Current time domain facilities are finding several hundreds of transient astronomical events a year. The discovery rate is expected to increase in the future as soon as new surveys such as the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) and the Large Synoptic Sky Survey (LSST) come online. Presently, the rate at which transients are classified is approximately one order or magnitude lower than the discovery rate, leading to an increasing “follow-up drought”. Existing telescopes with moderate aperture can help address this deficit when equipped with spectrographs optimized for spectral classification. Here, we provide an overview of the design, operations and first results of the Spectral Energy Distribution Machine (SEDM), operating on the Palomar 60-inch telescope (P60). The instrument is optimized for classification and high observing efficiency. It combines a low-resolution (R ∼ 100) integral field unit (IFU) spectrograph with “Rainbow Camera” (RC), a multi-band field acquisition camera which also serves as multi-band (ugri) photometer. The SEDM was commissioned during the operation of the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF) and has already lived up to its promise. The success of the SEDM demonstrates the value of spectrographs optimized for spectral classification.