Real Life SMED

By Ron Pereira Published on September 15th, 2008

One of the best ways I’ve found to explain various lean and six sigma topics to others is to use examples from real life.

After all, not everyone makes cars or the mirrors that go on cars… so many of the examples we read about in the various lean and/or six sigma books mean next to nothing to most of us.

Along these lines, one of the concepts many folks seem to struggle to understand is single minute exchange of dies, or SMED.

I’ve written about SMED before… so in case you missed that article you can find it here.

As a quick review, one of the key tenets of SMED is to do as much prep work as possible while the machine is running… that way when the machine has stopped producing product you can quickly get it going again.

I am over simplifying things here… so again please read this article if SMED is new to you.

So tonight I thought I’d discuss some real-life examples of SMED principles most people can relate to.

1. Laying clothes out before going to bed.

When I was a kid my Mom used to always make me lay my clothes out before I went to bed. Whenever I have a super early morning I still follow this rule!

Who needs old Japanese guys yelling and spitting at them when their own Mom is there to teach them lean principles.

2. Washing dishes while dinner is cooking.

Instead of standing around watching the TV, why not wash up as many of the dishes as possible before dinner. You’ll still have the plates and glasses and things like that to deal with after dinner… but taking care of some of the “preparatory” pots and pans will save you lots of time.

3. Pre-sorting dirty clothes before washing.

Inspired by my awesome wife, I recently wrote about this idea here. It is definitely a brilliant idea and massive time saver when it comes to doing laundry.

Let’s hear from you…

Can you think of any more real life examples where some of the principles associated with SMED apply? If so, feel free and empowered to shout ’em out in the comments section below!

  1. Jason Stokes

    September 16, 2008 - 1:42 am

    Chefs have been doing this for years. One of the first things you do when you get into the kitchen is set up your area to prepare for cooking for the day. Everything you are likely to use is right at your fingertips and ready to go. I don’t think they even needed to hire any black belts to figure it out, either.

  2. Quinn

    September 16, 2008 - 10:05 am

    I have an example though not from personal life but local news. Just recently in Utah a process called ABC or Accelerated Bridge Construction was piloted, it is sort of like SMED for civil and traffic engineers.

    This process requires traffic to be stopped for 1 weekend as opposed to 9 months of delayed or stopped traffic. the project with videos is outlined on this site. It is a pretty cool concept.


  3. miket

    September 18, 2008 - 12:38 pm

    I’m pretty dedicated to laying my clothes out JIT. Is cleaning the pots and pans smed? whats the internal an externternal activities?? Whats changing over? However i do have a problem with dishes WIP they seem to pile up for a while i should wash a few while im cooking..

    In my house theres only 1 microwave and several people so sometimes everyone gets their food,plates prepare or opened and ready so as soon as one person is done the next plate jumps into the microwave. I usually put my cold plate on top of the microwave so its right there.

    My mother does the same thing at
    christmas when shes baking dozens of cookies in the the oven.

  4. miket

    September 18, 2008 - 12:55 pm

    I my families house keys made in blue handle. Since its color coded its very fast and easy for me to find that key among my keychain, if my hands arent full i often have that house key in my hand ready before i even get al the way to my back door.

  5. miket

    September 18, 2008 - 12:56 pm

    We all have our house keys in blue.

  6. Ron Pereira

    September 18, 2008 - 1:05 pm

    Hi miket, yeah the dishes idea may not be completely SMED related… but here are my thoughts… just as you attempt to lay out your tools and such while the machine is running – so you can changeover quickly when it actually stops (internal to external) – it’s really the same principle with the dishes… why wait for the food to finish cooking as well as for the people to actually eat it (i.e. machine stop) to clean up as many dishes as possible?

    In essence, it’s parallel processing which is an extremely important aspect of SMED.

  7. Victor Zúñiga

    April 17, 2012 - 3:54 pm

    I´ve seen this on the Taquería (place where we buy tacos). To avoid clean and wash the dishes, where the tacos are served to the clients, they put plastic bags to cover the dish, so they avoid to wash the dishes, and save time, water, soap, and money, and can quickly use the dish again if they only remove the dirty bag and putting the new one. And if they want to save the time twice, the cover the dish with two bags :D.

  8. Tim G

    February 21, 2021 - 12:20 pm

    Pre fill forms in waiting rooms
    In very icy conditions, turn on car and have it ticking over for 20 mins while I eat breakfast. No wait time clear off ice when I go out

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