Standard work (also known as Standardized work) is a very powerful Lean tool that has been adopted by other continuous improvement methodologies (eg Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma). Standard work provides the baseline by documenting the current best practice. It can also be used in Quality Control for maintaining quality, productivity, and safety. It is the workflow in which the job elements sequence is organized efficiently can be easily repeated by the workers. It is the most efficient method to develop a product with a balanced flow to achieve the desired output rate. The objective of Standardized work is to introduce Kaizen (small improvements). The benefits of Standardized work is employee training, process stability, problem-solving, Kaizen, employee involvement and poka-yoke.
Each step in the Standardized Work process needs to be defined and performed repeatedly in a similar way. Any variations of the process will result in increased cycle time and may create quality issues. Standardized Work defines how a process needs to be consistent in execution and aims for capturing best practices. It also requires a baseline which is the point to adopt a better approach and making continuous improvement and make available the concept of training and worker learning.
There are three elements of Standardized work:
- Takt Time and Cycle Time: Takt Time defined as the ratio of Daily operating time and the required quantity per day. Cycle Time is the actual time for process.
- Work Sequence: Defined as the order in which the work is done in a given process.
- Work-In-Progress: Defined as the minimum number of unfinished materials required for the worker to complete the activity of the process.
Standardized work is not a static work process. It is always improving and changing. There is a risk involved by workers not participating in process optimization as they can feel job threat. Standardized work may delay the results and desired outputs if workers are not well trained or turn-over of workers. Evolving Standardized Work is sometimes more difficult Six Sigma methods. If it is professionally developed, it will make sure that any individual can carry out the work with no variance and irregularity in the outputs.
Standardized Work deals with repeatable human work and interactions with the process in the time needed to meet demand. It is the current “best practice” for safety, quality, delivery, performance, and cost. It should be depicted by easy-to-follow visuals and revised as improvements or changes in demand are made.
Many people feel that Standardized Work isn’t effective. This can be true when companies can not reinforce the use of Standardized Work and make it accessible to everyone. Some companies worry that structured processes do not allow them to meet customer needs.
When documented and applied correctly, Standardized Work creates more time to meet special requests and satisfy customer demand. It is the foundation of a Lean process. Having Standardized Work procedures will reduce unnecessary variation and maximize your employees’ creativity as they help to continuously improve the processes in which they work. By eliminating the wastes of waiting, over-processing, and intellect, employees have more time to focus on the task and produce the most effective results.
Standardization is not a technique meant to make clones and strip away the worker’s creativity. Transactional companies that rely on their creativity believe that Standardized Work is too rigorous and does not allow for freedom of thought. Standardized Work is not just standard operating procedures. Standardized Work is essential to building Lean processes. One must engage the workforce to help standardize work, and then empower them with the authority to continuously improve the processes they are responsible for. Once you have Standardized Work implemented, set up some simple diagnostic tools to monitor and manage your processes. Control charts, visual displays, and reports on key metrics are all helpful in maintaining a culture of Standardized Work and signaling the need for revisions.
It is the standard service level your customers can rely on time after time. Standardized Work provides customers the peace of mind that all essential, repeatable parts of your process are working optimally and producing high-quality results. This gives the flexibility to creatively meet your customer’s unique demands without affecting the overall quality of your product or service.
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