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Why starting point of standardized work is important?


When implementing standardized work, we learn about the three elements, takt time, sequence, and work-in-process stocks.

But most likely, you struggle to implement any of those. That is not because Ohno or Toyota tricked you. It is because we don’t understand the structure behind the standardized work.


Many points structure standardized work.


The most essential point is the starting point of standardized work.


Here is what and why.


1️⃣ Starting point of standardized work


The starting point of standardized work is defining who needs to be where and at what time to start the work. I have written about the “Starting point of work” in the past. Standardization means not just defining it. It means to use that point every cycle.


Often you run into a factory that has a start-up problem. Therefore, they lose a significant amount of time, from 15 to an hour of production time per shift. Then you hear some calculations on how much downtime we should allocate for such reasons. What should happen is the detailed definitions of 5W1H. More importantly, we should observe the whole process of start-up. When observed, you might see a line of workers to get something done, such as changing clothes, badge scan, paperwork, washing hands, etc. Those minor issues accumulate to create a delay. Calculation of allowances is not a solution. Instead, think about reducing traffic congestion.


Starting point of standardized work is like the start of the orchestra. When the Conductor swings the baton (or the taktstock), the music starts. You don’t have an instrument player who starts randomly. They are synced with the conductor. Each player knows which note to play when the conductor starts. The takt time calculation is simple. But that’s not the critical point. The critical point is that everyone starts standardized work when that time comes. And at every takt time, everybody returns to the starting point and restarts the next cycle. It sounds simple but complicated to accomplish.


2️⃣ Time study


One of my early mistakes was starting the time study without defining the starting point of standardized work. I had a very vague definition of the starting point. As a result, the time varied. I used to think it was the technic of the operator or the culture, but I was utterly wrong. As I observed how the experienced one perform the time study, they control the starting point. They might have the hand blocking the operator from starting until that moment. They might provide a signal to start. If it is the conveyor, it is that moment that the product crosses the line. In the case of machine cells, they might wait until every machine has stopped so that those cycles do not cause a wait for the operators. By doing such control, it provides more pure time study.

Such control should exist not just for time study but to prevent over-production. Any work that is done before the takt is over-production. We should have some mechanism to control such acts. But, in some cases, such as batch-produced machine areas, the control is not one by one. In such cases, defining the starting point for the time study is critical.


3️⃣ Fluctuations


The basic idea of standardized work is to define the sequence and design the location of the materials, tools, machines, etc., according to that sequence. You eliminate many wasted motions by designing the process according to the sequence. You eliminate the process skipping since the layout is designed based on sequence, not relying on memory. The entire foundation of standardized work will be destroyed when you don’t have the starting point defined and respected. A variable starting point means fluctuation in the entire cycle. The locations that you defined and placed are now too far. It might become more difficult to see or touch. You might skip a process. I used to think about fluctuations at each position. But then, when the whole cycle starts randomly, the whole cycle will have variations. Understanding the source of fluctuations helps Kaizen the process to become stable.


4️⃣ Fixed position stopping


One common misunderstanding of “Andon” is that the production stops as soon as somebody pulls the Andon. This is not true. Andon sends out a warning signal that the line will stop if nobody helps. And the line stops at the fixed position. If the stopping position is random, the others will be confused. Should I keep on going until the complete cycle or stop immediately? Nobody wants to work in hiccup-rocking conditions. Confusion is the nemesis of everything. The whole idea of standardized work is to eliminate confusion. Fixed position-stopping guarantees a fixed position start. Nobody stops in the middle of the cycle.



The starting point of standardized work. It is a point but crucial. Without it, the whole operation looks distorted. I felt motion sickness. It is so twisted that people have become used to it. People must get used to conditions where normal and abnormal are mixed. Irresponsibility is everywhere. The standard is just something on paper.

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