“Without standards there can be no improvement”.  So reads the frequently quoted words of Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System. But what is Standardised Work? And how does it support improvement? One of the misconceptions around Standardised Work is that capturing a process on a prescribed document and posting it at the work place is all that needs to be done. This is certainly the ‘visible’ part of standard work, but like so many Lean tools lifted from the Toyota Production System, it is the change in behaviour that is the reality of standardised work.

What is Standardised Work?

Standardised Work defines the best current method of safely combining process inputs in order to achieve the output Quality, Cost and Delivery (QCD) performance every time, irrespective of the difference between people. 

The aim of Standardised Work is to achieve customer satisfaction every time, through effective management of workplace methods. When the organisation can repeatedly achieve the required QCD results, then time can be released to make real improvements. There are two distinct phases to the deployment of the Standardised Work tool:

  1. The standardisation step that leads to the creation of standard operations. 2. The ongoing management of the process using the standard operations.

Standardisation and Standard Operations

Standardisation is the elimination of variability which leads to standardised work. Ideally, all variation should be eliminated, however in reality, it is not reasonably practicable to do this and a compromise is reached. 

If you ask the question, “What can vary when carrying out a process?”, there will be a whole range of answers that cover the different inputs to a process, man, material and machine, and the method used to run the  process.

Process Model Fig. 1

More specific examples are generated when considering a specific process. Variation manifests itself as waste.

Process Variations Fig. 2

The three main documents are:

  • Standardised Work Chart (SWC)
  • Job Detail Sheet (JDS)
  • Standardised Work Combination Table (SWCT)

The SWC captures where the process happens on a diagram of the work area or the sequence of the process, if a flow diagram is more appropriate.

Standardised Work Chart Fig. 3

The JDS captures detail of how the process is run – sequence, key points for safety, quality and ease with photos or sketches to simplify and clarify the key point descriptions.

Job Detail Sheet Fig. 4

The SWCT captures the time it takes to carry out the work elements of the process.

Standardised Work Combination Table Fig. 5

Why Use Standardised Work?

Organisations that want to be successful in the long term must operate safely, make a profit and achieve customer satisfaction. Application of Standardised Work will impact on each of these three aspects of successful operation.

When the standard operations are being designed and written, the creators have to take into account how to perform the process safely and what performance outputs are required. In this way, safety, customer satisfaction and processing to cost targets are built into the process. Employees that perform the process as per the standard operations are then guaranteed to perform safely and produce output of the desired quality in the same time, every time. In turn, the organisation should achieve customer satisfaction and desired profit levels.

Standardised Work is the best current method that safely combines the process inputs of man, machine and material to provide a predictable and repeatable output in terms of quality, cost and delivery.

By definition, the documents form the current operating standard but also provide a starting point for ongoing improvement. Initially, the tool is used to capture the best current method. The standard operations also capture “know-how” or special employee tips that enable the process to be completed more easily. If this “know-how” is not recorded, it can be lost when an employee changes jobs or leaves the organisation, and so it has to be relearnt. The standard operations enable the transfer of knowledge from experienced employees to new employees in a quicker and more consistent way than “buddy” training (working alongside somebody else). Differences between individual employees are ironed out, as are differences between shift teams.

The standard operations should always be updated after improvement activities have taken place, in order to capture the changes and for them to then be used to communicate the changes in a formal way to retrain. In this way, waste that has been eliminated and standards set by 5C / 5S are captured and not allowed to creep back in. The standard operation should therefore be treated as a living document. In terms of managing the process on an ongoing basis, the standard operations enable employees to be trained to the correct standard. Ideally, the process will now always perform to give the desired output performance; however, abnormal conditions may still occur, leading to a performance loss. In these instances, the standard operation sheets can be used to help identify the cause of the abnormal condition. This is done by physically taking the standard operations to the process, and comparing what is actually happening to what the standard sheets say should be happening.

Why we need Standardised Work Fig. 6

To find out more about how Industry Forum can support your journey of improvement, visit our website, email us or phone +44 121 717 6600 to talk to our expert practitioners.

A Bit More About Mike
Mike Scull has over 30 years of manufacturing experience within the automotive, aerospace, electronics, off highway, white goods and apparel sectors. Joining Industry Forum in January 1998, Mike underwent training and mentoring in the implementation of Lean Manufacturing with Japanese Master Engineers from Toyota, Nissan and Honda. Mike’s current role at Industry Forum is Principal Consultant – Lean Manufacturing.

Mike is a Chartered Engineer (CEng MIMechE), and has a BSc (Hons) in Civil Engineering. He has professional qualifications including APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) and Certified Production and Inventory Management (CPIM), Certified Demand Driven Planner, PRINCE2 Practitioner and is a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt. He is also an Assessor for the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Levels (NMCL) programme.

Click here to contact Mike.