The Lean Manager: Standard Work

Lessons for a ‘Lean Manager’

The Lean Manager”, by Michael & Freddy Balle is a novel come textbook on understanding Lean and implementing it into our everyday working situations. It contains come great quotes and discussions about the implications to your manufacturing environment with 3 Lean managers and their journeys.

If people don’t understand their work well enough to draw and follow the sequence, they’ll never improve things

“Standardised work is about agreeing how the work should be done best, to better see the problems.”

– Bob Woods

Woods is trying to emphasise that standard work is more than getting the junior engineers to write up detailed work instructions that will be ignored by the shop floor. Production teams needs to create their own standard work, talking together about how each operator completes each section of the tasks being looked at.

Where to Start?

The first step is individual standardisation, to get each operator ensuring they are working the same way for each process in a repeatable method. Then we can get the team to discuss creating a standard based on who has the best method for the process. Here the team needs to reach an agreement as to which is the best way for every person in the team, for the range of products being reviewed.

This is easier said than done in many organisations; a skilled facilitator and manager will be needed for the first few standards your teams create – a person who can moderate and negotiate between all of the opinions but also understand the process and has the authority to make final decisions that the team will follow.

The key features of standard work must include:

  • Simple Layout, Preferably One Page
  • Photos of Key Steps
  • Keep Words to a Minimum
  • Include Symbols for Safety Messages

Once an agreed standard is in place, it will then become a reference point for each time the process is repeated. If the standard can’t be followed, it highlights a problem. Here your production team needs to be trained on problem solving so they notice when a standard is not being followed.

Awareness of this variation is the next step for the team. Then we need them to think about why it’s not being followed and consider a short term fix to keep them going, whilst understanding the root cause to implement a long term fix. Keeping a log of each time the standard work is not followed will allow the management to see to see how well each team is solving their owns problems.

Robert Chittenden

Author: Robert Chittenden

Robert Chittenden is a Senior Lean Consultant at TXM Lean Solutions