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Topic Title: What is the difference between Standardized Work, Standard Work and Work Standard?
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Created On: 08/07/2009 01:07 PM
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08/07/2009 01:21 PM
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Holger Friebe


I was asked to explain the difference between the following expressions. Any other ideas to what I found so far?

Standardized Work
Method that allows to continuously become better (in respect to safety, quality, efficiency)

Standard Work
Predetermined work sequence to achieve technical requirements i.e. first apply glue then attach paper or
number of pieces in process to assure smooth standardized process flow

Work Standard
Document that defines the technical requirements i.e. product drawing, safety instruction

Thank you for your input

08/07/2009 03:32 PM
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Mark Rosenthal

Honestly? The terms are used more or less interchangeably, especially the first two.
I look at "standard work" or "standardized work" as accomplishing both of those things.

The classical "three elements of standard work" are:
- A prescribed work sequence
- Balanced to the takt time.
- A specified amount of "standard work in process" (also called "standard in-process stock") And just to complicate things a bit, sometimes, in some companies, there is debate about whether those last two things are the same or different.

As they are all pretty similar sounding, my suggestion would be to not split hairs about the definitions, get clear on what you mean when you say it, and move toward implementing it.

Your last one "Work Standard" sounds a lot like what a lot of people call a "Procedure" or "Standard Operating Procedure" but truthfully, the definitions vary from company to company.
08/07/2009 04:01 PM
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Jim Fernandez

Like Mark said it is best to define what your talking about. Especially when using the word "standard". It has many meanings.

The following exchange took place last year here on this forum:

The misunderstanding between work instructions and Standard work is very common. Once the purpose of standard work is understood much of it becomes clear. The work instruction is written for the worker to execute his/her job; he/she is the audience. I am sure you are familiar with this tool. Standard work is not written to the worker, it is written to the supervisor/manager/engineer. The purpose of Standard Work it to audit the work process to see if the process is performing properly. It is one of the tools of transparency used by the manager to see if the process if performing well, and it not to intervene. I have also seen a lot of good improvement ideas come out of the management interaction via the Standard Work sheet. In Toyota facilities, Standard Work sheets are posted facing the aisle, generally facing away from the operator; that ought to be a major clue.

This is a great deal of misunderstanding on this but I can refer you to Ohno's book, The Toyota Production System where he talks about Standard Work. He says, "....I want to discuss the standard work sheet as a means of visual control, which is how the Toyota production system is managed." Notice he says managed, not executed. He goes on to give a description of how to make the standard work sheet. In Ohno's system the Standard Work sheet has three elements which are the standard inventory, the cycle time and the process sequence.

I have seen a lot of information about standard work which is misleading. So for me I say if you want to know the definition and purpose, go to the source; and that is usually Ohno and sometimes Shingo. Many of us Westerners are familiar with work instructions and various documents written to the operator to get the work done. Standard work is not that. It is a the way the manager checks to see if the process is performing properly. It is part of the visual management system, not part of the work instruction system.

More directly, to your question I can not really answer it but the Standard Work sheet does not apply to the equipment alone, it is to focus on the process. So if the same machine is used as part of several processes the standard work sheet will be different. Most of the time I use it I am checking to see if the process is performing to cycle.

I hope that gives you the background to answer your questions.

Good luck...
Lonnie Wilson

My response to Lonnie's comment was:


Thank you so much for your explanation of standard work. I too was a little confused. We just started our 6S program. One of the S's is Standardize. This word means several things in our 6S program. It can mean developing checklists for the operators, cleaning schedules, shut down and startup schedules, write ups on how to perform the work (work instructions), etc..

By explaining what standard work means with regards to providing tools for management, you have helped me understand the "other" meaning of the word. Or probably the "original" meaning of the word.

People seem to use this term to mean different kinds of standardized work. The next time I hear the term Standard Work I will ask for the exact meaning of the term. As in, what are you doing and what are you using the word "standard" to mean? And then I'll have a good understanding of the term in context of the subject being discussed.

Bottom line is, in Lean, the more we can standardize things (all things) the better off we will be.

Jim Fernandez
08/11/2009 12:59 PM
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Prakash Mayachari

Standerdised work may be defined as Repeatative movements of elemental work.Combining man,machine,material.
08/11/2009 04:33 PM
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Kris Hallan

The only distinction that needs to be made is for the sake of mental models. I like to distinguish between a "Standard" and the tools that support a Standard.

A "Standard" (my term...I don't like Standardized Work because too many people associate that with a document...) is a repetitive work sequence or process that is centered around takt and balanced with stable in process materials (what Mark mentioned).

The tools that support a "Standard" are things like procedures, "Work Standards", Standard Procedures, SOPs, visuals, footprinting (for 5s), labeling, etc. These are the tools that support the Standard.

The important thing to note is the fact that you HAVE to have a "Standard". Without a standard, no improvement can occur because every improvement is just variation in the process (since it won't be sustained). That does NOT mean that you have to have standard work procedures or any of the other tools that support a standard. A lot of people will claim that lean implementations have to start with "standardized work". In essence this is true because you can't make improvement without a standard. The problem is that many people think there is only one path to standardized work.

The result is often management redetermined to create better more in depth work procedures. Their approach to standardizing the process is through time studies and work breakdown sheets. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you realize that they are not the only tool for creating "Standards".

One of the reasons 5s can be so effective as a tool for starting a lean implementations is that it is a very easy way to create standards for most operations. By giving everything a place your work has to become repetitive.
08/14/2009 01:57 PM
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John Gunkler

Perhaps it's useful to take one step back and remember why standard work is so important. If you've ever tried to improve a process, you will understand this immediately.

How can you improve a "process" if the "process" is executed differently at different times or by differrent people? If there is no standard work, then one cannot even analyze the process, because there is no process to analyze -- there are three (or five or 27) processes. So the data you gather about "the process" is actually a conglomeration of what happens when all of these different processes occur.

Finally, when you implement an improved process, if it is not implemented consistently (in a standard fashion), how can you expect it to get better results?

That's why Ohno said, famously, "without a standard there can be no kaizen (improvement.)"
08/14/2009 01:57 PM
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Lonnie Wilson

Hello Holger,

JF already put up a posting of mine from a while back and I think there are two items of interest I like to keep in mind. First, there needs to be a standardized way to do the work. As several have pointed there can be no improvement without a standard. But more inportantly the operator should know the best way to do the job. Those documents, whatever you call them are written to that person, the person doing the work. Often these documents contain a lot of specific detail on how to hold the piece durring assembly etc but regardless these must be written to the operator. The other documents, I call them Standard Work, only because that is what Ohno called them, are not written to the operator. They are written to those who are suppose to analyze the process and assist the operator in doing it better, as well as assess if it is being done well, as it is. That is the three fold document showing the job sequence, cycle times and std inventory.

Call them what you like, but to really be effective you need documents addressing both groups; the operator and all others who are in a position to assist in the process improvement.

Stay in touch,

Lonnie Wilson
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