Understanding SMED: 7 Steps to Greater Competitiveness

Emily Suzuki Emily Suzuki January 9, 2023

3 min read

Faced with an outdated process? The SMED method will help address the current method, assess adjustments and implement improvements.


Year after year, the market is growing, and competition is increasing. If companies want to stay afloat, they need to become more competitive.
Becoming competitive means creating a flow in production, increasing machine availability, and responding to customer demand faster and with greater flexibility.

To do this successfully, companies have to change their mindset. SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die) is a tool to help with just that. The system, developed by automotive consultant Shigeo Shingo for Toyota, consists of seven steps to greater competitiveness. This article outlines those seven steps to help you implement them into your company’s structure.

Internal work vs. external work

Before going into the seven steps, we need to understand the difference between internal and external work.

Internal work is what you can perform only when the machine is stopped. For example, removing the tool from the machine. External work is what you can do while the machine is running. For example, grabbing the tools you need to perform the setup.

SMED 7 steps

Step 1: Study the process

You can’t start a new process without understanding the one that’s already in place and visualizing bottlenecks. Begin the seven steps by analyzing the whole existing setup. Understand which tools are being used, create spaghetti diagrams, record the time of each task, and note every instance of waste in the process. Classify every task as internal or external work.

Step 2: Separate internal and external work

Separate internal from external work. Every external task that was being performed with the machine not running will now be performed either before or after you stop the machine.

Step 3: Convert Internal work

Next, you need to convert internal work into external work. For example, if you are currently assembling your tool while the machine is not running, switch to pre-assembling the tool while your machine is still running. It might be time-consuming to do this at first. However, in the long run, this will save a lot of time and increase efficiency.

Step 4: Reduce Internal Work

Once you move key internal work to external work, it’s time to cut out any leftover internal work that’s deemed unnecessary. For example, you can speed up additional internal work by using quick tightening tools and eliminating unnecessary adjustments.

Step 5: Reduce External Work

At this point, you may not be able to eliminate key external work. However, you can make external work easier on yourself by creating setup kits. That way, every time you start a setup, everything is ready for you, and you don’t need to waste time preparing.

Step 6: Standardize and maintain the new procedure

Once you find a process that works for your business, set it in stone by standardizing it. Standardization ensures that it becomes common practice in the organization until you eventually need to find a new process. That leads us to the seventh step.

Step 7: Repeat!

This system is designed to work for any significant changes to business operations. So give it a go, and don’t be afraid to keep using the method anytime you need to introduce change to an organization. Anytime you have an outdated process, lean on the SMED method to modernize and optimize.

Implement SMED with the help of Fusion Operations

Try implementing this methodology, and let us know if it reduces your setup time! If you’re curious about how Fusion Operations can help you keep a digital record of your maintenance tasks and how to reduce downtimes, download Fusion Operations today:

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