Special Applications of SMED in Process Plants

Initial adoption of lean initiatives in the process industry was quite slow. Many of the early lean techniques used in traditional manufacturing, such one-piece flow and u-shaped work cells, had little application in a chemical plant, so most leaders in that industry concluded that lean could only benefit discrete-parts manufacturing.

On tool, however, that can have a major impact on waste reduction in the process industry is SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies). Peter King, author of the book
Lean for the Process Industries: Dealing with Complexity has some comments about SMED:

"The benefit of SMED in simplifying product changeovers has been widely documented: SMED allows for shorter campaigns, lower inventory, and faster response to customer needs.

SMED has enabled significant improvement in process plants, operations which produce chemicals, paints, plastic films, food products and personal care items. But its benefit goes far beyond product changeovers. Many process lines never undergo a changeover, but have seen dramatic improvement through the application of SMED. A chemical plant may produce a single product 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, and thus never experience a product change. But these plants generally are taken off line periodically, say once a year, for a complete overhaul. These overhauls can take days or weeks, and involve the same wastes that changeovers do: inventory build-up in preparation for the outage, wasted time due to lack of coordination, tasks being done internally which could really be done outside of the overhaul window, and yield losses getting back to on-aim conditions after re-start. SMED has provided great benefit to these plants even though there is never a true product change!

SMED has also been used to improve process operations that can go down due to a process upset. Again, there is no product change, but getting the process restarted after the upset includes all of the wastes that SMED is so capable of reducing or eliminating."


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