SMED, which stands for Single Minute Exchange of Die, is also known by a number of other names, for example Set Up Reduction and Set Up Improvement.

The term SMED was allegedly coined by Shigeo Shingo, after the Second World War, when the Japanese car manufacturers found themselves competing against the large car manufacturers of the United States.

The Japanese had very little money and were working with old presses, discarded by the manufacturers in the States, who in contrast had enough money to buy new presses and dedicate them to separate components.

For the Japanese to compete it was imperative that they size changed each press frequently and to be competitive this had to be done quickly.

Shigeo Shingo, a guru in this field, was a keen golfer whose aim was a single figure handicap i.e. a number under 10. Single Minute Exchange of Die means any number less than 10 minutes.

SMED has been further refined to OTED, One Touch Exchange of Die, and zero minute exchange of die, by those well down the road of applying the technique.

The Set Up Improvement tool is traditionally used to reduce the amount of time that a machine is not running, while it is being changed over to run a different part.

In non-manufacturing situations the tool can be used to reduce the amount of time that a process is not running when it is either being changed to run something else or while it is stopped, or interrupted for other essential or routine tasks.