Also known as standardized work and Standardization.
Variants include Interchangeability.
Standard work means working on standards to produce correct and consistent results. It is considered a way to achieve the highest possible degree of consistency and reliability in any process. It aims to ensure that everything is done by everyone in the same way and in the best possible way. Standard work is one of the important elements of Lean thinking and is essential for Lean to be successful. Lean organizations rely on standard work in order to create a baseline from which they can improve.
Standard work is key to continually improving business processes and an important part of any sustainable change effort. Standardized processes provide more consistent results as the chances for variation will be reduced since the activities are always done in the same way. Remember that a problem is a deviation from a standard or expectation. Therefore, standard work is about seeing problems and making waste visible in order to drive continuous improvement.
Standard work provides a way of maintaining improvements achieved during improvement activities. Many times we face a situation where a closed project needs to be opened again. This indicates that the problem was not effectively dealt with or there were no actions taken to sustain the gains. Thus, successful solutions must be standardized in order to remain effective over the long term.
Standard work is an approach that is based around human motion. It considers the actions performed by humans, systems or the combination of both to create value-added work. The aim is to create the most effective sequence of activities and minimize delays and other forms of waste to increase efficiency and productivity. Therefore, it is important to identify the right process steps and their right sequence and time frames before the implementation of standard work.
Standard work documentation may contain written instructions, photos, drawings, illustrations, charts, or any other suitable method needed to clearly communicate the standards. Visual standard work promotes visual management and is considered a great way to clarify and communicate the standards to everyone. It helps demonstrating difficult concepts and improves the detection of abnormalities and errors. Process steps can be illustrated with photos and graphs which will attract people to read and act on them easily.
Standard work is also considered a very useful training tool. It provides a basis for training existing and new personnel on the job. For this reason, it should be documented at the lowest possible level. Standard work can also be useful when you need to preserve the know-how of how work should be done. Standards give us some point of comparison so we can compare what is happening with what should be happening. That’s why they are considered important resources for auditing, assessment, and performance measurement.
Ideally, standard work documentation should be created by those who do the work. People are much more likely to accept and use the standards if they help in creating it and if they feel a sense of ownership in it. Other stakeholders may be involved including subject matter experts and engineers. Standard work documentation should be distributed at the place where the work is being done. They should be visible and easily accessible to everyone involved in the process.
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
Standard work can be embedded in the company’s operation using Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). An SOP is a document that describes the best way to execute a process to maintain consistent work and achieve optimal output. It aims to standardize the way work is performed and make it easier for everyone to do their work. Developing and implementing SOPs enable standard work to be effective and help communicate standards to those working in the operation.
SOPs are often used in improvement projects to document the standardized improved processes. Successful solutions must be standardized in order to remain effective over the long term. SOPs can also be used to document key and critical processes, complex processes, and highly repetitive processes. Yet, a typical challenge when developing SOPs is to have a balance between too much and not enough details.
Developing an SOP
The following can serve as a guide to developing an SOP for a newly improved process.
- With your team, clearly describe the purpose for developing the SOP.
- Understand the existing system for standard work and the current SOP if exists.
- Identify the key process activities and collect any required information.
- Prepare a draft of the SOP by describing the process activities, their sequence and time frames.
- Share the SOP draft with the concerned stakeholders including the employees working on the process. Ask them to review and suggest ideas that will further improve the SOP.
- Test the SOP by having someone performing each step exactly as it is described.
- Make the final draft of the SOP and distribute it to all relevant parties.
Example – Manufacturing
The following is an SOP example which was created for the label changeover process in a manufacturing facility.
Example – Service Environments
The following is another SOP example which was created for the order process in a service environment.
There are many tools that can help you documenting your SOPs. One of the simplest ways is to use this SOP Template.
If you want to use the following three documents in your training courses, the PPTX versions are available to buy from our Shop page.