Standard Work – Overview
Standard work is a crucial element of lean, and it’s important for every leader to understand it deeply through practice. Unfortunately, the reality is far from that.
Many companies are still reluctant to implement standard work in their process, and there are some common reasons why this happens.
- There is confusion about what standard work means.
Most people assume it means simply documenting the work. That is one small piece of standard work, but it’s much more than that. Throughout the rest of this article, and in the follow-on articles, we will deep dive into some key tools within standard work.
- A documented process seems too rigid.
When we capture the best practice of the work, it allows us to do it as good as we can, based on what we know today. If someone has a better idea, we can always change it and make it better. But if we don’t have consistency on how the work is done today, how can we figure out what went wrong when problems occur? Was the process good, but not followed? Or was the process bad and needs to be changed? If everyone does it differently, this takes much longer to figure out.Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, is credited with this famous Lean quote:
“When there is no standard, there is no kaizen”
- Standard work only applies to workers, not managers.
Everyone has standard work, from the CEO down to each value-added associate (worker). The difference is in the percentage of their time that is “standard.” The CEO will have much less of their work standard (maybe 10%), compared to an associate who would be closer to 95%.
- Implementation is a one-time effort.
Once standard work is setup, it can’t be run on auto-pilot. It is an ongoing process that never finishes, and it’s closely related to the general idea of continuous improvement, which is so deeply rooted within lean.
For those that truly understand Standard Work, there are huge benefits that can be gained when getting into these details.
- Standardized Work Process Capacity Sheet
- Standardized Work Combination Sheet
- Standardized Work Chart
The Process Capacity Sheet (also referred to as the Production Capacity Sheet) indicates the output capacity of each element involved in the process. In other words, it describes the upper limit to the output rate for each machine operating in the factory, and correlates those numbers to the actual output rate measured for each machine.
This allows the organization to easily identify bottlenecks in its operation, especially when they’re related to improper balancing of the input/output of different nodes in the chain. Several factors come into play in calculating the production capacity of a machine, including its production time, completion time, as well as the tool change time. These can further be broken down into discrete steps, depending on the structure of the production chain.
This sheet is used to calculate the combination of several timing factors in the production, namely the manual work time, walk time, as well as the actual processing time required by each machine involved in the process.
The Combination Sheet is a commonly used tool in the middle stages of standardizing a company’s process, as it can show whether or not the organization is moving in the right direction, what variables need to be adjusted, and whether each specific part of the process is suitable for the current approach to standardization at all. Ideally, the information in this sheet will serve as the foundation for all future developments of the company, and the additional improvements it will implement.
Some confuse this with the previous sheet, but it’s quite different, and shows a completely unique subset of information, which is still just as critical in the overall process. It shows the sequence in which work is performed, as well as how different operators change their position and state with regards to the machines they work with.
Takt time and cycle time are to be measured here as well, and the company needs to have a deeper relationship with all of its operators in order to fill up this chart properly. There are many different factors that can be taken into account when filling up a Standard Work Chart, and it’s a highly individual tool that has to be aligned with the specific operation of the company. Understanding it correctly is one of the most important points of ensuring that the process of implementing standard work is carried out correctly, however.
Standard work can contribute a lot to pretty much every organization, regardless of its specific field of work. It’s a critical process that has to be understood deeply by everyone in a leadership position, and the sooner your organization decides to start implementing standard work in its own processes, the bigger benefits you’re going to see in the end. Just make sure you don’t fall for the classic mistake of considering it a completed task after you’ve gone through the first round – quite on the contrary, you’re just getting started, and there’s a lot more you’ll have to do in the future once you’ve laid the foundations for standard work.
Want to learn more about these tools? Check out the book “Kaizen Express” >>>