Lean Standard Work In Our Everyday Lives

Lean Standard Work In Our Everyday Lives

In lean circles “standard work” is defined as a precise description of each work activity specifying cycle time, takt time, the work sequence of specific tasks, and the minimum inventory of parts on hand needed to conduct the activity. To fully understand this definition one would need to understand a couple other lean terms within the definition.

  • Cycle Time: The time required to complete one cycle of an operation. (It takes one minute to weld two pieces of a widget together).
  • Takt Time: The available production time divided by the rate of customer demand. For example, if customers demand 240 widgets per day and the factory operates 480 minutes per day, takt time is two minutes per widget.

Follow these steps and a factory will usually run like a well oiled machine. Employees and customers stay happy and profit increases. This definition is great if you are running a widget factory but how can we apply this type of lean methodology to our everyday lives and benefit from it? To do so effectively, let’s focus on one important part of the definition, having a precise description of each activity.

Our lives are all full of processes. We go to bed at night, wake up in the morning, eat, work, pay bills, exercise, socialize, etc. Many of us already do these things consciously with intent and precise execution. However, our lives are also full of chaos. It’s when we deviate from our normal plan or “standard work” that things tend to go wrong. With a little bit of initial discipline it’s not so hard to create new habits and make them stick.

For example, a coworker was recently describing to me an incident where she locked her keys in her car. She got home and parked her car in the driveway like she did every day. On that particular day, she received an important phone call which had her distracted. She got out of her car and shut the door without grabbing her keys from the ignition. After an expensive visit from the locksmith, she decided to start a standard process to ensure that her keys didn’t get locked in the car again. From that point forward she made a conscious effort to place her keys in her purse before opening the car door to get out. After committing to the new habit for thirty days it became automatic and she hasn’t locked her keys in her car again to this day. She standardized getting out of her car.

The chaos that creates distractions and causes mistakes in our daily lives is not that much different from the chaos that affects a business. We can apply a couple more lean terms to help understand what causes distractions and waste in our lives. These factors are also responsible for waste in the widget factory.

Mura: Instability in operations

Muri: An overburdening of people and equipment

By standardizing our lives we can eliminate or at least minimize the mura and muri and we’ll be on the way to a more relaxed and less hectic life.

Try to create more good habits and standardize the following three areas in your life. Before long, you will be living lean and the rewards will be numerous.

1. Standardize your entire schedule. Believe it or not, just like that widget factory counts on routine and a plan to meet the customer’s needs, humans count on structure and routine in their lives to get what we need from our mind and body. We need to sleep and eat around the same times each day. Starting this habit at a young age helps develop good work habits later in life and the health benefits are plentiful. Much like our lean factory, follow a well defined routine and we will soon be cranking out good products and enjoying the fruits of our labor.

2. Standardize your money management. Very few areas in our life can become more chaotic than managing our finances. It’s very important to learn at an early age how to save, budget, and track your money effectively. We all realize this importance, but how many of us actually do it? There are now great free tools on the internet available for personal financing. I recommend using mint.com. All you do is enter your online login information for your checking, savings, loans, IRA/401K’s, credit accounts, etc. and Mint automatically pulls this information to its secure website and starts managing your finances for you. Once we have a regular understanding of our finances it’s simple to live within our means and easier to save for our financial goals.

3. Strive for excellence. It is well known among lean thinkers that a company will fail when it assumes that everything is perfect. This is one of the keystones of lean. No problem is a problem. Our widget factory can always uncover new problems and improve processes and results. Our lives are no different. Take a few minutes a couple of times each week to stop what you are doing and look at your lives as a whole and find room for improvement.

Taking the time and effort to make a few changes and standardize your daily routine can provide numerous benefits. Try it out for 30 days. Create a habit and you’ll be living lean in no time at all.

Written by Steven Prince, Lean Logistics Specialist at LeanCor

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Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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