Standard Work: The Basis For Continuous Improvement

Standard Work: The Basis For Continuous Improvement

When I started at the Lean Logistics Center (LLC) in Iowa a year and half ago, there was a myriad of work that needed to be done in the operation: visual management, standard work, 5S, and level flow to name a few. The question was: “where to start?” As a Process Engineer the answer was simple, standard work. Once we knew what the standard work was, we could identify problems that were occurring and improve the process. Below shows how a continuous improvement cycle should flow

  1. Document the Process
  2. Identify Waste in the Process
  3. Form an Action Plan
  4. Check and Adjust

Document the Process

Standard work is defined by Pascal Dennis as the “safest, easiest, and most effective way of doing the job that we currently know.” This definition meant our engineering team needed to spend time observing the process and document how the process was currently operating. Even if there are apparent issues occurring, the key is to document the CURRENT process. The most knowledge will be gained through going to the Gemba to “go and see.”

Identify Issues and problems within the Process

Take the documented standard work and sit down with a team. This should not only be the engineering team that observed the process but the team members that do the work. They are the experts on the process. This time should be spent discussing the process and identifying the waste. Is there waste in motion? Is there excess walking time that can be cut down? Combine your lean knowledge with the knowledge of team members to identify all of the waste in the process.

Form an Action Plan and Implement

After the waste has been identified, some waste can be eliminated immediately. We call this waste the “low hanging fruit.” Make changes as soon as possible to eliminate this waste in the process in a short period of time. For the bigger issues, an action plan will need to be put in place. Each action will need an owner and a timeline in which the action will be done. These can be easily be organized using an A3P (project planning tool). This tool will place all actions onto one page and should be displayed in your operation to show the work being done. Finally, begin following the action timeline to implement the action plan.

Check and Adjust

Now that all the actions have been put in place, take a step back and check to see if the actions have improved the process. Perform time and motion studies to see if the process time has decreased. Have the wastes identified earlier been decreased or eliminated all together? Chances are that not all wastes have been eliminated. You may even identify different waste than before! Celebrate the improvements made with the team but know that continuous improvement never ends. The cycle just starts over.

Written by Mike Duncan, Process Engineer at LeanCor

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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