Shigeo Shingo and his Revolutionary SMED

A Revolution in Manufacturing

It is rightly said “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”. This is what led Dr. Shigeo Shingo, a manufacturing expert who served as consultant in TOYOTA and several other Japanese Companies and is widely known as the father of Toyota production, to think of a methodology that can reduce, if not totallyeliminate, any  wastage in the manufacturing process.

Dr. Shingo, rated as the 2nd best industrial thinker of the 20th century, after Henry Ford, introduced the methodology of SMED – Single Minute Exchange of Dies.  This method is also called, “Quick Change Over (QCO)” which solved a very major problem of changing the dies for TOYOTA in the late 1950’s. The dies on the large- transfer stamping machines that produce car vehicle bodies must be changed for each model which took a minimum of twelve hours and a maximum of three days to complete earlier. Shingo improvised his QCO methodology and placed précised measurement devices and installed the die against the measurements recorded for each model die. This process of quick change over and accurate measurement cut down the lag time to mere hour and a half.   Later, under Dr Shingo’s guidance the Toyota Manufacturing team, led by Taiichi Ohno, were able to bring it down further to under 10 minutes !  Today, they easily do it in abut a minute !  

Dr. Shingo has introduced many methods for improvement in the manufacturing process and was the author of many path breaking books in the field of industrial manufacturing. His book “A Revolution in Manufacturing: The SMED System” explained the QCO methodology in detail and is being used world over to save time and wastage. A similar example is of a motorcycle factory that makes mudguards by pressing the metal sheets. In this case too, the die in a mammoth press machine has to be changed for each model. This process of changing the die and starting the machine for the next production took almost ten hours. With the adaptation of SMED methodology and further consultation with experts and reworking the system, the chagover time between the production of two models of mudguards reduced from 10 hours to 2 hours and further to just 1minute 22seconds.

Another great piece of work by the effective implementation of internal and external setup methodology devised by Shingo and explained in detail n the book cited, is the Aravind Eye Hospital at Madurai in Tamilnadu, India. Aravind is the largest provider of eye care services and trainer of ophthalmic personnel in the world. Generally, 1 eye surgeon can perform 5 cataract surgeries in a day. The Aravind eye hospital with its aim to eradicate needless blindness adopted the internal and external setup methodology. It made several changes in their setup like placing multiple operation beds in a large hall, 1 surgeon was allocated to only 2 patients to be operated consecutively, also 2 helping nurses and 2 running nurses were appointed for both the patients. Today 1 surgeon of the Aravind Eye Hospital can perform 25 cataract surgeries in a day without compromising the quality. There is a case study based on Aravind Eye Hospital at the Harvard Business School that discusses the effective implementation of processes to ensure that quality and quantity are maintained at the Aravind Eye Hospital. The hospital earns a surplus every year in spite of performing nearly 70% of its surgeries for free.

All these are the perfect examples of effective implementation of methodologies. Several companies worldwide are adopting Shegio Shingo’s process and methods to reduce the time and wastage of resources and improve the production capacity and results for their organization.

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