One element that seems to be missing from many so-called lean factories around the United States is standardized work. As we've mentioned in several other articles, most self-proclaimed "lean" factories have mastered the u-shaped cell in terms of layout. One important element is often missing: standardized work charts. Very often, when I ask about standardized work charts, most people either give me a very puzzled look or point me to a dust-covered binder full of work instructions. They often tell me that the operators know what to do; they've been doing it for a long time and they need no standardized work charts. However, when we look at the process in more depth, everyone in the cell has a Burger King approach to manufacturing- have it your own way. And that approach will fail. As important as highly detailed work instructions may be, standardized work charts are much more important. They allow anyone in the factory to understand what the standard work is and, more importantly, whether or not is being utilized. Standarized work is part of the foundation of the Toyota Production System; it is one of the key contributing elements to stability in a factory. If everything in a factory is not done consistently, basic stability will be unachievable. And, anyone who has studied lean can tell you that without basic stability, lean will fail 100% of the time.
Standardizing every operation is one of the most important tools of lean. While it is often not considered a tool in itself, having a standard work chart for every operation is absolutely critical to lean success. For example, in a manufacturing cell, each operator should have a standard work chart showing the operations he/she is to perform, the standard times for each operation, and a graphic representation. The standard work chart should be on one page. Where should standard work charts be used to ensure that processes are being followed consistently? They should be used for:
Manufacturing Cells/All production operations
Material Delivery to Manufacturing Cells
Document Control Activities
Production Planning Activities
All other repeatable activities in a factory or office
Standardized work is critical to lean success. If you are implementing lean and haven't considered standardized work and standardized work charts, you are missing one very foundational aspect of the puzzle.
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