Single-minute exchange of dies or SMED is a methodology traditionally associated with physical production facilities, which can allow companies to reduce the time it takes to produce certain components of their final product by swapping them across workstations more efficiently. There are multiple different aspects of SMED that make it flexible and easy to apply in a variety of different contexts, and it even sees active use in the IT industry, an area not traditionally associated with SMED.
It makes sense when you think about it though, because in the end, SMED mostly boils down to several factors: lowering the cost of manufacturing, lowering the size of the manufacturing facilities, and improving current inventory levels. These can all be relevant to various processes commonly occurring in the IT world, so it makes a lot of sense to consider implementing SMED in those contexts as well.
Areas Where SMED Can Work in IT
Support operations are a field that can commonly benefit from a proper application of SMED, and it’s an unfortunate reality that many leaders of such departments don’t seem to realize the importance of applying similar methodologies to their work. It’s not rare to run into a situation where customers have to be transferred from one level of the support service to another, and this tends to be the main bottleneck in those organizations. Furthermore, you can sometimes run into issues working with a new customer and redirecting them to the appropriate channel for their inquiry.
Another area where SMED can work very effectively are production facilities where various types of content are generated. For example, in a video game company, there might be an established pipeline for the production of 3D models that takes a single workpiece through multiple professionals in separate stages. This is actually a very common setup, and one that can benefit a lot from the implementation of SMED, but unfortunately this is not what we see in many of those cases.
Taking the time to ensure that a model can be easily swapped out from one workstation and transferred to the next one, allowing the next person in line to start working on it immediately, can often speed up the workflow of creative teams significantly. Of course, in those cases, a lot of attention is paid to quality assurance as well, so sometimes certain parts of the process can’t be sped up as easily. However, this brings us to another important point worth bringing up when it comes to SMED.
Improving Quality Assurance
One of the fields that can probably benefit the most from SMED is quality assurance. It’s often done in stages where each one relies on the output of the last, and it makes perfect sense to think about implementing something like SMED here. This of course depends on how exactly your testing teams are structured and what the infrastructure of your organization looks like in this regard, but you’ll often find that your testers are probably wasting a lot of time and effort on steps that can be minimized, or sometimes avoided completely, depending on the specific context.
SMED is a methodology that can bring significant improvements to the workflow of many organizations, and they don’t necessarily have to operate in physical production for it to be effective. In fact, many companies in the IT world can benefit a lot from a proper SMED implementation, and even though we’re starting to see this idea take some shape in certain areas, it’s still far from being utilized as much as it should. The sooner some IT managers start thinking about optimizing their workflow with SMED, the better results they’re going to see in the long run.