Category Archives: Standardized Work

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2013 – 10 Thru 6

2014 is now in full swing.  Before 2013 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2013.

New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past.  While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.

This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2013.  Enjoy!

10.  Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #6 – The first part of a three part series where I compared the lean principles I learned from the Lean Learning Center to the Toyota Principles.  This post covers the first five Toyota Principles.

9.  True Mentoring (May 2012) – Previous Year Ranked #7 – This is my take on true mentoring versus fake mentoring that goes on in business today.

8. Strategy A3 Downloadable Template (April 2012) – A quick description of a strategy A3 with a link to a template that can be downloaded.

7. Guest Post: Selling Lean to People That Don’t Want It (July 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #10 – This is a post from Joe Wilson before he became a full-time author at Beyond Lean.  Joe talks about ways to sell lean to people who are not bought into the benefits of lean.

6.  Why Are Lean People Seen As Lean People? (February 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #1 – Exploring the question as to why lean people are not seen as more than just lean experts.  Looking at a process from end-to-end seems like a good business practice no matter what the role.

My next post will count down the Top 5 viewed posts of 2013.

Leading Lean – Apply Lean to Your Work

Last week, I mentioned that I would talk more about the lean forum I attended.  The theme of the forum was leading lean.  Several speakers presented and they all did a fantastic job.  One of the speakers was Jamie Flinchbaugh of the Lean Learning Center.  Jamie outlined five leadership moves that demonstrate lean leadership.

  1. Leaders Must Be Teachers
  1. Build Tension, Not Stress
  1. Eliminate Both Fear and Comfort
  1. Actively Engage, Don’t Just Delegate
  1. Apply Lean to Your Work

Over the next few posts, I thought I would share the message and how I personally have exhibited the behavior positively and negatively, because we all must learn from our mistakes.

Apply Lean to Your Work

As leaders it isn’t good enough to just talk about lean and how it can apply elsewhere.  Leaders apply lean thinking to their own work in order to help themselves improve continuously.  Structuring the day or week using standard work and learning ways to eliminate waste from their own work show a commitment to lean and how it can apply to anyone doing any kind of work.

Applying lean to my own work has helped me grow as a lean leader and gain credibility over the years.  I had standard work that I followed when I was working in the manufacturing facilities that called for dedicated observation or waste walk time.  This really allowed me to understand what work I was falling short in and make corrections.

Also, I have standard work for how I conduct lean improvement (kaizen) events.  I have it down to the minute for each section.  Because of this, I have been able to try new techniques to see if they allow me to reduce the time for a given section without sacrificing the quality of the event.

The biggest change was seven years ago when I added 45 minutes every Friday morning to reflect on my week.  This has helped me better understand things I have tried and why they worked or didn’t work.  Adding planned reflection time every week is probably the single most important thing I have done to learn.

With all the positives, I still don’t have standard work that I use for the week in an office environment.  This has caused me to not be as effective in high work volume times.  I have gotten so busy at times that I haven’t taken the time to reflect and improve.  We should always create time to reflect and improve so during the next heavy workload maybe it isn’t so stressful.

There are plenty of opportunities to apply lean to our own work.  We just have to take the time to do it as leaders.

How are you applying lean to your work?

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2012 – 10 Thru 6

2013 is now in full swing.  Before 2012 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2012.

New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past.  While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.

This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2012.  Enjoy!

10. Guest Post: Selling Lean to People That Don’t Want It (July 2011) – This is a post from Joe Wilson before he became a full-time author at Beyond Lean.  Joe talks about ways to sell lean to people who are not bought into the benefits of lean.

9.   Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #8 – An example of a visual board from a group I worked with.  The board makes the tasks and if they were completed by the managers visual.

8.  Dilbert Leading Transformation (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #10 – The Pointy-Haired Boss wants clear responsibilities and employee engagement.

7.  True Mentoring (May 2012) – This is my take on true mentoring versus fake mentoring that goes on in business today.

6.  Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #5 – The first part of a three part series where I compared the lean principles I learned from the Lean Learning Center to the Toyota Principles.  This post covers the first five Toyota Principles.

My next post will count down the Top 5 viewed posts of 2012.

Asking Why 2 Times

A couple days ago I was reminded of a problem solving aspect I hadn’t personally dealt with in a while.  I guess being engaged in other things, I kind of forget one of the fundamental questions in problem solving.

By now there probably aren’t a lot of people unaware of 5-Whys.  But, what about the 2 Whys?  No this isn’t an attempt to be clever by turning 5-S into 8-S or “8 Minute Abs” in to “7 Minute Abs”.  It comes down to addressing the two fundamental paths of how defectives get to the customer.  “Why Make?” and “Why Ship?”.   In simple terms, “Why Make” is pretty self explanatory in terms of understanding why the defect was produced in the first place.  “Why Ship?” becomes a much more nuanced question about why defects were allowed to be passed along to the customer (internal or external).   It brings along questions about how you build quality at the source or at the least how you detect it and prevent it from being shipped.

I used to get these questions asked all the time by a friend who worked in Quality at Toyota.  I guess back then, much like now, I spent much more time on the “Why Make?” question than on the “Why Ship?” one.   Part of that is that I work in a different industry where product is less likely to be shipped anyway.   The other big part of it is that I just find it much more interesting to chase the kind of problems that follow “Why Make?” questions.   That is kind of unfortunate because looking in to why your systems didn’t prevent, detect, or reject bad stuff sometimes offers some holistic views of the operation that you may not always see.  It was kind of fun to have the reminder to ask “Why Ship?” more often.

Hopefully this can be a little kickstart for those who hadn’t heard that or a reminder for those of you who may have put that on the back burner.

Lean Series Week A Hit

I want to thank all the readers of Beyond Lean.  This week was our first Lean Series Week where we concentrated all the posts on one particular topic.  This week it was Standardized Work.  The purpose was to invite guest bloggers as well as Joe and I to provide view points on a single topic so everyone could learn about the topic in an efficient manner.

As a quick summary, here are the posts from the series this week.

Standardized Work Lessons Learned

This week Beyond Lean is focusing the discussion on standardized work.  There will be four posts throughout the week from different bloggers.  Joe and I will post a blog as well as Tim McMahon from A Lean Journey and Christian Paulsen from Lean Leadership.  The purpose is to look at different aspects of standardized work from several perspectives all gathered in one location and within the same time frame.  We hope this spurs thought, reflection and action for our readers around standardized work.

I’m not going to lie.  Writing about Standardized Work makes me a little anxious.  For me, there is a huge gap in what I internally understand about Standardized Work and what I can articulate or explain.   So with that as my background, here’s a list of my lessons learned about Standardized Work.

  • Standardized Work is not job instruction or a substitute for training – This is kind of a slippery slope for a lot of people.  I think there is something comforting about codifying the steps of a job at the level of Standardized Work that tends to make people think that we can pick up any new hire, hand them the document and they’ll be off and running.  Can it be an aid?  Absolutely.  But it shouldn’t be meant as a standalone substitute for skill development and teaching.
  • Standardized Work is a tool for Visual Management – Much like 5-S, the tools have value by themselves, but are much more valuable as pieces of a visual management culture.  The team members following the Standardized Work should be able to execute the job without referring to the document every cycle.  With that as the framework, the document helps observers to identify when issues exist that are keeping the work from being performed according to the standards.
  • Standard Work in Process Inventory (SWIP) is part of the tool – This was an interesting lesson for me on two fronts.  The first time I worked on rolling out SW documents, I didn’t include it.  Mostly that was a result of trying to satisfy folks who thought the document could be used in place of a trainer.  The second front that made it difficult is that it can be difficult to quantify what exactly the SWIP should be.  In an environment where you are transitioning from not at all Lean to kind of Lean, there may be process disconnects that mean different size batches in and out.  Or, put another way, there is no normal to become the standard.
  • There is no simple way to explain the concept of Standards that are constantly under review for improvement – I have found this to be one of the most difficult Lean aspects to teach.  The discussion seems to end up in circular questions about “how can something be standard if we want to change it” and “if we are going to continuously improve the processes why document all of the changes.”  It seems to be one of those concepts that you can only learn by seeing or experiencing.

That was my top lessons learned about Standardized Work.  Nothing really earth shattering, just some thoughts on things I wish I had known at the beginning that would have helped me out.  Maybe one of these click for you or you have a lesson learned that you would like to share.   If so, please add a comment below and we’ll add it to the list.

Other posts from this standardized work series:

What Standard Work Is

This week Beyond Lean is focusing the discussion on standardized work.  There will be four posts throughout the week from different bloggers.  Joe and I will post a blog as well as Tim McMahon from A Lean Journey and Christian Paulsen from Lean Leadership.  The purpose is to look at different aspects of standardized work from several perspectives all gathered in one location and within the same time frame.  We hope this spurs thought, reflection and action for our readers around standardized work.

The post below is from my friend, Tim McMahon, who runs A Lean Journey blog.  Tim has great tips and insights on his Facebook page as well and a great weekly Lean Quote series every Friday.  You can also connect with Tim on Twitter.

Standard work is a written description of how a process should be done. It guides consistent execution. At its best, it documents a current “best practice” and ensures that it is implemented throughout a company. At a minimum, it provides a baseline from which a better approach can be developed.

The definition of standard work is “the most effective combination of manpower, materials and machinery”. Standard work is the method, and thereby you have the four Ms of manufacturing (manpower, material, machinery, methods). Standard Work is only “the most effective” until the standard is improved.

Standards to a company are like scales and sheet music to a musician. Our team members help develop and maintain standards, which are not static. Standards change as we get better, just as a good band will incorporate chord and melodic variations if they sound good. Thus, standards do not constrain creativity – they enable it, by providing a basis for comparison, and by providing stability, so we have the time and energy to improve.

Standardized work comprises:

  • Content
  • Sequence
  • Timing
  • Expected outcome

It should also contain tests, or red flags, which tell you when there’s a problem. That way, you won’t ship junk. The tests could be physical, such as a torque check on a bolt, or it could be administrative, like a blacked-out template that fits over a standard form and highlights the critical information.

Standard work enables and facilitates:

  • Avoidance of errors, assuring that lessons learned are utilized and not forgotten
  • Team learning and training
  • Improvements to make the work more effective
  • Reduction in variability
  • Creation of meaningful job descriptions
  • Greater innovation by reducing the mental and physical overhead of repetitive or standardized work

Standard work does not preclude flexibility. You can still do a lot of different jobs, and be able to address new problems. Standard work just takes the things you do repeatedly and makes them routine, so you don’t waste time thinking about them.

Standards are an essential requirement for any company seeking to continuously improve. All continuous improvement methods leverage learning to get better results from their business efforts. Standards provide the baseline references that are necessary for learning. A standard operating procedure supplies a stable platform for collecting performance measurements. The standard and its profile of performance yields the information people need to uncover improvement opportunities, make and measure improvements, and extract learning.

Other posts from this standardized work series:

Standardized Work and Your Packaging Line

This week Beyond Lean is focusing the discussion on standardized work.  There will be four posts throughout the week from different bloggers.  Joe and I will post a blog as well as Tim McMahon from A Lean Journey and Christian Paulsen from Lean Leadership.  The purpose is to look at different aspects of standardized work from several perspectives all gathered in one location and within the same time frame.  We hope this spurs thought, reflection and action for our readers around standardized work.

Today’s post comes form a friend and fellow Purdue Boilermaker, Christian Paulsen.  Christian runs the Lean Leadership blog which covers many topics of lean and at The Consumer Goods Club.  His leadership quotes are great and I use them with people I work with all the time.  Christian Paulsen is a Lean-TPM Consultant that helps teams and companies optimize their performance.  Chris’ experience includes 20 years in a variety of manufacturing leadership roles with companies like Unilever and Nestle.  You can reach Chris at paulsen-christian@att.net , LinkedIn, Twitter  or Facebook.

Our new team is coming together for their 7 a.m. work session.  This team is working through the steps of Autonomous Maintenance and is working through their agenda when the area supervisor approaches the team.  His support is a welcome sight as he listens to the team’s interactions intently.  The team leader then welcomes the supervisor and asks if he has anything to add.

The supervisor says, “I have a request of the team.  The entire packaging department is running terrible and is way behind schedule.  Your cartoner is all jacked up and is acting crazy.  I need you to fix the cartoner and help get us caught up.”

The team was eager to help even though granting the supervisor’s request would require skipping everything that had been planned for that work session.   The team leader is very confident that they can get the line back up and running.  He proclaims,

“I’ve seen this before.  The line is running great then another shift comes in and starts making adjustments….we’ll get it going in no time.” 

Sure enough, after making a series of minor adjustments the line is up and running within the hour.  By the end of the day, this line is exceeding production goals.  All the team had to do was set up the cartoner properly.

Is this the end of the story?  Hardly.  Manufacturing veterans have all seen how individual operators all seem to have their own way to run their line.  In many cases, well intending operators and mechanics will start making adjustments as soon as the off-going shift clocks out, even on a well running machine.  Yet, as this real life event illustrates, there is one best practice.  You need everyone following the same best practice.

The team documented all of the mechanical settings and arranged for a prolonged production trial of these settings.  The settings were initially marked with temporary but secure arrows.  These arrows were replaced with permanent etchings.  While some got on board faster and easier than others, these settings are the documented standard and the expectation of every operator.

Do you have examples of how standardization has improved the productivity and reliability of your production lines?  Do you have standards that you need to put in place today?

Other posts from this standardized work series:

Standardized Work is Foundational to Continuous Improvement

This week Beyond Lean is focusing the discussion on standardized work.  There will be four posts throughout the week from different bloggers.  Joe and I will post a blog as well as Tim McMahon from A Lean Journey and Christian Paulsen from Lean Leadership.  The purpose is to look at different aspects of standardized work from several perspectives all gathered in one location and within the same time frame.  We hope this spurs thought, reflection and action for our readers around standardized work.

An often overlooked part of standardized work is how foundational it is to continuous improvement.  Standardized work is not about turning people into mindless robots.  It is about setting a baseline so improvement can occur and freeing up the mental capacity from doing the routine in order to think about how the process could work better.

Standardized work creates a baseline to understand how the process is currently working.  Once a process is stabilized, a baseline is created.  Now an improvement can happen.  A change can be made to the process and the results can be monitored.  If the process improves, it will be seen.  The same is true if the process worsens.

If everyone is working differently, without standardized work, then there is no stability in the process.  When one person makes a change to try to improve what they are doing it is very hard to see in the results.  Was the improvement due to the changes made by one employee or by the noise in the process from other employees doing the work differently?  Eliminate the noise by developing standardized work.

Standardized work can help reduce the amount of time someone is thinking about getting the routine task completed, because they aren’t looking for tools or parts, the work is coming to the area without defects or fewer decisions are needed because the standardized work guides them.  While there is a misconception that this is used to create humanoid robots, an organization practicing lean thinking wants the freed up mental capacity to be used on thinking of ways to improve the process.  Some organizations call this the 8th waste of unused employee intellect.  This is about engaging the people who do the work in the improvement process.

Without standardized work, continuous improvement is not possible and it can help to better engage the employees in how to improve their work.  Just like when building a house start with the foundation.  The same is true of continuous improvement…start with standardized work.

Other posts from this standardized work series:

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2011 – 10 Thru 6

2012 is now in full swing.  Before 2011 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2011.

New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past.  While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.

This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2011.  Enjoy!

10. Dilbert Leading Transformation (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #3 – The Pointy-Haired Boss wants clear responsibilities and employee engagement.

9.   Adding Inventory…A Good Thing? (March 2011) -  Sometimes adding inventory might be the right thing to do based on your business. Take time to understand your business and its needs before deciding.

8.  Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – An example of a visual board from a group I worked with.  The board makes the tasks and if they were completed by the managers visual.

7.  Beyond Lean Joins Twitter (February 2011) – Beyond Lean announces the venture out onto Twitter.

6.  Redbox Produced in the U.S. Using Lean (October 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #5 – News article about Redbox manufacturing using Lean to produce the Redbox dispensers close to it’s customers in the U.S.

My next post will count down the Top 5 viewed posts of 2011.

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