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Standardized Work: What Is Standard Work & How To Apply It

Standard Work in Lean Manufacturing Defined

In Lean Manufacturing, standardized work is a means of establishing precise procedures to make products in the safest, easiest, and most effective way based on current technologies.

Standardized work is one of the principles of Lean Manufacturing. It requires three elements:

  1. Takt time: Rate at which parts or products must be produced in order to meet customer demand.
  2. Work Sequence: The steps operators need to perform within Takt time, in the order in which they must be completed.
  3. Standard inventory (or in-process stock): Minimum quantity of parts and raw materials needed to run operations.

Benefits of standardized work

1. Reduces variability

By standardizing the most efficient way to perform processes, standardized work reduces variations in the output. Work becomes predictable: quality, costs, required inventory, and delivery times can be anticipated.

2. Helps your people

Shop floor operators are sometimes under the impression that their highly variable work cannot be standardized, or that implementing standards will make their work boring. Quite the opposite: enforcing standardized work increases efficiency, thus making more time for creative work.

Standardized work also helps operators structure their work. It removes pressure on operators by reducing the stress of performing tasks improperly.

Finally, standardized work makes training much easier, since it documents the correct way to perform all processes. It ensures that new employees are given all the information needed to perform equally to other operators.

4. Improves continuous improvement

Kaizen, another Lean principle, is the concept of continuous improvement. Standardized work provides a basis for Kaizen. Indeed, it is only possible to evaluate improvements objectively when existing procedures are standardized and documented. As standards improve, the new standard for Kaizen becomes the basis for further improvements: improving standardized work is a never-ending process.

When operators perform tasks differently, it becomes more difficult to notice the 8 wastes of Lean Manufacturing in operations. In other words, it is easier to find opportunities for improvements when processes are consistent.

6 steps to apply for standardized work

1. Collect data on your current operations

The first step is to establish your work sequence and Takt time. Through IoT connected tools and cloud computing, modern manufacturers can collect data and measure Takt time automatically. Metrics such as cycle time and step time per operator are recorded consistently. Manufacturers gain real-time visibility into their operations, meaning they know exactly how tasks are currently executed.

Screenshot of production dashboard in Tulip

2. Notice variations and issues

Often there are several ways to perform a task, but only one of these ways uses resources–materials, machines, and operators–in the most efficient way possible.

Look at the data you have collected, and notice variations. Are there workers that perform the same tasks, but the output varies greatly? Are some operators taking longer than Takt time? Could some tasks be combined? Where are safety or quality issues occurring?

3. Find the most efficient way to run your operations

This is where you want to use Lean tools to optimize your work sequence and procedures. For example, you could use value stream mapping to identify non-value adding steps or poka-yoke to mistake-proof your processes. Your goal is to find methods that are practical, useful to everyone, and free of difficulty.

4. Document everything

There are many ways you can go about doing this. One of the simplest ways is in digital work instructions. Digital work instructions can be created with a manufacturing app. Media-rich and interactive, they guide operators through processes step by step.

Digital work instructions ensure that operators follow each and every step properly, according to the current best practice outlined by your standardized work. More importantly, digital work instructions can be modified in just a few clicks. Therefore, as your standardized work evolves, you can easily keep it documented and up-to-date.

Simple Dynamic Work Instructions App in Tablet

5. Adapt your training programs

It is important that employees understand the new standard procedures and adhere to them. This might require re-training current workers. Furthermore, you want to make sure that your new operator training programs are based on your standardized work.

Similar to digital work instructions, digital training modules can be built in manufacturing apps and modified easily. Through videos, images, and other multimedia resources, new employees can self-guide their way through your most recent standardized procedures.

6. Continuously improve the standard

A common mistake is to think that after establishing standardized work, you are done. Instead, you should constantly strive to further improve the standard.

Once standardized work is implemented, it becomes a lot easier to identify abnormalities and issues. Perform root-cause analysis for every problem that occurs, and create a new standard that solves the problem.

Standardized work is never perfect or final. It represents a current best practice that should be challenged on a daily basis with Kaizen.

Tulip’s frontline operations app platform gives organizations real-time visibility into their operations. With Tulip, teams can easily create digital work instructions and media-rich training modules. Start experimenting with Tulip’s app editor today with a free trial.

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