Category Archives: Standardized Work

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.


Article Roundup

In the spirit of other blog sites, especially the Management Carnival, I thought I would share some links to a few blogs that found very interesting over the last month or so.  I hope you enjoy them.

A Tough Obituary to Write by Bill Waddell – This is a different perspective on the passing of Steve Jobs.  This is a point of view I had thought about writing but Bill beat me to the punch and I didn’t want to redo something he had written so well.

Building Your Personal Value Proposition by Bill Barnett – A great post about understanding yourself and what you are interested in.  Use that knowledge to know where you fit in a company and build your personal value.

Encourage Talent If You Want It To Grow by Steve Roesler – Steve hits on some great points to help grow talent through encouragement.  Even when you feel an employee is doing what they should be doing it is good to encourage them.

Building Manager Standard Work by Jamie Flinchbaugh – This blog will link to his full article at Industry Week.  Don’t but a process in place for something that already has a process like check email every day at lunch.

Planning On Not Knowing by David Kasprzak – We won’t always know what do to next but that shouldn’t stop us from planning.  Plan in spots to review and determine what to do next.

Manufacturing Skills Gap or Management Skills Gap by John Hunter – If the people don’t have the manufacturing skills they need is that their fault?  Or do we have a gap in our management skills?

Assembly Mag Thinks Whirlpool is Lean. Really. by Kevin Meyer – This is about Whirlpool and the fake lean.  It hit home because I grew up in Evansville and watch the decline of Whirpool.

Standardized Work Formats

I encounter a lot of people asking what format should their standardized work be in.  There seems to be a misconception that the work combination chart is the format for everything.  Which causes questions/concerns like, “How do I do a start-up procedure in this format?” or “I design products and putting a time down for each step is not feasible.”

Multiple formats for standardized work is fine to have.  But once you pick a format for a type of work then that format should be standardized throughout.  Through my work, here are the formats that I have found to work well with types of work:

  • Work Combination Charts – Manufacturing tasks such as assembly, changeovers and other repeated work (Example Work Combination Chart)
  • Checklists – Leader standard work, start-up and shutdown procedures, design work, or any other work where a step-by-step is needed to ensure nothing is missed.  Used a lot in the office environment (Example Checklist and Leader Standard Work)
  • Layouts Diagrams – Material handling or movement.  A spaghetti diagram with instructions works well.
  • Picture Diagrams – Assembly of complicated components.  A great example is LEGO instructions.

The format (digital or hardcopy) and size of the paper are up to the people doing the work.  Just be consistent once a decision is made.

Remember, it isn’t how the standardized work instruction looks.  It is about getting everyone to agree to execute something in a standardized way.  When this is done an issue can be spotted quickly when the standardized way isn’t followed allowing for an improvement opportunity.

Making Leader Standard Work Visual

Two of the most popular lean tools are standardized work and visual management.  In most cases, these tools are talked about separately.  These tools can be very powerful when they are combined at a leadership level.

One group I have been working with wanted the supervisors of the area to get better at following standardized work.  The department manager had seen the benefits of using visual management in other parts of his business and I had taken him on some tours showing how other companies use the tools in combination.

With this in mind, the department manager tasked an employee to interview supervisors in the area as well as other areas to determine the tasks they need to do on a daily basis then develop a visual way of displaying the standardized work.  This is the result of the work.

The tasks are listed down the left hand side.  The days of the week across the top.  Under each day of the week, is each supervisor’s name by shift.  When the task is completed the supervisor checks it off.  At the bottom the department manager has a daily task to audit the standard work for the supervisors to be sure they are not just pencil-whipping the board.

What the department discovered were a lot of unintended benefits.  One of the biggest was the operators holding their supervisors accountable for doing their standard work.  The operators would challenge the supervisors about filling out the production paperwork as well as other tasks that weren’t running the line.  The operators would say they were too busy and if the supervisor said it needed to be done, the operator would counter with then why haven’t you done your standard work.  You can’t hold me accountable for something you won’t do yourself type of comments.  From that moment on the supervisors have stuck to their standard work.  Now the supervisors are leading by example which makes the operators want to follow them.

Now to the next level.  When talking with the department manager, he mentioned the tasks are pretty much listed in the order they need to be completed.  I asked how they could make it visual as to when the tasks should be completed?  How can they make it visual to show what tasks are OK to miss if the supervisor is out of the plant or in a kaizen event for the day?  What tasks can’t be missed and their needs to be a backup plan if the supervisor is out?

The board is great.  It has produced some great results for the team.  I hope it is an example that others can learn from….inside the facility as well as outside the facility.

Standardized Work Instructions – Not a Replacement for Skill & Knowledge

I am continuing to reflect on some of the thoughts and principles from the Lean Experience presented by the Lean Learning Center.  This one centers around standardized work instructions (SWI).  Most people are aware of the benefits of having standardized work instructions:

  • Provides a baseline to improve upon
  • Reduces variability in the process
  • Increased predictability in the output of the process
  • Reduces ambiguity in what is expected
  • Enables troubleshooting when there is a deviation from the standard
  • Etc..

I can’t say that any of this was a new epiphany to me, but the quote from Jamie Flinchbaugh that really sunk in was “Standardized work instructions are not a replacement for skill and knowledge.”

I have always taught that SWI is not meant to turn people into robots.  It is there to free up the person’s mind from thinking about the routine, repetitive tasks and let them think about how to improve the process.  No matter how I explained it, I always had a hard time getting people to buy in that have great skill and knowledge in the area.

A great example Jamie used was an airplane pre-flight checklist.  I might be able to go through the checklist (which is a form of SWI) and complete, but there is no way you would want me to fly the plan.  I do not have the skill or the knowledge to do so.

To me just saying the words, “SWI does not replace your skill and knowledge,” would seem like it would engage the employees more.  It can reassure them that we aren’t trying to replace them by creating standardized work instructions.  It is there to help apply that skill and knowledge in a consistent and effective way.

This was a point that really resonated with me.

Other blog posts about my learnings from the Lean Experience Class:

Continuous Improvement for Me – Creating Time to Improve

As I look for ways to improve, I am inspired by other lean thinkers and bloggers.  I see what they are trying and look to how that might work for me.  I try and experiment with things in order to make my job easier and to feel more in control and organized.

I decided to start a series that will be based on what I have tried in order to make my work better.  It may be small or large things and most likely it was an inspiration I got from someone else.  I hope that by passing along what I have learned that it may inspire others the way others have inspired me.

One of the biggest obstacles I have had is creating time for myself during the work day.  Time I could use to complete a project or work that needed a couple of hours or time to work on continuous improvement ideas for my work.  I was talking with a co-worker a couple of months ago about this and she shared with me how she handles it.  I took the advice and added to it and so far it has worked very well.

I work in a company that relies heavily on everyone’s calendar to schedule meetings and work time, etc…  The first thing I did was I blocked out every Friday, all day, as work time.  I spend most of the week traveling back and forth between our corporate office and our three manufacturing plants and one distribution center.  They are all are within an hour drive of our corporate office.  I use Fridays as my catch up day for travel expenses, some emails, reviewing material people asked for help on, networking, etc….

One of the new standardize work tasks I have for Friday is to look at my calendar for the following week.  Wherever I have large blocks of time, typically 1.5 hours or more, I block it off for work time.  I use this time to work on projects and tasks that are longer than 10 minutes to complete.

Because I have blocked this time off does not mean that I won’t add meetings during this time.  it just means that I have more control over it now.  If someone adds a meeting at the last minute, I now have the option and control to determine whether or not it is one I should participate in or if it is as important as the work that I have to do.  I have taken more control of my time.

The results: I have found that I am getting more things done during the week.  I am also more relaxed during busy times because I can see (visual management) the blocked work time and now that I have time coming up to complete some work that needs to be done at my desk.  I can also give a better due date to the person asking for the work to be done.

I hope this is something that can help others can more control over their time.

Categorize Standardized Work Tasks

The basis for all continuous improvement is standardized work.  Without it there is no baseline.  Without a baseline, there is no idea of whether there was an improvement made or not.  The biggest debate in creating standardized work is around what is important enough to standardize and what isn’t.  The more basic question is, “How much should we control the process/situation/operator?”

When this discussion arises, I fall back on what I read in “Toyota Talent” by Jeffrey Liker and David Meier.  The book talks about how Toyota uses the Training Within Industry (TWI) methods.  One of the first questions to ask is, “Is this task critical, important, or not important?”

Critical means the task needs to be completed in a very specific way.  With a certain hand, in a certain order, in a very detailed manner because of safety, productivity or necessity (this must be done before that can be done).

Important means the task needs to be completed in a specific way but there is some structured freedom in how it gets done.

Not Important means that the task needs to be completed but how and when may not matter to the process.

The following example will help illustrate the definitions.

Critical would say, “Use your right hand and insert screw #1, then #2, then #4, and then #3.”  This may be because of a safety hazard that would arise if you do it in a different order or the ability to not be able to get to screw #4 if you do #3 first.

Important would say, “Insert screws #1 and #2 first.  Then insert #3 and #4.”  Implying it does not matter if the operator inserts #1 first or #2 first just do both of them before you screw in #3 and #4.

Not Important would say, “Insert the four screws.”  Implying it does not matter what order the operator puts the four screws in.

I recently worked with a group that did a good job of using this concept.  As they developed standardized work that would be applied to three separate sites one of the questions that came up was, “Do we have to be so specific as to say who does the tasks?”

In this case, it was not important who did the tasks, but critical the tasks were done in a specific order.  It was a good use of the definitions to come up with the standardized work that will have ownership.

Standardized work is important but we have to remember to keep it in context and apply the definitions of critical, important, and not important appropriately.