Lean Office

Quick Changeover and SMED for the Office

By Jon Miller Updated on April 3rd, 2021

Sonu asked, “Can single minute exchange of dies concept be used in office?”
Yes! Since SMED or single minute exchange of dies refers to changing dies, moulds, and tooling in under 10 minutes, we might want to call this Quick Changeover so that it doesn’t seem so foreign to people not working with tools and machines.
The key concepts in Quick Changeover are:

1. Separate internal and external time. When a printer runs out of ink, we typically stop printing, go find the spare ink cartridge, take it out of the box, and replace it. All the while, someone is waiting for their print job.
Think of internal time as the time when you have to stop the printer to add a new ink cartridge. Getting the ink cartridge, opening the box, and having it ready to swap while the printer is still printing would be external time.
A knowledge work example of external set up could be as simple as having the next task or project prepared and waiting for you in a folder so that you could get to it right away, rather than having to go seek out the instructions and information to start the next project smoothly.

2. Cut out waste. This is mostly motion waste, but transportation, rework / correction / defects and processing waste certainly come into play. Most if not all waiting should have been eliminated in step 1. If not, see step 3.
A copy machine changeover is pretty quick, but for office equipment needing many connections or settings, it would be a matter of making these “one touch” or as easy as possible and keeping all necessary items close at hand.
A knowledge work example would be to reduce the number of clicks and screens needed to access information from a server, or make paper files more visual and easier to find.

3. Parallel changeover. Here you can imagine a pit crew in a F1 race. If it takes 10 minutes for one person to clean a large conference room between meetings, it might take 5 people only 1 minute. Improvement using a coordinated, pit crew-like parallel changeover is usually more than a linear effect, since steps can be done faster, without waiting or be eliminated all together in some cases.

A knowledge work example would be to have a team of assistants start the conversation with a new customer on the phone and do research online while while the sales executive wraps up a conversation with another customer.

4. Power tools. Just like a vacuum cleaner can clean faster than a broom, adding RAM to your computer to speed it up or having two or three monitors so that time to changing from one task or tool to another can be eliminated is an example of using power tools to speed up the internal changeover time.

Do this last, as it makes no sense to use speed tools on tasks that should be done externally (step 1) or things that should not be done at all (step 2).

In all cases the goal of SMED or Quick Changeover is to reduce down time so that you can reduce the lot sizes of work in an effort to shorten queue times, keep lot sizes constant but increase capacity, or some combination of both. A good place to start with quick changeover in the office is to ask, “Why do we need to reduce changeover time?”
These are just a few quick thoughts from an airport lounge. Readers! Do you have other good examples of Quick Changeover or SMED in the office? If so, post them here!

  1. Ron

    March 9, 2007 - 6:46 am

    Jon – Does “lounge” equal “Admirals Club?” Come clean man. As much as you travel you deserve some wine and cheese with no crackers since they are always out of crackers!
    Oh, SMED in the office. Let me focus.
    How about engineering drawings. Many times, in engineered environments, this is the bottleneck.
    Can more than one person work on a drawing (parallel)? What about ensuring common elements of products do not need to be duplicated from drawing to drawing? And last but certainly not least can we Poka-Yoke things (dare I say Jidoka) a bit so defects cannot be passed on like they are so many times in mass producing companies?

  2. Jon Miller

    March 9, 2007 - 11:19 pm

    Lounge = any smoke-free place out of the elements with wireless internet and a flat surface. The airline lounges are nice though, and they are starting to let people in for international flights if you travel enough.

  3. Sonu.S.Andrews

    March 13, 2007 - 4:05 am

    Thanks Jon for giving good inputs on application of SMED in office.
    Any other thoughts from others

  4. Sonu.S.Andrews

    March 13, 2007 - 4:28 am

    Jon, What about autonomous maintenance? How can we implement this effectively in office?

  5. Hanna

    March 15, 2007 - 5:16 am

    What about endless meetings? Isn’t is waste of time? How can we fight against it?

  6. Steve

    March 25, 2009 - 6:20 pm

    Try to improve them first vs. remove what is there. Half as*ed meetings with no focus that can be turned around can show waste of additional meetings that are being taken place.

  7. Ashwini

    May 26, 2009 - 11:06 pm

    What About BSC? How we can implement this in automobile idustries?

  8. Jon Miller

    June 15, 2009 - 3:25 pm

    Hi Ashwini,
    By BSC do you mean balanced scorecard? If so, it can be implemented in an automotive industry in the same way as any industry. If you are asking for an explanation of the balanced scorecard system I refer you here.

  9. sharma

    April 6, 2010 - 2:53 am

    Dear Jon,
    I have the following suggestions for SMED in office(which may seem to be very irrelevant to some) which I have implemented with great success :
    Q) What will you do when the ELECTRICITY of your office is gone?
    A) What we did :
    Made a ELECTRICITY MAINTAINCE TABLE, (kept at easily accessible
    location), with the photographs of : a)the exact location of the
    METER-ROOM of our office complex building, b) FUSE/CUT-OUT location,
    The name,address and telephone numbers of the ELECTRICIAN were also
    added to the table. At the bottom of the table were 10 blank spaces
    to write down the description of the problem in brief, for reflection
    at a later stage.
    This brought down the DOWNTIME from 4 hours to 8 minutes.
    1)Changing an unfunctional light bulb.
    2)Repairing of a faulty computer.
    3)Arrangement of files and documents in such a way that you can get access to any file in less than a minute.(Same for searching any files or documents in your computer).

  10. Mazen

    June 15, 2011 - 8:59 pm

    in point “1. Separate internal and external time”
    A knowledge work example of external set up could be as simple as having the next task or project prepared and waiting for you in a folder so that you could get to it right away, rather than having to go seek out the instructions and information to start the next project smoothly.
    but my question is how can we balance between this and over processing (from 7 wastes)?

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