The Power of SMED image


The Power of SMED

Written by Jason Gledhill, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

Spring feels like it has finally sprung, and we can (hopefully) finally say goodbye to the cold weather has seen lots of cold, frosty mornings and in some instance snow.

Invariably the snowy and frosty weather results in a later than expected departure for our journey to work, due to having to spend a couple of minutes each morning having to de-ice the car windows.

So, how can we ensure that next winter we arrive at work at the same time as usual on frosty mornings? We could maybe set the alarm clock to go off a little earlier, drive a little faster (which I wouldn’t advice) or employ some of the tactics we might use in a SMED program.

 SMED, or Single Minute Exchange of Dies, is a technique that was developed to speed up press tool changeovers but is equally applicable to a whole range of manufacturing processes not just change-overs, and can also be employed in everyday life.

The SMED philosophy is based on reducing plant downtime through the standardisation of changeover / start up methods.

This will include the understanding of both internal and external elements to your lost potential time.

Internal Time = A task that needs to be done during plant downtime.

External Time = A task that can be done pre- or post-plant downtime.

If used correctly SMED can dramatically reduce change-over times. From a business perspective this reduction in change-over times helps reduce the need to carry excessive amounts of finished goods which in turn helps improve profitability.

If we followed the SMED philosophy for cold and frosty mornings, we would invariably realise that we need to streamline external activities, namely the scraping of ice from windows.

We could employ a number of methods, some of which might include

  • The use of de-icer (don’t forget to factor the time required to retrieve the de-icer spay and coat the windows)
  • Maybe pour some tepid water on the windscreen (make sure the water isn’t too warm or your windscreen may crack, and factor the time to retrieve and return the tepid water container to its place or origin)
  • Cover the car with a sheet the night before to ensure frost doesn’t settle on the windows

Traditionally SMED spends a lot of time on moving internal activities to external activities, however due to the nature and size of the machinery in FMCG, moving internal activities to external activities, although important, doesn’t tend to deliver a huge amount of benefit.

As a general rule, the majority of the activities in the FMCG sector tend to be focused around step 5, streamline external activities. Frequently on FMCG change-overs the most amount of time lost is around the clean-down, CIP or allergen wash.

Moving internals to externals tends to be cost inhibitive in many instances, whilst improving external activities costs very little money and can deliver a greater reduction in lost time.

If you want to find out more about SMED or other improvement activities that can deliver an improvement to your organisations bottom line contact LI-Europe

Alternatively, if you want to access over 25+ years of Operational Excellence experience, have a look at the FMCG Academy

Hopefully, your business is already employing Operational Excellence tools, so maybe you just want to understand how close your organisation is to excellence, have a look at our free mini diagnostic tool


With the support of the LI team, the Bars business unit has made great strides forward with some exceptional results. It has been gratifying to witness the confidence and capability of the people grow paralleling the rise in plant performance. I look forward with great optimism to the continuing journey and an ongoing partnership with LI Europe.

Mike Parsons, Head of Manufacturing, Weetabix

We are pleased with the progress we’re making at the Gweedore site, indeed we’re so pleased that we’re planning to roll out the programme to our other manufacturing sites.

John Donnelly, General Manager, Largo Foods, Ireland