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Write the standardized work with your own hand.


“Write the standardized work with your own hand.


People on the Genba must write the standardized work with their own hand. For others to understand, you must understand it sufficiently.


What needs to be included in the standardized work documents, which are the essential basics of the Toyota Production System, what philosophies of Genba need to be included?”


  • Taiichi Ohno “Toyota Production System” [1978; P.41]


Slightly different from the English version? That’s because I didn’t omit any words. Or change the sequence of sentences. Or modify the sentences in the chapter. (Please do not ask me about other language versions.)


I was trained and trained others to write the standardized work by hand. Why? To recognize the most important philosophy of TPS. To recognize the waste. And develop my skills. My skills to draw work and other things conceptually.


I am an analog guy. I still use pencils and erasers, mainly when writing standardized work. And that’s how I coach the others.


I have seen computer-generated ones. They look fancy. But something is weird. The one who made them typically can’t explain the contents. And, the Genba is in poor condition, far from what is written. And the author lacks empathy or curiosity about the gap between the paper and reality.


As we say, “Made the statue of Buddha, but didn’t include the soul.”


But what is that soul? My understanding is the continuous search of the soul. It is about reflection on what the value-add work and Muda.


Consider this simple case on a Standardized work chart: “Pick up the part. ①”

Let’s say that you are picking up a part from a box. Where would you place the symbol ①? Suppose there is this container with 5X5X5 parts in it. Where would you put the symbol?



Once, I asked this question to an engineer. The engineer drew the biggest ① possible on the box. We just laughed since we understood it’s not that easy. This is not about how you write or draw. It is not about coming up with new symbols.


Traditional thinking will say let’s calculate the average. Let’s pretend that this point in the middle, point 38, represents everything. Ignore the fact that half of the time, you can do better. Yet, half of the time, that goes higher is an issue. Therefore, come up with allowances. Let’s invent this new “cycle time” calculation method. Pretend that 80% is world-class stability. We created this complexity and then asked the computer to do the work.


Stop. We are going in the wrong direction.


If we can’t write or draw with our own hands, we think the process is too complex or full of Muri, Mura, and Muda. Don’t try to write or come up with calculations or creative drawings. Improve the process.


Back to the box.


A question that I would ask about where to place the ①: where is the best place?

Place the ① at the location which is best for the operator. Note that the location might not be inside the box. Sometimes, I get a reaction that this is unfair, but I always say, “We need to think outside the box, right.” Also, by placing the ① at the best location, I commit to constantly making the materials to reach that point. If I place ① at the best location yet do not change the material presentation, the operator should say, “This standardized work is not followable.” Because it is. Hand-written standardized work is like a signature on the contract; the author commits to creating a repeatable condition.


Now, I need to consider delivering the material to the best point.

This will explain why it evolved from containers to small boxes, and trays to the Minomi concept.


And, when we start to think about the details of each symbol and line of standardized work, there are many to think about. It is designed to get puzzled. I had a question about how to draw a work, a multidimensional activity (3D space plus time at minimum), into a two-dimensional paper. But then trying to convert multidimensional activity to a document helps my understanding of the subject. At the same, changing the reality based on two-dimensional paper helps the improvement. This process has many trials and errors; therefore, simple pencils and erasers help. I can do all at the genba.


Also, in Japan, we have this word called 筆談 (Hitudan)—communication by writing (brush). Japanese have many words that have the same sounds. For example, Jidou-ka. Is it Jidou-ka 自動化 [Automation] or Jidou-ka 自働化 [Autonomation]? Unless we write, it's not clear. We also used these technics to communicate with the Chinese. Symbols are the same, but the pronunciations are different. Writing is part of our communication methods. It helps to memorize. And I think this is somewhat universal, not just unique to the Japanese.


Last, this handwritten standardized work is training for A3. Good A3 is apparent with the message without “reading” it. The message pops out. An American professor visited a Japanese plant, saw an A3, and said, “I can understand this.” This is because the A3 uses visualizations to highlight its points.

On the other hand, how often do I run into an A3 that requires a magnifying glass since there are so many words, and they shrieked the font size? Skills are developed through writing standardized work (including work standards). It is the early form of training on conceptualizing work. How can you draw problems or strategies when you can’t draw a work?


I know many technologies make handwriting possible on pads. It better be as simple as pencils and erasers—also no interruption at genba. Let us focus on standardized work and genba, not text messages and emails. And I reject any software or Al that could prevent us from thinking, trial and error, and making mistakes, which could prevent us from developing many essential skills we might need later in life. And from the development point of view, I still think paper and pencil are better than pads.

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