numerous times each day, therefore any time saved in the changeover was a total production benefit and, of course, an impact on bottom line profitability.  We normally claim that there is a 50% reduction available in most, if not all changeovers.  On this occasion I was fearing the worst; was it really possible to take out 5.5 minutes?  So we set up the video, captured one changeover and then gathered all the stakeholders together to review the footage and to follow the changeover reduction process of elimination tasks, externalising those that could be done before and then streamlining what was left.

Sadly, this was probably the first time such a cross-functional group had come together; operators, engineers, supervisors, managers, etc., yet this is key to the process.  Within seconds a suggestion had been made, followed by many more which resulted in close to 7 minutes being eliminated from the changeover.  The most telling comment was when one operator asked if the trolley carrying the work rolls could be speeded up and the engineer asked “how fast would you like it to go?”.  When the project to install the trolley was carried out the speed had been set arbitrarily and no-one who operated the equipment had been consulted.

Those of you who are familiar with the term SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) will know that it originated in the Automotive industry and has been used for years.  What many people don’t know is that the process (elimination, externalisation, streamlining) can be used anywhere and on any process.  I was reminded of this on a recent plane journey with KLM.  Their in-flight magazine told the story of how their Ground Services had reduced the time of aeroplane turnarounds; removing and loading luggage, getting catering on board and cleaning the plane.  Without sacrificing safety, they managed to make the process more efficient and that means more reliable schedules and flight connections, something all of us passengers value.  On one type of aeroplane they reduced the time from 50 to 35 minutes.  Not only does this improve the turnaround but it also frees up 15 minutes to be value adding elsewhere.

The process of SMED aka Changover Excellence can also be applied to processes e.g. data entry to an ERP system, or an expenses process (who doesn’t want their expenses paid as quickly as possible?), etc.  We’ve even seen it applied to major shutdowns & turnarounds on process plants.  If each activity on the critical path can be reduced without affecting safety of effectiveness then the resultant savings can be a huge bonus, either to shorten the overall time or to get more done in the same duration.  Who wouldn’t want that?

Image: Sam Fox Photography, Flickr


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About the author

Dave Dyer

Dave Dyer is a principal consultant within the Operations Improvement team in ABB Consulting. His speciality is in bringing sustainable change and operational benefits to an organisation through the engagement of its people. He hopes to share good ideas and good practice, to inform and to learn.
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