Home > The Lean Post> Ask Art: What’s So Important About Standard Work?

Ask Art: What’s So Important About Standard Work?

by Art Byrne
May 19, 2016

Ask Art: What’s So Important About Standard Work?

by Art Byrne
May 19, 2016 | Comments (10)

People often have a hard time with the idea of standard work. They complain that they are not robots, that everyone is different with different capabilities. They are suspicious about efforts to have different people do the same job the same way—and in fact worry that it’s a veiled attempt to have a basis for firing people. Having done lean for more than 30 years, I can state emphatically that this is not the case. This is a huge misconception about lean (done right). Creating meaningful standard work is nothing more than a recognition that the best asset any company has is its people. Standard work is essential for growing your people and improving their skills.

What standard work does is create a work sequence and time standard for every step in a process. Say, for example, you have 7 steps in a process. The sequence is 1 through 7 and the standard time for each step is determined by observation. You might have; Step 1= 5”, Step 2 = 12”, Step 3 = 18”, Step 4 = 9”, Step 5 = 15”, Step 6 = 22” and step 7 = 7”.  The total time for this sequence is thus 88”. If the takt time is 90” then this is a job that can be done by one person. At each step you would post the standard work required for that station, using pictures if possible, to keep the people doing the work on track. Once the standard work has been established, it becomes the way anyone who does this job needs to do it. 

If you don’t establish this consistency, then how can you have reliable quality or consistent output (productivity)? If six people all do the same job, yet they all do it differently, your quality and productivity will also have six different outcomes. If you’re a service provider and all of your employees provide that service that way, you will probably have a lot of unhappy customers. Think about a restaurant, you probably won’t go back if the same meal tastes different every time.

More importantly, if you don’t have this baseline, then what is the basis going to be for improvement? The goal of the local manager and cell team members and of the entire organization is to constantly upgrade and improve the standard work. This is done through a combination of formal kaizen activity and suggestions and improvements coming from the cell team itself and its leader. Toyota is the master at this later part.

Keep in mind that the goal of standard work is not for people to work faster per se; it’s about helping them work smarter and safer. Delivering better quality and value to the customer, while reducing lead times will be the natural outcome of this process. Above all the purpose of standard work is to grow your people; establishing standard work and then improving on it is a major part of creating a learning environment where every employee is contributing their ideas and learning new ways every day. As part of that, if someone suggests an easier and better way to do the job, listen to them. Perhaps that should become the new standard work.

Finally, be aware that while it will take a lot of effort to get everyone to adhere to standard work, getting people to buy in to it is only the first step. Because standard work is the baseline for improvement you have to create the conditions whereby it can constantly be improved. This work is the responsibility of the shop floor supervisors and the operators themselves. It won’t happen without constant management pressure and support. And of course, since lean is about continuous improvement forever, note that once you have established standard work you will be ready to move on to other lean fundamentals such as pull.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Search Posts:
Key Concepts of Lean
Dave LaHote, David Meier, Ernie Richardson, Joe Murli, Karl Ohaus, Michael Hoseus, Tom Shuker & Tracey Richardson
Standardized Work: The Foundation for Kaizen
Art Smalley, Mark Reich, Mike Kobashi & Sammy Obara
Kaizen Express
By Toshiko Narusawa and John Shook
Lean Lexicon 5th Edition
By Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc.
Was this post... Click all that apply
HELPFUL
34 people say YES
INTERESTING
42 people say YES
INSPIRING
25 people say YES
ACCURATE
43 people say YES
Related Posts
10 Comments | Post a Comment
kevin kobett May 19, 2016
2 People AGREE with this comment

When an employee suggests an easier and better way to do standard work and the upgrade is approved, these employees will not be happy when someone does not follow the standard work process. In effect, these lean employees become standard work poiicemen.

I haven't seen the word "ownership" used in a long time.

Reply »

art byrne May 19, 2016

Kevin, nice add you are of course correct establishing and then constantly improving the standard work by the people who do the work is what allows it to stck. It is not only self enforcing but creates the learning environment and sense of teamwork that are necessary to be a lean enterprise. Having every employee participate in removing waste so you can deliver more value to your customers will set you apart. You will kill the competition.

Reply »

Shermaine May 19, 2016

Process of standard work is easy to establish. The main issue is the time frame of each step. Sometime, there is many variants or different incoming source and cause the time spend is different.

Example: i. time spend for one excel file with 200 transactions and 500 transactions is different. ii. Standard time which record in standard work always  is in perfect condition which all data is correct. In real life, we may received data that we need to counter check or manual amend.So, time spend will be big gap with standard work.

 

Reply »

art byrne May 19, 2016
4 People AGREE with this reply

Shermaine, yes sometimes things can be a little uneven and input errors can occur. Even so standard work still applies and will greatly help you identify and solve the problems you are having. For example, what is the average file size you deal with? You can use that as the TAKT time to establish standard work. This in effect will start to look at things by transaction and not by file. The time observations to establish standard work will take into consideration the normal issues you face in counter checking and manual amending. It will at the same time highlight them as things you want to get rid of so your flow is smoother. Don't be discouraged the lean fundamentals including standard work do apply to your work. You will see big gains.

Reply »

Przemyslaw B May 22, 2016

Art,

Great article!

I have one general question: standard work vs manuals/instructions.

What's the diference between the standard work and other documents already existed in many compenies like detailed manuals or instructions (especially at financial institutions)? Is this the same document (maybe extended or summarised) or something additional? How detailed this should be? should we replace instructions/manuals with documented standard work?

Reply »

art byrne May 24, 2016

Przemyslaw, yes you should replace all your manuals with standard work. Big manuals and instructions are difficult to use. My guess is that if you went and observed the actual work you would find that if you had 10 different people doing it they would all be doing it a slightly different way and the manuals would be on a shelf nearby but hardly ever refered to. The standard work should be much simpler. It should be step by step. It should also be as visual as possible right at the work site.

Reply »

Danny White May 23, 2016

Art,

In RPO we have a lot of long cycles and the operators run multiple machines at one time. A person may run one operation that will typically take 24 hours with a multitude of different manual interventions while running another 10 hour operation with the same type of manual input. There is planning for each operation, which gives the operator instructions on what to do, but how he/she manages the 2 processes is sort of left to them. Do you have any thoughts on how we should move forward with standard work?

Reply »

art byrne May 24, 2016

Dan, it is a little hard to relate to an operation that takes 24 hours to run. I'm sure the operator isn't there for 24 straight hours. In any event standard work is aimed at standardizing  what the operator does so it should help your situation as you say that currently the way they do the work is up to them. My guess is that there is a lot of waste in processes that take 24 hours and 10 hours. Thanks for your question.

Reply »

Mark Donovan May 30, 2016

Hi Art!  Thanks for your post.  Do you create Leader Standard Work for your own tasks and responsibilities?  If yes, would you share a bit about what that looks like and how you use it.  If not, why not? 

Reply »

art byrne May 30, 2016

Mark, good question. Leader standard work is difficult to do as so many non-standard things are always popping up. Right now I guess I would tell you that my standard work is to play golf every day [or as many as I can].  But, seriously, when I was running Wiremold I did have a lot of standard work. For example;

1]Review progress on our operational excellence goals every Friday morning with all the value stream leaders and my staff

2] attend every kaizen kickoff meeting, 4 pm leaders meeting and Friday report out when ever I was in town

3]Be on 5-7 full week kaizen events per year

4] Be very involved in picking the next kaizen events and making sure we had set stretch goals

5] Create an annual employee survey and then spend maybe 20% of my time having meetings with and responding to every question or concern they had

6] Personnaly present every quarterly profit sharing meeting and answer all questions honestly [no matter the advice of HR]

7] Try and wander the shop floor every day [not always possible] looking at the visual controls and asking questions

8] Every time we did an acquisition [we did 21 over 9 years] be on site the very first week to personnally give the initial lean training and run the first kaizen events that week

9] take 15-20 employees per year to Japan to tour factories, including Toyota, that were well down the lean path. I called "seeing how high was up"

There were other things I did as well to make sure we were driving lean everyday in every part of the company but I think you get the basic idea here.

Reply »

Search Posts:
Key Concepts of Lean
Dave LaHote, David Meier, Ernie Richardson, Joe Murli, Karl Ohaus, Michael Hoseus, Tom Shuker & Tracey Richardson
Standardized Work: The Foundation for Kaizen
Art Smalley, Mark Reich, Mike Kobashi & Sammy Obara
Kaizen Express
By Toshiko Narusawa and John Shook
Lean Lexicon 5th Edition
By Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc.
Standard Work Roundup
"Too Busy to Walk the Gemba"
Accidental Soccer Coach