It’s been a long time since I’ve jumped into describing the Lean tools – I broke away to focus on the 14 principles of The Toyota Way, because they were needed to help set the foundation for why Lean exists today – but here we are again.
I’ve also touched on standardized work already (here and here and here and here and here) but it’s so important to improving and then maintaining quality and stability that it has to be reinforced again.
Standardized work is more than everyone following the same process the same way every time. There must be a strategy behind it. The viability of every process is rooted in maximizing quality, safety, productivity, and repeatability. It is extremely difficult to have multiple people reach an identical end result while following multiple paths to arrive there. (Actually, darn near impossible.)
It’s great to have every operator following the same process, but what if that identical process falls short in quality? What if a step on checking parts for defects is missing? That step must be incorporated in order for the process to be robust for quality.
And what about productivity? Maybe a process takes the operators 90 seconds to complete a full cycle. What if takt time mandates it be 60 seconds? It’s of no use to standardize to 90 seconds if productivity is still going to be way off.
(“Takt time” is the rate of customer demand for production. It’s generally measured in terms of units of time per part off the line. If a production line produces 3 parts per minute and it’s running to “takt” then the takt time is 20 seconds per part.)
Also, it’s inhumane and poor management to mandate the use of a process that doesn’t maximize safety.
So a plan to create a standardize process requires a lot of input from the process users, along with feedback from management on the rate by which the process must produce and the quality expectations (and opportunities for poor quality).
Let’s use that 90 second cycle example from above. If the customer demand is 60 seconds per part for takt time, management and the process users must convene to determine how to create a process that achieves that 60 second cycle time. Could it be more operators? Perhaps, but what about waste activities that slow process completion down? How much of that 30-second difference can be knocked out by reducing wastes? Cutting out a little walking here, implement a better part fixture to improve assembly and cut down on excess motion there, and maybe that 90 second number comes down a bit (or maybe all the way).
There are a lot of things to consider when creating standardized work, but it requires input from all users to maximize collection of best practices and input from customers and managers to determine the proper quality and production rates.