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Standardized Work

March 21, 2011

One of the most important tools of Lean (and probably one that has the least information available) is Standardized Work. I had the honor of facilitating a Standardized Work Kaizen Event last week at a medical device company. This was primarily a training event to teach the value-adders and management how to create standardized work, but we also created SW on real jobs that the teams were doing.

We started out with some training on Standardized Work and gave them a chance to practice as they watched me perform a task that included manual operations, automatic (machine) operations and walking. To enhance the class exercise I didn’t always perform the task the same way each time, told them what I didn’t like about the job, and filled in redundant and non-value added paperwork – just like the real-world! They had fun watching me perform my task and asking me questions about my work. I also had them time my operations to create a Standard Work Combination Sheet. We had the teams work on a Standard Work Sheet and create some One-point Lessons too. I gave a couple of volunteers a chance to play the Pegboard Game to help drive home the point of standardization and improvement. We did all this before cutting the teams loose in their own work areas to start the SW.

I remember years ago the very first time I did my observations and timings for SW. I was amazed on how much waste I saw and the amount of variation within the same operator! I told people that it felt like I was “slapped in the face” with all the waste I saw. Be prepared because this could happen to you too when you finally go to gemba and go see for yourself. Not only do people perform the job in various ways, they also may perform the task differently each time they do it. This is not a stable way to get things done!

The teams had many observations and came up with many opportunities for improvement. They understood the need to standardize their processes since they saw the amount of variation from person to person. What I liked about the event is that each team made immediate improvements to the processes (after understanding their current state) that reduced the time from 10-34%. Each of the teams also found other improvements that they would like to implement that would decrease the time up to 50% or more!

One of the points of resistance that I run into is that people say that using standardized work makes people into robots. Actually, by standardizing any portion of the task this will allow people to use their brains for the more difficult portions of tasks and to improve the current method. Don’t be afraid to look at your processes closely and have the team time the elements. This is about stabilizing the process and looking for improvements and having everyone perform the task the same way.

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I was just talking with a friend of mine who was mentioning that a company he knows has a Continuous Improvement Department. Not uncommon for many companies today. That made me think about how companies perceive continuous improvement (CI). So let’s review the different names we have out there in the Lean world (for fun).

Kaizen Blitzsm

Kaizen translated from Japanese means continuous improvement. Blitz means a fast intensive nonmilitary campaign or attack (flash or lightning). So we take a Japanese word and a German word to try to get Americans to make improvements. Honestly, I don’t really hear this term that much anymore. No offense to my friends at AME.

RIE – Rapid Improvement Event

This is what you have to call it if you work for the government or military since you are not allowed to use foreign languages.

RCI – Rapid Continuous Improvement

There was a company that decided to call their Kaizen Events “Rapid Continuous Improvement” Events or RCIs. So what is rapid continuous improvement? If it is continuous, isn’t always supposed to be happening? So let’s review the definition of “rapid” and “continuous”. According to Merriam-Webster on-line edition I found these portions of the definition:

Rapid – marked by a fast rate of motion, activity, succession, or occurrence

Continuous – marked by uninterrupted extension in space, time, or sequence

So in my mind in order to have Rapid CI it appears that we would have to bend the time-space continuum so that it could be continuous and rapid.

O.k., back to C.I. If so many companies spend so much time talking about it I would like to add some new acronyms to the mix that may be a little bit more appropriate.

SI – Sporadic Improvement

The occasional improvement that management graciously allows us to perform when we get time to do it (which is close to never).

RSI – Rapid Sporadic Improvement

What we do right before one of our most important customer comes to visit or if there’s been a major melt-down in quality, cost or delivery.

SIwFB – Sporadic Improvement with Fall Back

This combines our phenomenal ability to periodically change things and then loose the gains until we are almost too where we started in the first place.

Feel free to add your own so we can continuously improve our continual improvement. – Tony

A great webinar and free software too!

Tom Dunn of D-bar Innovations

We were very pleased with the attendance and participation of our webinar “Lean and Six Sigma Simplified” on February 28, 2011. Thomas Dunn from D-bar Innovations did a great job of explaining elements of LSS and several aspects of the software he developed.

There were a few things that really caught my attention regarding the software that I think any Lean Champion, Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Black belt or Green Belt would appreciate.

The Tools – I was very impressed with all the tools that were available with this software. If you needed a tool, wanted a suggestion for which tool to use, or needed a template or spreadsheet this software had it. It was very easy to access the tools and they even provided coaching tips on how to use them. I think the software is worth having just for that feature alone.

Project Selection – whether you’re a big company or small knowing which projects to work on is extremely important. I liked how prospective projects were entered into the system and criteria selected to see how this project would stack up against others and whether it was driving the organization’s business plan forward.

Tracking – this is probably what sets this software apart from others. This system is designed with management in mind. The implementers input their information that becomes available to management. This leads to better knowledge sharing, best practices and utilization of resources.

Here is what some of our participants had to say about the webinar:

  • Excellent presentation!  Very informative. – eric@
  • The duration of the seminar I really appreciated and that combined with the technical knowledge shared will surely have me back for the next one. – j@
  • I was blown away that we get a copy of the stand-alone package for free. That turned this around from a sales pitch to a very interesting presentation. I can’t wait to try out the software – peter@
  • As a Minitab newbie, this software seems like it can do everything Minitab can do, but it appears to be more user-friendly. – kara@
  • My attention was focused on every aspect of the discussion because he discussed things I had not thought about and solutions to things that have faced me in the past. I would like more information to the software. He made a statement that it could be downloaded and that surprised me. mike@

Free Webinar and Free Software

Here are the links if you are interested in watching the webinar “Lean Six Sigma Simplified” or would like to download a free fully functional single-user copy of the software Hawkeye Process Improvement Management System Software. The good news is that there are two versions – one for manufacturing and one tailored for healthcare.

Don’t forget to check out our next free webinar “Lean Office and Service Simplified” with author Drew Locher on March 23, 2011.