3 SMED Examples for the Canning Industry


Anyone who works in fields related to manufacturing have probably heard of Single-Minute Exchange of Dies (hereafter referred to as SMED). SMED is a lean production method created and perfected by the Japanese industrial engineer Shigeo Shingo between the late 1960’s and early 1980’s. The SMED approach is centered on drastically reducing downtime by allowing manufacturers to rapidly transition from running the current product to running the next product, often by changing dies or other mechanical parts during operation instead of shutting the entire assembly down to accomplish the changeover process. Sometimes, they opt to replace entire assemblies as opposed to individual components. Shigeo Shingo, during his time with Toyota, managed to use his SMED methodology to cut their set-up time down to 2.5% of what it had originally been.

SMED is a standard in the manufacturing industry, these days, and a large part of its worth comes from utilizing its principles as a lens to analyze and systematically judge your operations.  As such, you can sometimes find examples of SMED in unexpected places. Likewise, it can also be easy to overlook stellar examples of classic SMED processes in everyday manufacturing.

This article will give a brief overview of three examples of SMED assemblies used in the canning industry and produced here at American Holt, as well as a couple examples of SMED principles used in other places.


SMED Examples in Canning


1.The Filler Drive


This is something American Holt takes great pride in. We’re one of the only manufacturers that keep this part in stock and ready to ship as new, as opposed to buying it used or exchanging the original casing. The filler drive is a crucial part of a canning assembly, as it times and scans the filling during the canning process. The filler drive is a very complex gearbox with myriad close-fitting components, all of which need to function properly to keep a manufacturer’s canning assembly running smoothly. Without SMED, you would need to handle each of these components individually, resulting in massive amounts of downtime. But, with the ability to buy the filler drive and replace it as a single unit (along-side a wisely designed maintenance schedule) a manufacturer can cut that downtime to minutes.


2. Lifters


Lifters do exactly what their name implies—they lift the cans up to get seen. But, don’t underestimate the importance of this machine. It, like the filler drive, contains a variety of parts that will consistently undergo wear and tear, including the wear plate, spring, shims, and rollers. Again, without SMED, manufacturers would be required to take the whole assembly apart and replace each part one at a time. Instead, they can save a lot of money in downtime by replacing the whole assembly at once. And, in the interest of quality control, American Holt tests all of their lifters before sending them out to a buyer, to ensure they work once put in your machine.


3. The Feed Chain


This is the chain that drives the conveyor belt which brings the cans from the lifter to the seamer. Again, don’t be tricked by the apparent simplicity of this device—rebuilding a feed chain is an extremely long process, and the part is very complex. What’s more, it can change depending upon how far apart the filler and seamer are. Due to this, it’s difficult to replace parts of this chain individually. American Holt will make custom chains according to a manufacturer’s specifications and assemble them in-house before shipping them to be installed on their machines.



SMED Examples In Unusual Places


4. Firefighting


SMED is, as has already been mentioned, a form of “lean” methodology, the focus of which is to reduce waste. This can mean reducing wasted materials, reducing wasted energy or, as is usually the case with SMED, reducing wasted time.

And, when it comes to reducing time, there’s no better example than firefighting. For firefighters, a single second can make the difference between life and death, or between a small grease-fire and an apartment building burning down. As such, these professionals are always working to reduce the time it takes for them to respond to an emergency. Every station is likely to have specific procedures and standards governing everything from how they store equipment to how they get out the door. The most popular example of this is the classic “fire pole” used to slide down to the fire engines.


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But, some other procedures sound a lot like classic SMED. Usually by combining several steps into one. For instance, firefighters will often keep their pants already tucked into their boots so that, during an emergency, they can just slip into their pants, donning two pieces of the heavy, fire-proof clothing in one go.



5. F1 Racer Pit Stops


Here’s something unexpected. Formula-1 Racers are known for their insanely rapid pit stops, exchanging any necessary parts on the car in seconds. The thing is, it wasn’t always like that. Formula-1 Pit stops have evolved over the years… due largely to the principles of SMED.

Back in the 1950’s, a pit stop just over a minute was something to be proud of. Racers would have only four crew members (including the driver) working on the car at once, and the situation would be absolutely wrought with tension.

Fast forward to modern times. There will be dozens of crew members working on the car all at once, and they get the job done so fast you have to slow things down to understand what everyone is doing. But, it’s not just speed and numbers— this accurate, rapid changeover comes from knowing exactly what needs to be done, what can be cut, and how to go about the process with the absolute minimum of wasted time and effort… and these are all qualities ascertained by utilizing SMED effectively.

After all, these racers are moving at speeds nearly inconceivable. There’s absolutely no room for error during a pit stop.

Oh, and for an example of the drastic difference in speed during these changeovers, check out this video.



SMED is widely used inside and out of manufacturing, with its principles appearing in everything from auto manufacturing to Formula-1 Racing, and even things like bartending. Hopefully, these examples have given our readers some appreciation for the importance of SMED methodology.


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