The PDCA cycle provides a structure for problem-solving as well as to the continuous pursuit of improvements. At the beginning of the continuous improvement implementation, it is highly probable that the operation needs stabilization. The three pillars of kaizen or continuous improvement, 5S, standardization, and waste identification-elimination are the right tools for that job. To be able to improve the process, a standard should exist.
Where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen. Taiichi Ohno
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, you need to establish the standard, stabilize it, and then improve it. Before reaching the improving phase (PDCA), you need to follow a similar process called SDCA, 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 the 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 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.