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Standard Work for Smooth & Efficient Processes

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Maximizing efficiency is imperative for profitable, high-quality manufacturing. Manufacturers using guidelines and communication systems with their workforce that are developed on the fly or incoherently put the quality of their product at risk. And standard work is considered best practice for manufacturers looking to achieve smooth, efficient work processes. 

But what does the practice entail, how can it be implemented, and what are its benefits to management and the workforce? Our guide answers all of your questions about standard work.

Principles of Standard Work

Standard work draws from two highly effective manufacturing environments: German car manufacturers of the 1930s and Toyota in Japan in the 1950s. It has three traditional principles, known as:

  1. Takt Time
  2. Work Sequence
  3. Standard Inventory

1. Takt Time: the Manufacturing Objective

Standard work uses a concept called “Takt time” to determine what a plant needs to produce to be profitable. “Takt” can be roughly translated from German to “beat, pulse”. It was first used in car manufacturing in the 1930s to denote the amount of time parts had to be produced for the manufacturing plant to remain profitable.

For example, if a part had a Takt time of 10 minutes, workers would need to produce one of these parts every 10 minutes to satisfy customer demand. This enabled management to identify key underperforming areas and streamline work processes.

Takt time is still considered the first step of implementing standard work today. It allows workers and management to understand shared objectives and increases communication (i.e., workers have a pre-defined standard for an underperforming area, so they can better identify inefficiencies in this area).

2. Work Sequence: Implementing Lean Manufacturing

The second principle of standard work implements the lean manufacturing method developed in Toyota’s factories in the 1950s. Management identified that operations would be more efficient if every worker were:

  • Familiar with every part of best manufacturing practices
  • Able to access constant reminders of processes and practices

Before lean manufacturing, workers needed practices explained to them by word of mouth during a brief inauguration. Checks by management would be infrequent and non-comprehensive, focusing on whatever the main visible issue was rather than underlying problems.

Toyota sought to remedy this by rigorously training workers in best practices and providing reminders of what to do next in all relevant locations. This reduced the burden on management and ensured that workers had the security of operating in a clean, efficient workplace with minimal confusion.

An effective work sequence helps employees understand the order in which tasks need to be performed, as well as the reasons that those tasks need to be performed. This maximizes efficiency and improves worker morale by directly involving them in the production process.

3. Standard Inventory: Managing Production

Standard inventory is to parts what Takt time is to duration: it describes the minimum quantities of manufacturing materials needed for production to continue seamlessly.

Using standard work, employees have constant recourse to information that:

  1. Informs them of the minimum quantities
  2. Keeps them aware of when resources or materials are approaching this limit

This allows employees to keep inventory updated without needing management to intervene. Along with Takt time and a lean, efficient work sequence, standard inventory ensures that time, workers, and raw materials never need to “pause” during the manufacturing process.

Benefits of Standard Work

When properly implemented, standard work produces the most efficient manufacturing system possible. It also has wide-ranging benefits for employees, management, and relations within the business. Let’s take a look at what these benefits include.

For Employees

  • A clean, organized workplace with no confusion over which tools or materials go where
  • An easy-to-follow work structure. Information on best practices is constantly available to employees
  • A sense of belonging to the manufacturing process that encourages pride in producing a great product
  • An easy way of reporting issues to management
  • A working day that never gets bogged down in “catching up” because production is always tied to Takt time

Confusion over responsibilities can be demoralizing to a workforce. Standard work removes this risk and maximizes productivity while boosting morale and engagement.

For Management

  • Less need to personally monitor operations on the work floor
  • Easy identification of problem areas
  • Workers can report issues easily using an app
  • Saves unnecessary expenditure on remedial training by providing constant access to clear instructions
  • Improves relations with the workforce: strong morale is conducive to productivity

Of course, higher profit margins thanks to efficient production are beneficial to employees and management alike. So what’s the best way to implement standard work in manufacturing today?

Implementing Standard Work in a Manufacturing Environment

The pioneering environments that gave rise to standard work used the resources at their disposal to create ultra-efficient manufacturing systems. Today, it’s vital that we use the resources at our disposal to make implementing standard work even simpler.

Technology is the greatest tool we have at our disposal to achieve this. Continuous improvement software allows manufacturers to:

  • Communicate more efficiently the workforce
  • Present information and instructions in one easy-to-access location
  • Effectively monitor worker progress using a self-reporting system
  • Identify underperforming areas in production and address them promptly
  • Seamlessly implement lean manufacturing principles across a business

Taking advantage of software to improve efficiency is both in the spirit of standard work and the best way to further improve this revolutionary manufacturing process.

Moving Forward

A manufacturing plant that follows best practices should never pause. Standard work aims to help management achieve this standard. Standard work drastically improves efficiency with cutting-edge software needed to keep up with quotas. With even just one of these standards implemented at your business, you could see a huge difference in daily output.

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