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MYTHS and Opportunities of STANDARD WORK

The purpose for creating accurate standard work is to document, in detail, the process steps necessary to deliver quality product as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.

However, My favorite definition of standard work is this definition used by Toyota: “Standard Work is a detailed definition of the current best practices for performing a process.”

But Standard Work does come with a pitfalls …

First I am a firm advocate of Standard Work … but the term of Standard Work cannot be used in a blanket statement. The percentage of an employee’s day dedicated to standard work increases the closer the employee is to the line where repetitive tasks are being performed.

Where managers and above require to allocate a portion of their day towards Standard Work it must be viewed in a different manner. We cannot look at a Leader’s standard Work discreetly but rather within a matrix. By plotting the individual’s Standard Work within a Matrix it will allow the organization to shift tasks to improve operational matrix. For example if one manger decides to respond to e-mails first thing in the morning, while another does it at noon and finally someone else does it at end of day their could be a significant lag in communications … so by creating band widths cadence is improved which will improve through-put and agility.

In most companies we suggest as part of standard work the following band widths;

Start of Shift to 11AM = Focus on Disturbances to Flow and elimination or resolution

11AM to 2PM = Shift and department update meetings

2PM to End of Shift = Focus on Capital Projects or Continuous Improvement

As we migrate closer to our production processes Standard Work becomes paramount to insure consistent through-put and outstanding quality. Because these typically are repetitive tasks as our Team Members embrace Standard Work they are actually developing muscle memory. Muscle Memory can be a good thing and as an observer once you witness a Team Member in the zone they typically are in the zone doing their task and this can be evident by looking at their body movement which will be like a dance.

But we said … Standard Work really has only been identified as the Current Best Practice.

So let us divert to a quick story … we were working with a Client that had a gig that required them to dis-assemble TV Cable boxes. We had been tasked to create a line and do some line balancing.

We decided to conduct some time studies to determine a potential “mode” for the operation. One of the most difficult tasks was to dis-assemble the faceplate in order to access the other components. We decided to select several individuals to study … a very experienced individual, a recent hired individual and a complete new hire.

Our experience individual used brute force but got the job done … but we quickly realized this person would never be able to maintain this pace for the entire shift. Our medium experienced person was a better executor but still needed some brute force to complete the task …

Then enters Angel … a brand new employee. He approached the work station, positioned his tools accordingly. We were all prepared to see him significantly struggle … but surprise with minimal effort and in no time he was able to remove the face plate. We were all in awe and dis-belief so we asked him to do it again … again he did it with ease … no way he could be third time lucky … so do it again and again it was performed with flawless execution.

A new Best Practice had been identified !!! We spent the balance of the afternoon learning his process and documenting the process steps. Asked how he managed to find such an easy way … the response was simple … “I am a lazy person and I don’t plan to make this position my career”. Two great instincts of an excellent operator.

Now the challenge was to train (share) this new best practice with the other Team Members. We worked hard for the balance of the day and continued into the next day. Our Team members suffered and of course our productivity and through-put dropped but we knew that this new method would ultimately be beneficial to both the process and ergonomically to our employees.

We persisted with our training which in essence meant that we had to re-program the muscle memory now inherent within our Team Members.

So indeed Standard Work is representative of current known Best Practice but as we evolve it may require us to “Slow Down” before we can “Go Faster”

So in essence Standard Work is all about creating Organizational Cadence with those that support the product or Service delivery while Standard Work revolves around the programming of muscle memory for those performing the repetitive tasks of actually assembling our products.

Today’s standardization…is the necessary foundation on which tomorrow’s improvements will be based. If you think “standardization” as the best you know today, but which is to be improved tomorrow – you get somewhere. But if you think of standards as confining, then progress stops." - Henry Ford in 1926

Also, be sure and consider what the best way is to implement standard work. Hint: Hard copy in 3-inch binders is the wrong answer. Use visual management techniques wherever possible so it’s easily read from the operator’s position. Document poka-yoke’d online systems and machine controls for the operator.

In short, simplify the communication of standard work.


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