standard work

What is the most powerful lean tool?

After I have replied that a Lean Transformation is not about tools, but about how to engage all employees to improve the company processes, I am still reminded to give an answer.

In that case I have answered: Standard work.

Is standard work a more powerful tool than for example SMED where you can shorten the setup times with 50%?” and “Is standard work more powerful than the fishbone tool where you have the possibility to get to the root cause(s) of a problem?” are some of the replies.

The reason for giving the answer Standard work lies within the reflection of the last years where I have used a lot of tools and processes in numerous Lean Journeys. The most breakthroughs that I have seen in Lean Transformations are those in which companies have mastered the appliance of Standard work. These breakthroughs are financial and as well cultural.

An example: company in the process industry, 5-shift organisation, current state: every shift (with the best intentions) have their own ideas about how to control the technical processes leading to sub-optimisations. After the Rapid Improvement Event the standard work was agreed between the 5 shifts. This standard work was probably not the very optimal way to do the control, but because all shifts (tried) to follow this standard work the stability of the output and the yield numbers - after some months - made big steps up.

And therefore also the financial numbers made a big step up. So, what is the cultural breakthrough here? It is the consensus that has been reached between members of the different shifts about the way to control the technical processes. At what measurement, what action should be taken. The members of the different shifts only see each other during the shift handovers and maybe 2 times a year when they have their half yearly meeting.

To really follow the standard work all members of all shifts must have the believe that following the standard work will lead to a better situation for themselves and for their company.

If you have done your work for many years in a certain way and now you have to change that habit – that is not an easy job!

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