What Is Standardized Work (And What Is It Not)?

Posted on September 19, 2012 | in Lean Tools, Quality, Safety, Standardized Work, Training | by

house lean blocks foundation 5s standardized work highlight team plant layout quality productivity blitz consulting

As this House of Lean diagram shows, the foundation is built on 5S, visual controls, and plant or facility layout.

(I tend to lump 5S and layout together because setting up a plant layout is “a place for everything and everything in its place” but on a much larger scale.)

I also start off any continuous improvement scenario with the foundational tools of Lean: 5S, standardized work, process mapping, and value stream mapping. These tools help to create a baseline understanding of where a process/work cell/plant/company is operating. They help answer the question “where are we now?”

So while we’ve covered standardized work to some degree (here and here and here and here and here), standardized work can be misunderstood. So what is standardized work and what is it not?

Standardized work answers the 5W+1H of a process – the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Who operates the process, and how many people does it take? What does the final product look like, what are the quality check points, what are the tools required to complete the job? When is a part completed and ready for the next step (how long should the cycle time and takt time be)? Where is this process completed and what does this location look like (standardized work cell, point of use storage of tools, etc)? Why is this step necessary or value-adding, or why is this a quality check point?

And the “how” is the process that is followed, within the time and resource constraints. Overall, the process should not be ambiguous.

– That being said, standardized work is not hard and fast. Standardized work is a collection and implementation of the best practices known to that point. Because improvements in quality, safety, and productivity will appear from time to time the standardized work is to be updated via work instruction document, training, and practice. If there are ideas that improve quality, safety, or productivity why would you not want to share them across multiple shifts?

Standardized work incorporates what is needed to start the process and the finished state of the process. This includes how much raw material to have on hand and how often component levels must be replenished, as well as defining how often finished goods are retrieved from the work cell and how they are to be positioned for optimal flow.

Standardized work is NOT the goal – optimized productivity, safety, and quality are the goals. Standardizing is merely a tool to ensure that those real goals are met. Standardization for the sake of standardization is frivolous. All Lean tools should be implemented only if they will produce improvements.

– Standardized work is more than a work instruction document – it’s created by the process users, based on customer requirements provided by management and supervisors (and users too). A manager making a work instruction document and telling his subordinates “Here, this is the process we will follow” does not make work standardized. The process must be created by the users because they are more knowledgeable about the process than anyone else and they’re the ones who have to buy into the standardized process.

– With standardized work, disputes over improvements can be settled using a stopwatch or quality data. No need for hair-pulling arguments – simply go out and prove one method works better than another. (This is a great point made by Velaction. Love this.)

Standardized work should always be questioned and improvements sought. Standardized work is not perfect, but it is the best practices known to that point. Expect standardized processes to change as advancements in technology and mini-Kaizens occur to identify opportunities for improvement. In fact, questioning standardized work should be welcomed by management.

Here are a few great blog posts and articles about standardized work you should check out (also referenced from time to time in the above information):

Mark Graban‘s thoughts on Standardized Work
Tim McMahon‘s guest post about Standardized Work at the Beyond Lean blog
Christian Paulsen‘s guest post about Standardized Work at the Beyond Lean blog
– Training Within Industry’s post about Standardized Work
– A video from Lean Enterprise Institute about Standardized Work (along with some details about courses)
– Velaction’s comprehensive look at Standardized Work

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4 Responses to “What Is Standardized Work (And What Is It Not)?”

  1. Pingback: The 2013 #Masters: Low Scores and Standardized Work | Lean Blitz – Do it better.

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  3. Pingback: Email overload isn’t worth it: 5 steps to cure it | Quality Ideas Guy

  4. Pingback: Dennis the Menace | Standard Work | Comics | Lean |Lean Blitz – Do it better.

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