SDCA, what it is, and when you should use it.

SDCA, is it the same as PDCA? The PDCA cycle provides a structure for problem-solving as and continuous improvement. At the beginning of the journey, it is highly probable that the operation needs stabilization.  The three pillars of continuous improvement, 5S, standardization, and waste identification-elimination are the right tools for that job.  To improve a process we need a standard first.

Where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen. Taiichi Ohno

SDCA is used when there is no standard

What happens when there is no standard?  Although a standard does not exist, you know the desired outcome for the process.  When this outcome is not achieved consistently, you can conclude that the process is not stable.  In that case, first, you need to establish the standard. Second, you need to stabilize the process. And third, you start to improve it.  To create the standard, you use SDCA. This is a similar process to PDCA. The steps are Standardize, Do, Check, Act.  


Standardization is the practice of setting, communicating, following, and improving standards and standard work.  To establish the standard, which is the first step on this cycle, you will use collective knowledge, the best-known easier and safer way to meet the customer needs.  Remember that we want to provide the customer with the highest quality product or service, at the lowest cost, in a shorter time.  Once the standard exists, it is critical to ensure adherence to it.  Everybody has to follow it every day to achieve consistency.  

The process of establishing the standard is done with the participation of the employees who perform the task. A supervisor or team leader should write the standard. It is recommended to follow the guidelines from the Job Instruction Training and Job Methods.

What happens next?

The last three steps of the SDCA cycle are similar to what we know from PDCA.  Do refer to putting the standard into place, Check means to verify the effectiveness to meet expectations, and Act is to complete all documentation and training necessary to make the standard official.  This last step is now the existing standard and becomes the benchmark for improvement.

Only when the standard is established, followed, and stable, you move on to improve it.  In summary, the standards cycle is, create a new standard, stabilize, improve, repeat.

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