Lean Manufacturing Training Moncton, YMB Consulting, Sackville, Moncton, Halifax, Montreal, Boston, New York

Management Standard Work

by / Wednesday, 24 February 2016 / Published in Latest posts, Lean Management
Lean Manufacturing Training Moncton, YMB Consulting, Sackville, Moncton, Halifax, Montreal, Boston, New York

Management Standard Work

What is standard work?

Simply said, standard work is documenting and standardizing your production or business process. In one of his most famous quotes, Taiichi Ohno once said: “Where there is no standard, there can be no Kaizen”. What Taiichi Ohno meant was that unless you document, standardize and measure a process first, you will never be able to improve it. It seems common sense that unless all employee are performing tasks using the same process, that they are difficult if not impossible to improve. It is surprising how many companies say they practice lean manufacturing fail to follow this very important first step. It is also surprising that companies that standardize, measure and improve their production processes fail to do the same with their management processes. Maybe these companies think that management processes aren’t important?

What is management standard work?

It’s simple, management standard work is the process that management uses to run the business. Like all other processes, management standard work should be documented, measured and improved. The foundation of management standard work is Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, turning the plan-do-check-act wheel should identify opportunities for improvement and ensure that current processes are followed properly. There are many tools that managers can use to standardize what they do, bellow I have listed a few tools that I have used and found very useful. I would recommend however, that the production or business processes that you are responsible for are standardized and measured first. You may find that all the processes listed below are useful to you or that some may need to be modified to fit your situation. I strongly recommend that you only use the ones that add value to your situation and only use them at a frequency that works for you.

Daily Management Process

Managers and front line supervisors should all have a daily management process. This process should be focused on making sure that their teams are meeting there production targets. Supervisors should “tour” production 3 to 4 times a day to determine if there are any problems stopping their teams from meetings their daily objectives. When problems are identified supervisors should work with there team and any support staff to get these issues resolved. I tend to prefer daily management processes where supervisors record their “numbers” on a standard template and note any corrective action they took to recover. This type of daily management process allows the production manager / director of operations to audit the supervisor’s daily management process. The daily management process shouldn’t just be for front line supervisors, every manager and director should also have a daily management process. It should be obvious that each daily management process should be different based on the company and the requirements of the position. The important part is that the process be documented and executed according to a frequency that allows the proper execution of the plan-do-check-act wheel.

Gemba Walk

This is by far one of the most valuable tools management can use to improve the business. The Gemba walk is very different from the daily management process and should be done by all levels of the organization. The key to the Gemba walk is that it is designed so that managers gain a better understanding of the problems encountered where the value added operations occur (or Gemba). The purpose of the Gemba walk is for managers or employees to take a step back from their day to day work, visit the product floor so that they can better understand the production process, the problems and build relationships with the employees. During a Gemba walk a manager can determine if standard work is being respected by employees, coach supervisors or employees, ask questions to employees about what they are doing and why they are doing it. When managers don’t spend time in the Gemba they rely on reports or data to determine where problems are or where to focus improvements. These managers often make changes to processes without having any understanding for what occurs in the Gemba (or production floor), this often leads to a very frustrated workforce. The frequency of the Gemba walk should be determined depending on the company or the situation, in some cases in may be appropriate to conduct 1 Gemba walk a day, one every other day or 1 a week. Regardless of the situation, there should be no suggestions to improve the process unless a manager has gone to the Gemba first. Essentially, once a Gemba walk as identified a problem, the manager should go back to the Gemba and spend enough time observing the situation to fully understand the problem. The Gemba walk also allows management to achieve one of the most important elements of lean manufacturing, respect for people. Managers who spend time on the production floor, talk to employees, ask them questions and works with them to resolve problems will earn their respect, managers who don’t won’t.

Reflection Meetings

Reflection or toolbox meetings are fairly common practice in the manufacturing industry, these meeting typically occur in the morning and are used to ask a few basic questions: How do we do yesterday? What types of problems or waste did we encounter? What do we need to do today to improve? The meeting shouldn’t be long, 15 to 20 minute max and can also focus on discussing an issue that the team is trying to resolve or recently encountered. The leader should also use these meetings to make sure that his team members are using the proper root cause analysis tools and ensure that they have a good understanding of the issues by having spent time in the Gemba. However, if coaching of a team member is necessary, this shouldn’t be done in the meeting, but in a separate one on one meeting. It is important that the reflection meeting does not turn into is an expedite or a material shortage status meeting. Discussing one or 2 critical shortages or a couple of critical orders is fine, however if the meeting is consumed by material shortage discussion it is no longer a reflection meeting.

A3 problem solving

Once the management team has identified a problem through their daily management or their Gemba walks, it is important that they use a good problem solving tool to resolve the issue. The best method to resolve any problem is the scientific method which is essentially what the A3 problem solving method and the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle are. The reason that it is called the A3 problem solving is simply because it has been designed to fit on 1 sheet of A3 size paper. What I really like about the A3 problem solving method or sometimes called the A3 storyboard is that it standardizes the process improvement method in a way that can fit on 1 page. This allows for managers to quickly review and question any improvement conducted by their team. There are several free templates available online, but if you research this topic you will find that each A3 form contains the following sections:

  1. Background (Plan): This is the section that describes the situation that lead to the improvement project. Why are you doing this? What’s the business case?
  2. Problem statement / current state (Plan): In this section you must clearly define the problem that you are trying to solve. In many cases defining the problem will require analysis as the problem is often not clear. The person defining the problem should’ve spend substantial time in the Gemba to ensure that he or she has a very good understanding of the problem. In my opinion this is the most critical step in the process, as many managers will make an assumption of what a problem is without having spent any time observing the situation.
  3. Goal statement / target condition (Plan): The goal statement is also very important and should be a S.M.A.R.T. goal, (S) Specific, (M) Measurable, (A) Attainable, (R) Relevant and (T) Time-bound.
  4. Root cause Analysis (Plan): There are several tools that can be used here to do the root cause analysis, but I tend to use either the 5 why’s or The fishbone diagram. Ideally, this analysis should be done with a team that have spent sufficient time observing the problem in the Gemba.
  5. Countermeasures / action plan (Do): When the team has determine the root cause(s) of the problem, they must determine what changes they will do to the processes to either eliminate or alleviate the causes identified in step 4. Depending on the nature of the changes, these might be done in a few days or over several weeks.
  6. Verify results (Check): How will your team know how well their countermeasures worked without verifying the results? Ideally the changes made to the process would affect a cost, quality, delivery or safety measurement that already exists. If this is not the case, you may need to put a temporary measurement to confirm that the process changes had the desired impact.
  7. Follow up actions (Act): The changes that the team has made may have created new problems that need to be addressed, or you may have put in a temporary fix to a problem and need a more permanent solution. Whatever the case may be, it is important to monitor these actions to make sure they get completed.

What is the most important aspect of management standard work?

The most important aspect of management standard work is that you have a documented management process and that you are continuously improving it. Managers that don’t practice what they preach will never gain the respect from their staff and never be able to truly achieve the benefits of lean manufacturing and continuous improvement.

If you enjoyed this blog and would like to read more about lean manufacturing and continuous improvement tools, please check out my other blogs by clicking here.