Establishing a Standard Work Chart

All of us would agree that while practicing Kaizen™, Standard Work is a concept that is quite simple & effective but not as easy as we think when it comes to implementing it on the Gemba. Standard Work Chart is created to ascertain the current best practices and it should also be providing clues on the areas of improvement.  This is quite a tough task. Standard Work, if not implemented in the right perspective, would not be serving its purpose. Let us go through the steps of creating a Standard Work:

  • Calculate the Takt time
  • Conduct Cycle time study by engaging the Value-adders
  • Establish the Process Capacity Sheet
  • Identify the Non-value Adding Activities – Do KAIZEN™
  • Apply ECRS – Do Line Balancing
  • Establish Standard Operating Sequence
  • Calculate Pitch and Pitch-interval
  • Establish Standard Work-in-Process Inventory
  • Establish the Mizu-route, container quantity, trip frequency, etc.
  • Create Standard Work Chart for the Process & Mizusumashi
  • Monitor, Review and Adjust

It is observed that while preparing Standard Work, there are few mistakes made by the practitioners which are quite common. We need to know them as to avoid repeating them while preparing Standard Work. Let us find out what we need to do:

Engaging Value-adders in Standard Work Creation: Generally, Standards are created by Managers who are not Gemba-oriented. Standards are created in their offices based on ideal conditions without understanding the reality at the Gemba. Hence, one would find a big difference in what is being actually practiced at the Gemba and what is mentioned in the Standard Work. Such Standard Work will be perceived as instructions to the Value-adders at the Gemba. When it is perceived as instruction, it is the tendency of the humans to find a way to avoid it. This will only make people resistant to Standard Work.

At the outset, we should accept that value-adders, who work on the processes day in and day out, are the best personnel to create a Standard Work. They are aware of the processes, they understand the required inputs and they also are aware of what is required to get a qualitative output. Hence, engaging those who work on the processes in creating the Standard Work is the right way. This will not only strengthen the Standard work but also will create a sense of accountability amongst the Value-adders.

Keep it simple: Going by the definition of Standard, let us make the SWC simple. Having a complicated SWC will only complicate the processes. SWC should be self-explanatory, easy to understand and easy to update. Let us not leave out the key elements of a Standard Work. SWC is a document which we will be using on a daily basis – for auditing, for comparing etc., and hence let us keep it simple while capturing all critical information about the process. 

Standardize after doing Kaizen™ : We have observed that Managers are found in a hurry to create a Standard Work that they skip almost all the steps in creating a Standard Work. The most common mistake one can find is to map the current activities in the Standard Work Chart. Thus, all the non-value adding activities, 3MUs becomes a part of the standard. When the Muda is standardized, the opportunities for improvement has no scope. Mapping the current state is the first step of continuous improvement but standardizing the current state is not the right approach. Let us map the current state but list on doing the needful by engaging the value-adders to improve the state. Hence, prior to Standardization, we need to ensure that we have worked upon eliminating or minimizing the 3MUs in the process.

Audit the SWC and actual practices: Simple possession would not yield us result but the application will. Similarly, Standard Work will yield result only if it is applied on a continuous basis. Leaders, as a part of their Leader Standard Work, should be choosing one process to improve every week. Gemba Walk is the means to do this. During Gemba Walks, the Leaders can identify one critical process every week, observe, identify the deviations, analyse the reasons and come out with an action plan to improve the process. This is akin to auditing – remember the leader is not auditing the person but the process per se. If the practice is deviating from the SWC, it highlights a problem in the process. The Leaders should immediately engage all concerned and address the issue. 

Keep improving the Standard Work Chart: The very definition of Standard is, “So far, it is the simplest, easiest, safest and best way to perform a task in shortest possible time”.  This indicates that Standards are supposed to be revised. Unfortunately, the routine is that we laminate the Standard Work Sheet that was created and hang them. We hardly go through this and leave it at like that. It is not a script that never needed an amendment but, it forms the basis of all future improvements. It is not the end of innovation but the starting-point of it. Standard Work sheet is like the steps in a ladder. Climb up one step, stabilize and then climb onto the second. There are only two stages – Either we are improving or we are deteriorating. There cannot be a stage in-between. If we are not improving our Standards, we are deteriorating. So, let us not freeze our standard work chart but keep improving it.

Improve the SWC only after a PDCA-SDCA cycle: Improvement or Changing for better has to happen only when a situation arises. Unless an opportunity for improvement is identified, unless one observes the conditions or the practices need a change, one should not attempt to change the SWC. Even after identification of the improvement areas, one cannot go ahead without proper planning. The improvement has to be implemented with utmost care. Doing PDCA-SDCA cycle is critical for this. Application of PDCA-SDCA ensures the improvements are made intentionally and with great care.

Establish a cadence to review the SWC: We have seen that SWC is the basis for improvement and innovation. SWC should be reviewed whenever one observes a deviation in the practice or when any abnormality is observed in the process or if a leader finds an opportunity to improvement during one of his Gemba-Walks. However, it is also essential that we have to establish a schedule to review the SWC from time and again. The process may be working smooth, however, as Taiichi Ohno San said, “unable to identify a problem is the biggest problem”, let us try to identify a problem in the process which is hiding from us for long. Perhaps, while reviewing we might bump across some improvement initiatives which we would have missed earlier.

Let us make a standard for establishing Standard Work Chart which is a crucial document that can help the employees improve their performance. After all, we are in the journey of seeking perfection, of not perfection, let us catch up with excellence.

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