Improve Lean Manufacturing with Digital Tools – Standard Work

What is standard work? According to Six Sigma, standard work is the most efficient method to produce a product at a balanced flow thus reaching a desired output rate. The main idea behind standard work is that it breaks down the work into elements – organized and repeatedly followed. It notes best practices and describes how a process should be carried out. Its main purpose is to provide a basis for improvement which also implies learning from current processes. There are three components in standard work – takt time, cycle time and standard work in progress.

Standard work is a prerequisite for workers to perform better, innovate more and have the desire to improve their work. By learning the best practice, the workers can better identify new opportunities for improvement. It is a win-win situation for the organization and the employee.

Although standard work creates the basis for quality, there is usually resistance from the workers who feel that these standards are used for controlling purposes. The lean approach is to remind all stakeholders that standards need to be established to ensure quality and minimize risks. In its heart, standardized work is a team agreement how to perform a certain task. Standard work is not a performance measure or a tool for management misuse.

What are the benefits that standard work brings to the workplace?

Work becomes more predictable. It is easier to predict the outcome of tasks. This means less pressure for all stakeholders and more work satisfaction. In addition to that, quality, safety and delivery times are improved. The other way around would be if each worker performs a task differently. It would be very difficult to predict the outcome and the result might be manufacturing scrap, unnecessary waste of time and higher costs.

Work gets structured efficiently. Starting with a simple 10 minute task and gathering feedback from the shop floor, asking people for ideas how to improve the process makes a difference. Firstly, the workers feel involved in building the new work structure. Secondly, the small change can quickly bring positive outcomes, even on a small case, which further eases the fear of change among workers.

Work does not become a burden. Although it sounds like a general assumption, it is a real issue in many industries. By creating a rhythm of work through standards, overburdening and stressful situations are avoided. This increases the safety of the workers, especially in the case when they need to perform risky operations.

What are the current issues when organizing manual work?

Work instructions are still being provided on paper. Paper-based workflows are no longer an efficient way to organize work. The information is quickly getting outdated because of changing requirements. Even small changes in equipment can make a big difference and cause loss of valuable resources. There is also the risk that work standards might turn into static ones – this is counterproductive and contrary to the ongoing improvement that standard work implies.

How to apply standard work? Start small and build on the progress

  • Create a work chart

Simply sketch out a shop floor and recreate the path the workers need to take to complete a task. Add the machines/equipment involved in the process as well. In this way it is easier to spot certain patterns and where a new structure needs to be introduced. Start small and do not forget the human factor – talk to the workers and gather their feedback, for example, by using a wearable device to get an overview about the as-is situation.

  • Create digital instructions

Digital workflows on wearables can simply mean digital work instructions as step-by-step instructions. Work standards can be transformed into digital work instructions using a smartwatch, for example. The WORKERBASE platform provides a solution for digitising paper-based workflows and enabling work instructions on mobile devices. The WORKERBASE standard work app can be customized to your individual settings from a web browser.

Here are the benefits:

  • Workers receive the sequence of tasks they need to carry out. Digital instructions can include different types of data – text, image, video.
  • Workers get notified directly on the smartwatch. In addition, they can provide real-time feedback, accept or in certain cases delegate tasks.
  • Workers get tasks based on their location, availability, skills, etc. This happens automatically and makes handovers easier.
  • Work standards can be easily setup in the WORKERBASE backend without programming.
  • Workflow data can be visualized, for example on a digital Kanban board.
  • The smartwatch helps to identify and learn about the as-is situation and bring transparency about work processes.

Would you like to learn more about the WORKERBASE platform? Are you interested in using the Standard work app on a smartwatch? Please contact us for more information.