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How to create standard work? Using PDCA to create the baseline for continuous improvement.

Although PDCA is a problem-solving tool, this methodology is excellent for any improvement activity.  We followed PDCA while walking through the kaizen steps, and today we will use it to create standard work.  In general, the following are the steps to create work standards.  The figure below shows how they translate into the PDCA steps.

  1. Understand the process, break down the job & question every detail
  2. Develop a new method for performing the job
  3. Run the process and observe results
  4. If it is necessary, adapt the process and go back to step 4.
  5. When you find the best method, create the standard

PDCA should be a team exercise, always recruit team members to analyze and create standards.  The most important part of the PDCA cycle, understanding the problem is critical for its success. This statement remains true when we use PDCA to create standard work.  Even if you know the process, ask what it is about, and what is supposed to accomplish.  What is its purpose?    If you can eliminate or combine the process, do it!  If you cannot, then continue to understand the job sequence, breakdown the job, and question each step. Always observe the process and talk with the people who do the work.

The next step is to develop a new method.  Engage the team in a brainstorming session for improvement ideas.  Prioritize and select the best solutions to design a new way to perform the job.   Use those ideas to design the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to do the work.  Test the new design, observe the process, and measure the results.  All this is part of the step Do, the second of the PDCA cycle.

The third PDCA step is Check, which is what you will do while analyzing the results from your test drive.  Does the new process achieve the objectives?  Is this the best way to do the job?  If it is, start to create the standard, which is the last PDCA step, Act.  If it is not, modify or adapt the process.  

If your test drive proves that you need to improve the new process further to accomplish the goals, modify it, and test it again as part of the PDCA step Act.  You keep changing, testing, and analyzing until you reach the desired condition.  When this happens, it is time to create the standard.

PDCA provides a framework that is easy to follow and repeat.  In the same way that you can use it to standardize Kaizen, you can use it for your standard work creation also.  Standard work is the baseline for future improvements.  You create the standard, let the operation stabilize, and then improve the standard.  

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How do you make sure you understand the job? You need to know this before creating standard work.

One of our responsibilities as leaders is to keep our team and customers safe.  These days that means that we have to incorporate the CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfecting public areas and workplaces. How we make sure that our staff follows the instructions?  How do we redesign our processes to ensure the appropriate distancing?  To ensure effective procedures, you will need to create standard work to ensure understanding and execution, as well as communication and training.

In my post Standardization and problems, how to create standard work to reduce problems?,  I mentioned the general steps to create standard work.  The first step is to understand the process for which we will develop the standard work. Although maybe you want to go straight to creating the standard, the right way to do it is to improve the process first.  Why?  Because if you currently have problems, it is because the process needs improvements. The following are the three steps to understand the process.

  1. Identify and learn the process
  2. Understand the job sequence
  3. Find out the process parameters

Identify and learn the process

Ask what is the purpose of this process, what is supposed to accomplish?  What is the value for the customer?  Does the current pandemic affect what the customer wants?  It is important to have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish with this process, what is the target condition you expect from it.

Go to the place where value is created, where the action happens, what in lean we call the gemba.  Study the process without going into specifics, take a general look at the flow of materials and people.  If you would like to minimize the areas on which employees and customers cross each other, drawing a spaghetti chart will help you to visualize those patterns.  You can use the same tool to see how the information or materials travel through the process.  Identify where the flow stops, look for waste, such as waiting, delays, excess inventory, and others. Respectfully ask your team about those areas, how they feel, what they think?  Take note to remember those key points that you will use while understanding the job sequence.

Understand the Job Sequence

Armed with general knowledge about the process, break the job down into smaller logical steps.  We use the template called “Job Breakdown Sheet” to document this part.  This sheet is from the Job Instruction program, which is part of the leadership development program Training Within Industry.  

A step is a logical segment of the operation when something happens to advance the job.  The job advances when it changes form, fit, function, or adds value.  For each step, you will fill out what, how, and why.  What is the section where the step description goes.  

Key points are important pieces of information that can make or break the job.  On this section, you listed what is important to ensure safety, achieve quality, or make the job easier.  Include the best practices to perform the step as part of the key points.  The last section is to explain the why for each key point.  It is easier to remember a step, if you know why it is important.  Also, this is a good place to explain why the best practices are important, how they are aligned with safety, quality, delivery and safety objectives.

Find out the process parameters

After you learned the work sequence, it is time to add more information that will help to develop the new job method.  One of the components of standard work is the rate at which products must be produced to meet customer demand.  To get this number, you need to know the customer demand.  Another piece of information that you need to gather at this time is cycle time, how much it takes to complete the job sequence.

In my next posts, I will explain more about the tools I mentioned here, spaghetti chart and Job Breakdown Sheet.

CI 101

Standardization and problems, how to create standard work to reduce problems?

In continuous improvement, we define a problem as a deviation from the standard.  That is a difference between what should be happening and what is actually happening.  That gap is a problem.  Standardization is the practice of setting, communicating, following, and improving standards and standard work.

But what happens when there are no standards?  How do you know that you have a problem?  Normally you know because a situation that does not feel right is jumping at you, other times those situations are screaming at you.  Those screams are usually in the form of complaints, delays, errors, or performance variation.  How do you choose where to start?

There are different prioritization criteria that you can use to determine what process you will tackle first.  You can choose the process based on volume, the effect it has on the problem you are looking at, or how much influence it has over the cost of operation.  If you never create a standard before, my advice is to start with a small process.  This will give you the chance to learn the basics before digging into a bigger problem.

The development of a standard begins with the problem we are trying to solve.  What is the target condition?  What should be happening?  What can you do to ensure you met the target condition every time?  Do not try to set your current process as the standard, if you have problems it is obvious that the current process needs improvements.  That is why you need to understand the current situation, find the root cause of the problems, and improve the current process before creating standard work.  In general, the following are the steps to create standard work.

  1. Understand the process, break down the job & question every detail
  2. Develop a new method for performing the job
  3. Run the process and observe results
  4. If it is necessary, adapt the process and go back to step 4.
  5. When you find the best method, create the standard

Standard work does not make any good if it is not communicated.  For that reason, training is the next logical step.  While creating the standard, engage the help of some members of the team.  They have the knowledge and experience that will facilitate the creation of the standard.  Also, this would be a teaching opportunity to develop their skills.  Train supervisors, team leaders, and other members of the team.  Use visual management if it is possible and have the standard work available for reference.

Now that you have standard work for that process, identify the next process, and keep improving.  Standard work is the foundation for improvements, they provide the baseline to process improvements.  Once established, stabilized it, and improve it!