Monday, November 07, 2005

Standard Work Establishes Stable Process and Quality

The principle of standard work is part of the foundation of the Toyota Production System. Performing work steps in exactly the same method from one unit to the next results in stability and reduces process variability. The quality output from a standard method will be consistent from piece to piece.

When a problem does occurs, comparing the documented standard work to the observed process method can quickly identifies opportunities for errors. The supervisor, team leader or quality auditor should be able to access the standard work documentation at each workstation for every process throughout the plant. Observing several cycles will confirm if the method is constant. Emphasis on strict adherence to the established standard work is mandatory.

Lean challenge for today. Go to gemba and observe the process at a random workstation. Does this workstation have a current copy of the standard work method? Is the operator following the steps exactly as described? Is the process steps repeated exactly the same from piece to piece?

If you answered no to any of these questions, fix it. Fix it right now. Do not add it to your to-do-list. Do not delegate it. Roll up your sleeve and work with the operator to fix it today.


Mark Graban said...

The managers and supervisors need to be auditing the standard work.

Rather than working directly with the operator and doing the supervisor's job for them, why not teach the supervisor how to properly audit the standard work and how to work with the operator on it, if they don't know how?

If you don't have a standard work audit system in place, maybe you can help work on that rather than work with an operator as a one-time event?

Mike Wroblewski said...

Thanks for your comments Mark, however I tend to disagree on this point. Lean improvements activities can be shared across all levels of management versus traditional assigned roles to a supervisor or others. Leading by example is a powerful approach to gaining buy in. Managers and higher levels of management should spend some time actually doing lean work such as creating a better work instruction. I have had CEOs work on Kaizen Teams driving forklifts, moving equipment, clean machines and yes, even helping on standard work charts. The point is that working at the operator level and establishing standard work is fundamental to the Toyota Way. Yes, I do agree that teaching supervisors and team leaders in the audit activities on a day-to-day basis is proactive approach to consistency and quality.