3.03.2011

What About Standardized Work?

I recently spoke to Timothy D. Martin and Jeffrey T. Bell, who recently published a book titled New Horizons in Standardized Work: Techniques for Manufacturing and Business Process Improvement, about the role standardized work plays the performance of processes. I asked them flat out: "What would be the most important point that you want to make about standardized work?" Here is their unedited reply:

Over the years, we learned quite a bit from the many mistakes that we made as well as our successes in applying standardized work in many diverse processes. We also found that others were often very interested in how we “saw” ways to apply standardized work. To ensure that we did not lose these experiences, we tried to summarize and capture the thinking behind our adaptation efforts. This is one of the reasons behind the idea of “new horizons”. We felt it was important to share these experiences and hopefully offer more detailed information on standardized work itself. Although there are a lot of books about the Toyota Production System (TPS) and lean manufacturing, standardized work often appears in limited detail. We felt that this might have led to some of the common misconceptions that we were running into about standardized work.

One of the main misconceptions is that there appears to be a common belief that standardized work applies only to manufacturing processes with short repeatable work cycles. We believe that standardized work principles can be applied to virtually any situation where work is involved. Toyota has taught us that we should not blindly copy what they have done, but rather that we must instead strive to understand the thinking behind TPS so that it can be adapted to our processes. This thinking, which includes standardized work, can be adapted to processes used in the office, on a construction site, in the kitchen, in an operating room, or even in the board room. The extent of these principles and philosophies is limited only by your determination."


Do you agree with Tim and Jeff? Can standardized work really be effective off the manufacturing floor? Do you think it would work with long work cycles? Is it dangerous in some particular professions to standardize work?

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