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

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.

Takt time and inventory control. What is this?

Take time is the rhythm of the process
Take time, the rhythm of the process

In continuous improvement, there is something called takt time.   Takt is a German word used to indicate the beat of the music.  In CI, we used it to designate the rhythm or beat of a process.  It is intended to tell us the rhythm or cadence at which a product or service should be completed. In other words, how much time between units.  With takt, we try to accomplish two things. One is to produce anything more than what the customer needs. The second is to avoid inventory.

Take time calculation

One challenge to accomplish this is that we never know for sure how much the customer demand will be. Looking at numbers in real-time is the fastest and better indicator of whether things are going as expected.  Historical data tells you what you can expect. By comparing this number against what you are selling, you can adjust the inventory.  You can increase, decrease, or even stop before you have too little or too many.  If you are flexible, you can even swap your focus to the item that is selling more.  What does any of this have to do with takt time?

Takt is the available time divided by customer demand.  The resulting number tells you how often you need to complete one product or service.  It provides some cadence to the process.  Be aware that takt is not the same as cycle time. Cycle time is how much time it takes to complete the product or service.  Let’s see an example of how you can use it.

Example of how to calculate takt time

In Breakfast 24, a cafe that serves sandwiches and breakfast all day. The owner knows that their high-demand days are Tuesday to Thursday.  Those days, they sell between 70 to 80 sandwiches during the first four hours of the morning.  They prepare and have ready some components for the sandwiches, like lettuce, tomato, bacon, and others.  They don’t want to cut too much lettuce and tomatoes because they want to cut them as close as possible to the time the customer requests them.  Not everybody likes salad on their morning sandwich. Historical data said that 45% of their customers do.  With those numbers, they calculated a takt time for those 4 hours.  To satisfy customer demand, the kitchen needs to complete a sandwich with salad every 7 minutes.

On average, every 7 minutes, a customer requests a sandwich with salad.  If they want to have enough lettuce and tomato for, let’s say, the next 30 minutes, they need to prepare enough for four sandwiches (30 ÷ 7 = 4.29). If they want to have enough for one hour, they need enough salad for 8 to 9 sandwiches.

Each hour, they have a visual cue that tells the cook helper if they are selling what they expect or more.  If one day, sales are slower, when the helper comes back to prepare more, he will see that they still have inventory, so he will prepare salad just enough to complete eight, not the entire batch of eight.  If, on the contrary, they are selling more than expected, the cook will notice that he used all the inventory in half an hour, and he will ask the second helper to prepare more.  The inventory number that will trigger the request, as well as who will be responsible to prepare it are part of the standard work for that task.

Standard Work, Inventory Control, and Demand

Takt is a number to use as a reference to learn about the process demand.  Standard work has three components, job sequence to complete the job, how often needs to complete the product or service to meet customer demand (takt time), and the amount of work in process inventory.  Every cook helper will follow the same standard work, which means that all of them will follow the same steps in the same order, and they know how often they need to prepare the amount of salad inventory and how much.  That is how you can control inventory using takt time.  If you don’t like the German word, call it something else, it does not matter.  The important thing is that you are not creating any more inventory than what you need.  

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

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.

What is a work instruction document?

Use a work instruction document for training
Use a work instruction document for training

What is a work instruction?

A work instruction document is used to describe one of the components of Standard Work (SW). SW is a simple written description to perform a task. SW is the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to execute a particular task. The three components of standard work are the following.

  • 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

Let’s focus today on the first component.  One way to document this component of standard work is by using work instructions.  A work instruction describes in detail the step by step information to do the task.  In general, they combine words, pictures, icons, or sketches, to define each step.  They also contain important tips for things that can make or break the job, safety, and quality.  

The first step to create standard work was to understand the process and break down the job.   If you follow all the steps, then you already have the job sequence to perform the job safely and efficiently while achieving high quality.  All you have to do now is to present the information in a simple and easy to understand format.

Document header

  1. This is an official document and should contain the company or business name, and address. 
  2. Use a clear title that describes the task.
  3. Although is not critical, you should have a standard alphanumerical format to identify the work instructions.  This is helpful if you plan to create instructions for key tasks in different departments.  This number should go next to the work instruction title.
  4. Identify the department and position(s) that will perform this task.
  5. Include the document effective date.
  6. When the job has safety risks or required the use of personal protective equipment, you should identify both.  This information can go either on the heading or the body of the instruction.  You can use words but is better to use icons to represent risks and PPE.

Work Instruction body

  1. List the materials or equipment required to do the job, use bullet points to facilitate reading.
  2. Describe how to perform each step following the appropriate sequence.
  3. For each step, include risks, and tips to do the job easier and/or achieve the desired quality.

Document footer

  1. If you are using the WI as a training tool, the footer should include space for the trainer and trainee names and signatures.

Guides to writing a work instruction document

Do the following while writing your work instructions.

  1. A number sequence for the steps.
  2. Limit the numbers of steps, if the task has more than 8-10 steps, subdivide the instruction in different subjects.
  3. Bullets or numbers each time you need to list something.
  4. Highlight important information using a different color, bold or italics.
  5. Use pictures, screen shots or icons every time you can.

Create a document template with the format you chose and a library with the icons to depict risks, actions, personal protective equipment, and others.  Designate who will be responsible for creating the work instructions.  Also, who will manage the documents library, including numbering, and filing.  Consistency and clarity are critical to avoid confusion

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.  

What is Leader Standard Work?

The fundamental ingredient for a successful lean implementation is creating a continuous improvement culture.  It is impossible to create a culture without the active participation and support of leadership.  Most of the time, leaders at all levels have to learn continuous improvement principles and tools along with their team.  But that is the easy part, the challenging one, is to move away from traditional thinking and adopt a completely different way to behave, think, solve problems, communicate and relate to others.  

In other words, leaders looking to use continuous improvement and lean thinking need to build a new business persona.  This journey will help you to reflect on how you manage or supervise now and build new habits for the future.   Some people say it takes 21 days to build a habit, while others claim it takes up to 66 days.  I don’t know the right answer, but I know that building the habits required to successfully change a culture takes more than a couple of months of practice.

One tool that helps with leadership changes in behavior is Leader Standard Work.  Standard work ensures consistent results and is the baseline upon which improvements are made.  Leader standard work is a description of the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to drive continuous improvement and Lean thinking throughout the organization.

Leader standard work is usually presented as a form or checklist with daily tasks, as well as space for additional tasks specific for the day.  You can divide the daily tasks by time-specific, like meetings and non-time specific.  A different approach is to divide tasks into sections.  For example, before, during, and at the end of the shift.  Like many other things with continuous improvement, you can select the format that makes more sense for you and your business.

The following are things that you should include in your Leader Standard Work because they support and promote continuous improvement.

  • Daily team meetings
  • Walk the area where value is created
  • Observe out of normal situations
  • Support continuous improvement activities
  • Follow-up performance vs. objectives
  • Set direction, ask and answer questions
  • Reflection
  • Plan the next day

Although many can say that using a form to guide what you have to do through the day is too restrictive and takes away the flexibility to deal with daily problems, it is the contrary.  Remember, you are building a new habit, a new way of doing business.  The form will help you to create that habit and make you focus on those things that will help to identify out of standard situations before they become a problem.  It will take time, but in the end, you will see the benefits of seeing things by yourself and not relying on reports with outdated information.  Lean is about learning, experimenting, and reflection on the results to keep learning and improving.  As a leader, you set the example by doing what you expect your team does.

This is like whey you are trying to build the habit of jogging or have a walk daily. It is hard, but over time you will get the benefits, will get used to it and doing it is almost like breathing.

Standard Work, what are the best practices to create them?

standard work is the base for improvements

Standard work documentation is important to record the right and only way to complete a process.  This document provides clear, simple, accurate, and complete information to support training.  Standard work is the foundation for improvements. If the foundation is weak, it will not drive the desired change.

Best Practices to create standard work documentation.

  • The people who do the work participates in the process
  • Include all relevant information on one easy-to-read document
  • Keep it simple and use visualization, if possible.
  • Make the documentation accessible
  • Set clear expectations regarding revisions and improvements

Components

There are different types of formats to document standard work.  Follow the best practices to create one that works for you and contains the three components of standard work.

  • Job sequence
  • The rate at which products must be produced to meet customer demand
  • Work-in-process inventory quantity

Types of Standard Work Documents

Standard Work DocumentationDescription
Process capacity sheetDefines the available capacity
Standardized combination tableDefines the work of one operator during the process cycle, it describes what the operator is doing and when it is doing it.
Standardized Work ChartIt is a simple layout of the work area that shows the flow of the worker, information, and materials through it while keeping the production rate to meet customer demand.
Work instructionA work instruction contains step by step information to do the work.  It has a combination of words and pictures or drawings to describe each step.  It also contains important tips for things that can make or break the job, safety, and quality.  
ChecklistThis simple document can have two different uses, to confirm that everything was done or to check as you carry out the task.
Visual aidSimple instructions using pictures or drawings to show the steps of the process.  They are posted at the point of use.
Memory joggerThese can be a group of laminated cards with general guidelines, settings, or other information that is not used very frequently.  

Importance of these documents

Create standard work documentation is important to record the safest, highest quality, and the most efficient way known to perform a task.  This document is the baseline for future improvements.  They reduce variation and improve consistency. 

What is and how do you use the Job Breakdown Sheet?


Use the Job Breakdown Sheet to breakdown the job into steps

What is this?

The Job Breakdown Sheet is used as part of the Job Instruction program to breakdown the job into the smaller steps that make it up.   By doing this, we make it easier to understand and learn each step at a time.  The form provides space to analyze each step (what you do) by explaining the key points (how you do it) and the reasons (why you do it that way).

Job Breakdown Sheet example

Let’s use one example to explain better how to use the sheet.  The process or operation that I will use as an example is how to cook a sunny-side egg.  

The top of the form contains the heading, which is general information. This information describes the process and what you need to do the job.  You will need to list all ingredients, materials, equipment, and tools need to cook two eggs.   

The breakdown section has the job steps, those that advance the work, change or transform the materials or ingredients, or adds value. Use action verbs or phrases to start the description of each step. For each one, add the corresponding Key Points and Reasons.

The Key Points explain how to do the steps along with critical information that will help to avoid injuries, ensure the quality of the product, or make the job easier. To add this information, use adjectives or adverbs. The section called Reason explains why the step exists. When you take time to explain to people why it is critical to do something, they understand the job better and are more inclined to follow the instruction. The Why section is meaningful because it is used to support safety, quality, delivery, or cost objectives.

Please, see below the breakdown example. You can use it as a reference to breakdown one of your jobs.

Job Breakdown Sheet for how to cook sunny-side eggs

Standard work, what you need to know about the job before you create it?

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 can 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, the spaghetti chart and the Job Breakdown Sheet.

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!