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


It must be said that the concept of change management which LI were asked to bring in was a very big ‘ask’. Their work on the floor was very beneficial to change management. LI try to problem solve by using the workforce. This has to be done tactfully. They achieved it. They had the respect of the people on the floor and the management which is a major credit.

Peter Barnett, CFO, KR Castlemaine

"I am amazed at what has been achieved in 5 weeks. I'm very impressed that such an approach can make fundamental changes in a mature environment with a lot of closed thinking. I am now totally convinced..., and will support the rollout across all the businesses under my control"

Supply Chain Director, Asia Pacific, major Multinational Food & Beverage Company