Lean Standard Work  – A Key Factor For Continuous Improvement

It only takes a few moments to appreciate why Lean standard work (standardisation) can play such a critical role in increasing productivity and reducing waste for any organisation, along with many other benefits.

Standardisation means setting a standard, as well as bringing a condition into conformance with that standard. It provides the current best known method around how to carry out a particular job or task.

Some examples of standardisation in our daily life:

• Stop signs are all red and hexagonal in shape. They adhere to the same standard across continents in order to invoke a standard response

• Traffic lights use a universal colour system of red, amber and green

• Standard usage of line markings on roads

• Pedestrian walkway lines in a factory are usually yellow

• Airport taxiway lines for aircrafts are always yellow

From a lean perspective, having Lean standard work means cost reduction, risk minimisation as well as less time spent training, diagnosing and troubleshooting abnormalities. It is an ideal method of minimising the number of variables that can have a negative affect on any given task. 

For example, on a car assembly line, a standard is set for each stage of the assembly. If an abnormality was to occur during the process, the source of the problem would be quickly highlighted and diagnosed, as it would appear (visually) to be non-standard. This type of process stability means the outcome of any given process is predictable and thus, delivery times can also be forecasted with greater accuracy.

Here are the prerequisites for effective Lean standard work:

• A stable process (no issues with quality, equipment and resources)

• A blame-free culture, where staff are empowered to contribute to the development and improvement of the organisation

• A holistic approach, with commitment to continuously improving standards

• Using visual management controls to quickly identify abnormalities

• A quick response system is in place to react to abnormalities

Remember, standards form the basis of continuous improvement, therefore an important part of creating a standard, is to continuously improve it! This is the type of continuous improvement mindset we encourage our clients to adopt.