What Is Standard Work? [Free Templates!]

In this article, we will cover what is standard work, its benefits, and provide you with some examples. We will also explain about the 3 elements of standard work and compile them into a checklist.
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Published on:
05 March 2024
Updated on:
22 May 2024

In this era of rigorous competition, manufacturers have to improve themselves continuously. Taiichi Ōhno, the pioneer of the modern-day lean manufacturing concept, once said: “without standards, there can be no improvement.” Standardization is indeed the cornerstone of any improvement in the manufacturing sector.

Therefore, every production activity must be standardized. The output of this standardization is known as standard work. Yet, how does it actually work? And why is it necessary?

In this article, we will cover the basics of standard work and how to implement it. We will also explain how you can use digital tools to generate standard work effectively on your shop floor.

At the end of this article, you can find a Free Standard Operating Procedures & Work Instructions Template for your standard work needs. Thus, after reading this article, you can immediately standardize your plant’s production activities.

What Is Standard Work?

Standard work is a set of standardized procedures needed to complete a production process. The term“production process” is relatively broad in this context.

It can be as simple as a standalone task. For example, how to attach a wheel to a car. It can also be a combination of several tasks to manufacture a fully functioning product from scratch. For instance, how to assemble components from our suppliers into a completely built-up car.

The main goal of having standard work is to find the best practices for every production process. Afterward, these practices will be compiled into an organized set of work instructions.

With these work instructions, your shop floor employees will always have a clear reference to perform their tasks. In addition, their operations will always be aligned with the existing best practices.

Creating the standard work of a production process consists of 2 phases: documentation and standardization. Here’s a brief overview of both phases:

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In standard work, documentation means gathering data and insights from the existing production process. The documentation phase commonly consists of the following steps:

  1. Identifying the production process that will be standardized.
  2. Thoroughly documenting the existing production process. For example, listing the existing work sequences, taking note of the methods and tools used by the shop floor workers, and taking pictures and videos of the existing production process.
  3. Gathering data on relevant production-related statistics. For instance, lead time, production throughput, and FTR rate.
  4. Asking your shop floor workers for their feedback on the existing production process.

Taking a Gemba Walk is a recommended method for the documentation phase. Check out the guide below to know how to do a Gemba Walk effectively.

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Standardization means creating written documents that will serve as work instructions for a particular production process. Using the data gathered from the documentation phase, take the following steps:

1. Analyze the weaknesses of the existing production process and determine an improvement goal. What can we improve?

Can we do this production process faster? Can we do it with less resources? Can we minimize potential deviations in this production process? These are some of the questions typically asked when looking for the best practice for a production process.

2. Once the improvement goal has been selected, find out how you can achieve it. Is it by acquiring more advanced machines? By employing the latest production techniques? By removing the existing wastes?

There are countless ways to achieve an improvement goal. It’s crucial to brainstorm your improvement strategy with all your team members – especially your shop floor workers. The more insights you have, the better the quality of your improvement strategy will be.

3. Put this strategy into work instructions documents

After these work instructions have been drafted, they should be compiled and organized into a single document. This compilation of work instructions is what we call a standard work.

Afterward, ensure that your shop floor workers are fully aware and compliant with your standard work. There are many ways to internalize the standard work among your shop floor workers, such as:

  • Using the standard work as an employee training material.
  • Having an easily accessible standard work document at each workstation.
  • Establishing an in-line quality control system. Thus, deviations from the standard work will be immediately detected.

We’ve covered the phases of creating a standard work. Now, it’s time to go further and see which information a standard work document should always contain:

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Standard Work Checklist

Various elements can be included in a standard work. Nonetheless, 3 key elements must always be included in any standard work. These elements are crucial to ensure consistency and effectiveness. What are the 3 key elements of standard work?

Inventory List

Inventory list refers to the list of items that are required to perform a production process, such as:

  • The materials and components that are used in the production process.
  • The machines and tools that are utilized.
  • The clothing and safety gear that shop floor workers must wear (if applicable).

Don’t forget to include the quantity and unit of measurement of each item. For example: “In order to fasten the pedals to a bike’s body, you will need to use 4 units of 8-millimeter nuts.”

With the inventory list clearly conveyed, your shop floor workers will always know which items they must prepare and use in the production process. This helps to standardize your products’ quality and minimize deviations.

It’s also advisable to clearly mention where the materials, components, tools, and safety gear are stored. Otherwise, your shop floor workers will have to look for them on their own – costing precious time in the process.

Work Sequence

Another key element in any standard work is the work sequence of a production process. A work sequence is the order of tasks that must be done to complete a production process. An ideal work sequence typically includes:

  • The precise order of all tasks.
  • A detailed and explicit instruction of what must be done in each task (including its preparation).
  • The expected outcome for each task.
  • A list of problems commonly occurring in these tasks and their solutions.
  • Workplace safety precautions.
  • The contact details of a supervisor responsible for the entire production process.

Adding visual elements such as images, videos, symbols, and 3D models to the work sequence is highly recommended. They will make following the work sequence a much easier task. Visual elements in a work sequence will remove any possible ambiguity from your employees’ side.

Visual elements in the work sequence will directly show what needs to be done. Meanwhile, with text-based work sequences, your shop floor workers must use their imagination to illustrate the instructions when performing a task. This leaves plenty of room for deviations in their work.

If the goods produced have multiple configurations, it’s best to have multiple variants of the work sequence. Hence, your work sequence will be able to support a broader range of product configuration options.

This feature is handy in industries where customers have plenty of product configuration options. The automotive, defense, and furniture industries are good examples where products are typically highly configurable to fulfill customers’ requests

Learn More About Azumuta’s Digital Work Instructions

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Another crucial element that must be included in any standard work is time. Specifically, Cycle Time and Takt Time. Yet, what are they? What is their role in manufacturing? And how do we calculate both Takt Time and Cycle Time?

Takt Time

Takt Time is a metric commonly used to plan production output. Takt Time is obtainable by dividing available production time each day (usually measured in seconds or minutes) by the average number of customer demands for a product each day.

Here’s the Takt Time formula:

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For example, a bottled water factory operates 24 hours a day (hence 1,440 minutes). Meanwhile, if customer demands are leveled equally throughout the week, this factory must produce 7,200 bottles of water daily. How do we calculate the Takt Time?

Takt Time’s formula is the Average Production Time per Day / Customer Demand per Day.

Hence, 1,440 minutes / 7,200 bottles of water = 0.2 minutes/bottled water (12 seconds for each bottled water).

Thus, the factory’s Takt Time is 12 seconds. If it wants to keep up with market demands, the factory must produce 1 bottled water every 12 seconds.

Cycle Time

Cycle Time is the time needed to accomplish something. The term “Cycle Time” itself is quite generic.

It can refer to the time needed to finish a single task on the shop floor. For instance, it takes 3 minutes to install a CPU to a motherboard. Hence, the Cycle Time for this task is 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, it can also refer to the time required to finish the entire manufacturing process of a product. For example, it takes 240 minutes for a laptop to be fully assembled, tested, and packaged in a factory. Therefore, the Cycle Time of that laptop’s entire manufacturing process is 240 minutes.

Takt Time vs Cycle Time Usage in Standard Work

Both Takt Time and Cycle Time are equally important for creating a standard work. Analyzing Takt Time allows you to synchronize your plant’s production output to customer demands. It ensures that your plant never manufactures too many or too few products.

Meanwhile, Cycle Time reflects your plant’s current production speed. This speed is determined by your plant’s existing production resources (particularly its machinery, workforce, and production know-how). Both metrics perfectly showcase what the market expects from your plant, in comparison to what your plant is capable of.

When drafting work instructions, you must include the expected duration for each task. The expected duration should balance your plant’s Takt Time and Cycle Time. Consequently, your production speed will correlate with market demands, while staying within the production limits of your plant.

What if your Cycle Time is far behind your Takt Time? In that case, it might be wise to acquire extra production resources. This includes purchasing new machinery, hiring more employees, or adopting newer production techniques to meet this unfulfilled market demand.

To ensure maximum traceability of your production process and its punctuality, it’s advisable to use a standard work chart.

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Benefits of Standard Work

There are multiple advantages of having standard work for every production process in your plant. Here are the main benefits:

Lowers the Possibility of Product Defects

Standardization in all aspects of production according to the predetermined best practices will minimize the chance of defective products. Minimizing variations in the manufacturing process will make deviations less likely to occur.

Motorola set a prime example of the success of total standardization on its shop floor. It developed the Six Sigma methodology, which sought to limit defects to just 1 out of 3.4 million occurrences.

Faster Employee Onboarding Time

Work instructions from standard work can be used as onboarding material for new shop floor workers. Hence, they can learn from the plant’s best practices from day 1 of their onboarding process.

Standard work also guarantees that their work performance will be optimal from their first day on the shop floor. New shop floor workers only need to follow the existing work instructions – instead of figuring things out on their own.

A Benchmark for Future Improvements

Creating standard work helps you to spot the weak points in your plant’s production activities. When drafting a standard work, you will document the key production processes in your plant – including their existing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

This data is helpful to evaluate your plant’s current performance. You’ll know which aspects of your production processes are already performing well, and which ones are underperforming. This will make planning and implementing future improvements a far easier task.

Standard Work in Lean Manufacturing

Standard work is an integral part of Kaizen (meaning continuous improvement) – a lean manufacturing concept. Lean manufacturing itself is a method aimed at removing the 8 wastes of lean manufacturing:

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To remove these 8 wastes, the 5 principles of lean manufacturing must be thoroughly followed:

A five-step lean manufacturing process is represented in an arrow-shaped flowchart from left to right. Steps include 1. Identifying Customer Value, 2. Value Stream Mapping, 3. Creating a Lean Manufacturing Flow, 4. Establishing a Pull System, and 5. Kaizen (Continuous Improvement).

In addition to Kaizen, there are other beneficial lean manufacturing ideals such as JidokaHeijunka, and the Just-in-Time Production System. Be sure not to mistake lean manufacturing for agile manufacturing. Despite their similar names, both are, in fact, two separate concepts.

Despite its immense benefits, transitioning into lean manufacturing is a lengthy and resource-consuming process. Therefore, evaluating the transition’s ROI is a must.

Standard Work Software

Azumuta is your go-to partner for creating a standard work in your plant. Use our Quality Management module to source data from your shop floor’s peripheral devices automatically.

Then, visualize these data in our dashboard. With this feature, you’ll obtain all the data required to document your existing production KPIs in no time.

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Template for Your Standard Works Needs

Learn how to implement Standard Work on your shop floor with our Standard Operating Procedures & Work Instructions template.

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See how Azumuta has helped Nitto to achieve remarkable improvements: a 100% paperless shop floor, 100%, a 60% reduction in data entry time, a 35% reduction in documentation time, and a 0% operator idle time.

Not yet convinced? Be sure to check other success stories as well. Our lean manufacturing software tool will make your transition into lean manufacturing an effortless and seamless process.

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Previously, as an organisation, we relied heavily on the discipline of the operators to fill in the necessary production reports. With Azumuta we can send the necessary reminders to the operators if necessary. Moreover, we can monitor in real time whether they have actually filled in the production reports at the scheduled time.

Jurgen Koppens
Production Coordinator at Nitto

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