Lean workplaces must agree upon standard work to run efficiently and continuously improve. Sometimes called standardized work, standard work is the set of rules and steps that dictate how a task should be performed. Standard work takes into account the equipment used in a process, the people involved, the amount of materials used, the inventory on hand, and the amount of time it takes to create products. The concept of standardized work is important for Lean organizations and is a foundational method for kaizen (continuous improvement).
As improvements are made in the business, it is critical these improvements are standardized to ensure they don’t fall to the wayside. Businesses should look at three different elements when looking to develop standard work:
- Takt time: The time it takes for finished products to be manufactured in order to meet customer demand.
- Work sequence: The order of operations, step by step, that are necessary to production.
- Standard inventory: The number of units, machines, and materials needed to keep the production line running smoothly.
This data will need to be collected and recorded and managers can review this information to determine and establish the most efficient sequence for production. A manager can run through several sequences to ensure the best one is chosen as the standard work. Once decided, each step will need to be defined and performed in the same manner repeatedly. The work sequence should be documented in a place where people can easily find them (checklists, posted instruction, signs/labels, manuals, etc.) and these documents should be updated regularly. It is important for managers to impress upon employees the importance of following the sequence closely, as any variations can increase cycle time or result in quality issues,
In Lean, standards are not set in stone but rather a baseline that people should continuously seek to improve. By creating and implementing standard work processes, it will be easier to train new operators, reduce variability in manufacturing, and can even improve the safety of a facility.