Standard Work (SW) is a simple written description of the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to execute a particular task. Once established, it becomes the only acceptable way to do the process it describes. Effective documentation and training are key to standard work success. Use a template to ensure that all the standard work or work instructions look and contain the same parts or components.
The three components
- Job sequence to complete the job
- The rate at which products must be produced to meet customer demand (takt time)
- The standard amount of work in process inventory
Relevant information to include with the job sequence
- Key points related to anything that can make or break the job
- Information that addresses safety issues or risks
- Instructions or knowledge that help performance such as, what makes the job easier or ensure quality.
- Explains why the step is important
Characteristics of effective work instructions
- Simple and clear, easy to understand by everybody.
- Complete, it shows the steps to do the job and other relevant information.
- Accurate, the document reflects the current process.
- Concise, it contains important information only.
A work instruction is not effective, regardless of how good the document is if the training is not adequate. If your idea of training is to bring a group of people to a room to read the work instruction, you should rethink the training method. How effective do you think this type of training is? How can you be sure that everybody understood the instructions?
The work instruction by itself is not a training tool, it needs to be supported by other teaching methods. To be effective, the instructor should tell and show how to do the job. The following are some general guidelines.
- Demonstrate the job step by step while explaining the key points and why things are done a certain way.
- Repeat the steps as many times as you think it is necessary before asking the employee to try.
- Observe the employee doing the job.
- Ask to explain the key concepts and whys, make sure they understand.
- Follow-up on their performance, observe and correct if it is necessary.
- Create a safe and respectful environment.
- Make sure they know who to ask if they have doubts or find a problem.
- Check-in with the employee often, until you are completely sure that he/she understands the job.
Many organizations fail to implement standard work. As a result, perceived gains through Kaizen may be lost over time, and the status quo prevails. The standard work is not set in stone, it is the baseline for continuous improvement. When the process change, the standard work is updated.
Standard work is important to ensure everybody follows the same guidelines, and the process is stable. That way, the customer will consistently receive their product or service on time, with the best quality, and at the lower possible cost.