One of the key lean tools is standard work. This is the use of a clear work instruction that indicates the best practices available for completing a process. A standard work instruction would possibly include the process to follow, the tools needed to complete the work, the proper work cell layout, and (hopefully) some pictures that can help better illustrate the proper techniques.
Does every operation require a standard work instruction? No – most people know how to refill staplers, put a key in the ignition, shut down a computer, etc. But if you start seeing inconsistent process completion, fluctuation in quality or cycle times, or “some operators working better than others” by different measures and it has an impact on the value you provide, you probably need to incorporate it. As Dennis the Menace demonstrates, different people might have different perceptions of quality. The most important perception of quality or value is that of the customer.
So it may be a simple concept, but defining and applying standard work is important.
However, just dropping a standard work instruction in front of an operator is not the best way to do things better. It’s critical to get operator buy-in and verify it’s clear why it’s important to follow the process – quality, cycle time, best practices, etc.
Show operators the best way to accomplish a process through training and through standard work instructions.
On top of that, with operator buy-in they’ll be more likely to identify new ways to improve the process and to make it easier to achieve the objectives. Use operator knowledge to create the best practices.
Use standardized work instructions as a roadmap for the proper process but also show operators how the process should be followed.
(Dennis the Menace is created by Hank Ketcham and drawn by Marcus Hamilton and Ron Ferdinand. Dennis the Menace is owned by Hank Ketcham Enterprises. H/T to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.)