Learning SMED (Quick Changeover) Through Simulations

Many studies show that a guided practical application is more effective than just PowerPoint presentations. That holds true when teaching Lean tools and concepts. However, finding good Lean simulations has been difficult. Here are some of the available resources that you can use to teach SMED:

  • SMED DIE simulation game: This Slideshare shows a nice, simple and practical version of a SMED simulation game. I learned this simulation from the Kaizen Institute Europe team few years ago. It really helps to explain the SMED steps very well. Since then I have been using this simulation with good results. It usually takes about 2-3 hours to go through all the steps. You can purchase it. An alternative metal version of this simulation game is also available in Slideshare but you would have to build your own.
  • SMED printing simulation video 1: This video shows an alternative version, a little more complex though, but still simple and practical. I learned about this video last week thanks to Laszlo Sipos. 
  • SMED printing simulation video 2: This version developed by a UK-based team appears to be a fun but a little more complex option. Jose dos Reis Vieira developed a SMED printing simulation that resembles the previous simulation. Here are two videos: Before and After

Breakdown into elements during
a SMED kaizen event
Regardless of the simulation kit you have, use it to teach the SMED process in a way that relates to the actual application in your workplace. Simulations are simplified versions of actual problems which objective is to prepare teams to do the real thing efficiently.

A well conducted SMED simulation should explain the "WHY", the "HOW" (SMED steps) and should link to the actual condition in which it would be used. For instance, how to break a changeover process in elements and how to identify internal and external elements are two critical steps that require additional experience and explanation.

In the picture to the right, the SMED simulation was used to explain how each element should be identified using strips of paper and what information should be written down during a kaizen event conducted in a plastic molding facility.

If you know of any other simulations or resources for SMED simulation, share your experiences. I would like to know them and share with others!

Few more good ideas for SMED simulation: 7/22/2014
Here some good ideas for SMED simulations I learned from some of you after initially posting this blog
  • The dragster: Here is a video of this very fun SMED simulation game shared by Jules Attard. Although in Spanish, you can still have a good sense of the simulation.
  • Changing a car wheel: David Reid suggested to use an actual car to change a tire as he has done to teach SMED. I can see the benefits of doing that: you can always find a car and you might need to learn how to change a flat tire! However, I do have concerns about keeping this simulation safe for the participants. Changing a tire requires safety precautions and good tire alignment and balancing job after the simulation. So I found this fun short video that shows SMED using a tiny car: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqlcBUsr5tE     
I look forward to hearing more of your experiences.

Here an interesting video showing the Pit stop: Pit stops 1950 vs 2013

Practical rules to make problems visible while avoiding drawbacks

Many leaders recognize that making problems visible is important practice in successful organizations. It is a core kaizen (continuous improvement) principle practiced by companies such as Toyota (Post: TIEM tour...), Autoliv and Medtronic (Post: What can we learn...) It is one of the 14 Toyota Way principles identified by Jeff Liker after studying Toyota for several years and it is also included in the Shingo Model as a part of continuous improvement dimension. However, most of the efforts to apply this principle fail. I know too many organizations fill of artifacts (e.g. whiteboards, dashboards) of good intentions but lack of understanding how to start making problems visible.

The rational and emotional side of making problems visible
Making problems visible appeals to people's rational and emotional sides or in Aristotle's terms to logos and pathos.

From a rational perspective, problems visibility brings out factual evidence which opens the way for rational argumentation. We can't fix something that we don't "see" or agree as a problem.  In the book "Persuasive Communication", the authors discovered supporting evidence matters the most to influence attitude change when people is highly involved (p.132)

From the emotional side, making problems visible creates a number of emotions within people. In many cases, people feel uncomfortable and thus sets a sense of urgency for action. However, making problems visible can backfire if it is not properly done. It could create perverse behaviors such as defensiveness, blaming or even punishing others. A common reaction when a problem is exposed is to focus on finding someone responsible, "who dropped the ball?", instead of looking at the process (method, machine, material.)

How do we make problems visible and avoid drawbacks?
Here some key rules for making problems visible:
+ Start with agreeing that "making a problem visible" is necessary behavior for your company. Before hanging boards and filling walls with problems within your organization, make sure you are not the only one who believes that making problems visible is important for your company. Discuss about it, answer their questions and work on how it should be done. A very ineffective approach is to force people to agree on your beliefs even if you have good ones.  
Define what a problem is. While this might appear trivial, defining and agreeing upon what constitute a problem is a critical step to make problems visible. A simple way to define a problem is "any condition that do not meet the standard or expected condition." In this way, creating standards is necessary condition to make problems visible and then solving them (see blog about standard work and improvement cycle)     
+ Lead by example: Make your problems visible first. Regardless if you lead a small department or the whole organization, start with you. Make your direct area of control the example or "model" of putting in practice the principle. If you are a Lean coach or manager supporting your organization Lean Six Sigma deployment efforts, you must make your problems and activities visible to all. Keep in mind that teaching by example is a key principle on your coaching activities.
Start simple. Making problems visible is a learning process that better starts as simple as possible. Instead of looking for the perfect board or wall, start with a solution that is simple, practical and easy for other to understand. For instance, start with a small or very limited number of problems and information about them. As you and your team gain experience on making problems visible, your solution will change.

+ Align your problems to the overall companies values, goals and targets so you efforts support your organization strategy. A common mistake is to focus on the wrong problems or passing upstream or downstream problems that at the end will affect negatively your organization performance even though it might appear your department or area performs better.
+ Make it a part of a problem solving management process. You won't fix problems by just making them visible. Fixing problems requires purposeful and coordinated efforts by people usually in different areas or functions. So making problems visible must be a part of your problem solving management process. In other words, once problems are made visible, they must be sorted, prioritized, assigned and solved as soon as possible.  
The ultimate goal: develop problem solvers
Making problems visible is about developing people as effective problem solvers not just to solve problems (As shown in the chart above.) The ultimate goal of any lean transformation is to build a culture in which every person in the organization is engaged, capable and focus to remove anything that is not creating value for their customers.It requires to see "making problems visible" as an component of an integral management system and avoid piecemeal implementation of tools.