This blog was adapted from an article by Manoj Ramachandran, Operations Manager, Label World, who has more than a decade of experience as a lean operations practitioner. He has gained his insight through experience in many different industries, including printing, aviation, and health care. He is also a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and PMP. Mr. Ramachandran will present on Standard Work at the 2013 Continuous Improvement Conference, April 7–10, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Implementing a Lean manufacturing plan can be like composing a symphony: getting all of the intricate details working together harmoniously requires not only attention to minute detail, but also an overall vision of the project. However, you can lay an integral piece of a Lean foundation and put a Standard Work process in place. Standardizing your work methods will set you on a positively evolving pathway to better workflow and operational excellence. But you have to have the right plan supported and firmly in place.

The method of Standard Workor “The documentation and application of the best practices of a manufacturing process,” can be focused to three parts: Creation, Implementation, and Sustenance.

Find a glossary of Lean and related terms here.

Create: Identifying where Standard Work Is Necessary

Ask the question, “What processes would benefit most from standardization?” Take a look at your value stream map and confer with the team or department that performs the work and, therefore, owns the process. Be sure to review the process with the equipment operators—their input will help a great deal in ensuring buy-in and continually improving the process. Finally, analyze the process to identify waste sources using tools like takt time, sequence of activities, and inventory levels.

Implement: Making the Process Known

For your standard work process to be effective, make it available and understandable to all. Place images of the work sequences close to the work site in graphical, easy-to-follow terms. This will not only set the standard but also act as a grading tool as well as a training tool for new employees.

Sustain: Ensuring Compliance

The team performing the work should be responsible for auditing the standardized process once it is in place. Supervisors and operators will track and determine if the process is being followed and, if not, determine why. Perhaps someone has found a better way to perform the process and can make suggestions for change. The end goal is improvement, not strictly maintaining a stated process.

Want to learn more about Standard Work and implementing a Lean manufacturing program? We have great resources for you!