Standard Work

Standard Work is the practice of establishing, communicating, maintaining, and improving workplace standards. It's a core fundamental of Lean management and the foundation for Kaizen.

While the methodology might appear in direct conflict with Lean’s continuous improvement cycles, the reality is that without Standard Work, Lean falls apart.

Standard Work provides a framework for formally facilitating and recording the small changes that drive continuous improvement, and by extension, incrementally raise standards across the board.

It serves as a baseline for setting goals and defining key performance indicators (KPIs), adds structure, discipline, and consistency to processes, and provides clarity around roles and responsibilities.

Below, we’ll define Standard Work and its critical relationship to Lean management.

Standard Work Online Video Course

As part of our growing School of Lean library of courses, our Standard Work course will guide you from the basics to being certification-ready.

Through this course you will learn how to make lasting changes as well as how to decide where to start making improvements.

What Is Standardization?

Standardization refers to the process of establishing rules that define how employees should complete a series of tasks and establishes a condition for non-compliance. Done right, this practice eliminates ambiguity, waste, and safety hazards by reducing the chances that critical details will be missed.

The standardization process typically includes the following three steps:

1. Determine or identify a standard.
Identifying areas where best practices are either non-existent or inadequate.

2. Establish consensus around the proposed standard.
Once you’ve defined the standard, communicate that information to the rest of the team. The goal is to ensure that everyone understands what that standard is and how it stands to improve processes. Additionally, everyone needs to commit to following the standard.

3. Confirm that the standard is reasonable and easy to follow.
Evaluate the proposed standard to determine whether it’s reasonable, fair, and can be followed. For example, you may need to make improvements to the standard to clarify what’s expected at each step or to streamline a specific task.

What Are the 3 Elements of Standard Work?

The 3 elements of Standard Work establish the requirements for meeting customer demand and creating stability across the first 3Ms.

Takt Time. Takt time is the rate at which products must be produced in order to satisfy customer demand. It represents the net available time that an organization has to complete a project/production cycle and serves as a benchmark for scoping out projects and deadlines.

You can calculate takt time with this simple equation:

Takt Time = Net Available Time per Day / Customer Demand per Day

Let’s draw from an example used in our 3 Elements Course segment: An organization has a 480-minute workday and a customer demand of 240 widgets. Their takt time calculation would be two minutes per widget.

This calculation sets the pace for meeting customer demand, while also preventing waste in the form of overproduction. Organizations use takt time to set workloads, streamline processes, and design layouts that maximize efficiency.

Work Sequence. Work sequence defines the exact set of steps an operator performs to ensure products are delivered within takt time. You might also see work sequences described as the work done within a numbered series of manual tasks.

Setting a standard work sequence drives consistency by allowing different people to do the same job and get the same result.

Without a clearly defined sequence, different workers are likely to draw on their own experiences to create a work sequence, opening the door to all kinds of issues, from wasted time to accidents, defects, and missing parts.

Standard WIP. The third component refers to standard inventory, which includes raw materials, units in machines, and partially assembled products that keep operations running smoothly. The idea is to keep the minimum amount of work in process to avoid wasting materials or downtime associated with getting things set up again.

How to Practice Standard Work

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to optimize the production line or eliminate waste in an office full of creatives: Standard Work maps out best practices and provides a strong foundation for your continuous improvement cycle.

After all, without standards, you’ll have no way of knowing whether changes in your strategy are true “improvements.”

If you want to learn more about Standard Work and its critical role in Lean management, our Standard Work course breaks down the concept in more detail.


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