How to Create Standard Work in your Business
Implementing Standard Work on the manufacturing production floor.
Whenever you find yourself in a new manufacturing environment, it can seem kind of daunting. Maybe you’ve never stepped foot in a production facility, but to those that have, the first few days will feel exhausting.
There’s so many processes going on, so many different pieces of equipment. Even if you’re in a plant that’s in your industry, rarely ever are all the small details be the same. The machines will likely serve the same purposes, but running them effectively will come with time and experience on that specific machine.
Thus, over time you’ll become acquainted with the facility and no longer get that daunting fear of having so many noisy machines running all around you. But what if there was a way to relieve some of this stress in the beginning days of learning a new process? There is, and it’s called standard work.
Why do you need to create standard work?
Think about anytime you’ve ever done something new. Whether it was riding a bike, driving through a new city, or working with a machine. If you’re like most people, having an experienced person trained in whatever you’re trying to accomplish alongside of you will make you perform better. It will make you create less mistakes.
The first time you’re driving through a city by yourself after receiving a tour from a local, you’re going to make a few wrong turns – it’s inevitable. The GPS that you would use to get you back on track, is exactly what standard work should do for those working in industry. It should be a guide on how to do the job at hand in the most efficient and safe way possible.
Benefits of standard work?
Not only does standard work provide a easily transferrable knowledge of equipment or a process, but also provides a baseline of what is expected behavior of an input/output. Simply put, it gives you something to go by and to improve. With the boom of six sigma, 5S, reliability engineering, standard work is going to become more and more important in creating even more efficient processes in industry.
Think of the business you work in. The knowledge in a production plant is like the foundation of a house. Without present knowledge, nothing is going to be built higher. A lot of smaller plants without standard work rely heavily on ‘tribal knowledge’ – or the knowledge that is in the minds of the operators.
While this works for a little while, hopefully your business is hoping to outlast the retirement age of your very knowledgeable workers. Preserve the foundation of your business by creating standard work to cement that foundation into place for generations to come.
So…How should I start to create standard work?
The key to this answer is found in the last paragraph. As a white-collar worker, it may be easy to assume that you know the best practices to put into place in your plant or facility. This is rarely the case. Operators that have been working with machines for a large chunk or their life know every small detail about that machine. How it starts up, how to shut it down, what critical variables to keep in mind whenever you’re running and so much more. To start making standard work, you should begin with the most knowledgeable people – the ones who use it.
Begin working with operators. Go out to their machine. See what they do and stay to learn. Taking the incentive to go out from your office and to the plant floor says a lot to the operators. Discuss with them how creating the standard work will benefit them too. If more operators are more easily trained on this process or machine, perhaps they won’t be required to work as many weekends. Maybe there’s something in the process that can be improved to make their life easier. There’s so many things that an operator can benefit from in the process of creating standard work.
Once you’ve formed a relationship with the operator, have spent some time on the line, and have begun developing an understanding of the level of expertise with that machine, you should begin documenting what’s going on.
Place yourself into the role of a brand-new operator. Make everything new in your mind and question the process. Many people say to approach the problem that the operator has with “fresh eyes.”
Start at the beginning, what steps does the operator take without even thinking about them? Does he just instinctually clean a bearing because it operates poorly when not? Does he prepare the line by doing a visual audit of the area?
Many of these aspects are overlooked by an operator when they are asked to explain what they’re doing – because they’ve been doing it so long it’s second nature.
Take notes, discuss every note you take with the operator. You are the student in this situation and the operator is the teacher. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. “Why was this done before that?” or “Can you explain why you assembled this in that way?” The more you converse with the operator the better off your baseline of standard work is going to be.
I have the process written, now what?
Once you have identified all the steps of the process, how to perform the steps, and in what order, you can begin the implementation of standard work. This is why you’re considered a leader in your organization. You have had the idea of creating standard work, now you must get people on board with it.
There’s numerous different ways to get people to cooperate with the standard work you’ve documented. Some managers approach this with brute force. “Do this or else you’ll be punished with this.” But I strongly feel this is the wrong approach. Old habits die hard, but they can die. How are new habits established outside of work? Positive benefits, ease, peer pressure, etc.
My suggestion to bring people on board with implementing your new standard work, is to talk to them about why you think it’ll benefit them. Why the changes have been done, and then ASK what they think. No one supports a dictator. Make your place of work a democracy in which everyone has the freedom to suggest changes to the status quo.
The standard work is in place, that’s it?
Your work with standard work should not end here. In fact, this is the beginning.
Like I discussed before, standard work should be the foundation of the house. The baseline for the processes to build upon. Now you get the opportunity to monitor and record the results from the standard work.
Are things operating more smoothly now? Are workers getting done with more product? Is there a higher level of safety than what there was previously? Never be afraid of going back and altering a standard work procedure. You probably aren’t going to get it right the first time, so be prepared to fail and make revisions. With each revision, just think that your process is that much better than it was before.