In the manufacturing sector, standard work instructions are a crucial tool for ensuring the consistent and effective performance of tasks and processes. They have their origins in the lean manufacturing principles, which were developed in Japan in the middle of the 20th century and seek to increase efficiency by streamlining workflows and identifying and eliminating non-value-added activities. In this article, we will explore the background and history of standard work instructions, as well as their definition, benefits, and characteristics.
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Background and history of Standard work instructions
Standard work instructions have their roots in the principles of lean manufacturing, which originated in Japan in the mid-20th century. The goal of lean manufacturing is to eliminate waste and increase efficiency in the manufacturing process by streamlining workflows and identifying and eliminating non-value-added activities. Standard work instructions are one of the key tools used in lean manufacturing to achieve these goals.
To ensure that the work was done consistently and to a high standard, standard work instructions were created to document the most effective and efficient way to complete a task or process. Standard work instructions contributed to the reduction of waste and increased productivity in the manufacturing process by decomposing the work into manageable, specific steps and identifying the appropriate tools and resources required to complete the work.
Standard work instructions have since been adopted in a wide range of industries beyond manufacturing, including construction, healthcare, and government. They are used to ensure that tasks are performed consistently, efficiently, and safely, and to identify opportunities for improvement.
What is Standard Work?
Standard work is a method of documenting the most efficient and effective way to perform a task, process, or activity. It involves breaking down the work into small, detailed steps and specifying the appropriate tools, resources, and sequence of actions needed to complete the work successfully. The purpose of standard work is to ensure that the work is performed consistently, efficiently, and safely, and to identify opportunities for improvement.
Standard work combines processes, procedures and visual work instructions to provide a clear understanding of the process and how it is done.
Standard work instructions are often used in the control stage of DMAIC projects as a method of controlling and sustaining improvements, as it provides a detailed step-by-step guide on how the process should now be done in its improved stage. This helps prevent operators of the process from returning to how they conducted the process prior to the improvement being made, resulting in a return to its pre-improvement state.
Furthermore, Standard work instructions are then used as the new baseline for the process upon which future improvements should be built upon. Therefore, when future improvements are needed for the process the improvements project times first step can be to look at how the process is currently being done by reviewing the standard work instructions for the process. This should be the basis for Kazien or Continuous improvement of processes.
Standard work is often documented in a standard worksheet, which provides a step-by-step guide to performing the work. The standard worksheet may include illustrations or diagrams to help workers understand the steps involved and what tools, equipment, or personal protective equipment (PPE) must be used.
Benefits of Standard Work Instructions
There are many benefits to using standard work instructions within businesses; some were detailed in the section above, but there are many more, such as:
Improved efficiency: By identifying and documenting the optimal way to do something, standard work instructions can help streamline the work process and eliminate unnecessary steps or activities that may be slowing things down. This can lead to increased efficiency and productivity as workers can complete tasks more quickly and with fewer errors.
Increased consistency: By providing clear, step-by-step instructions, standard work instructions help to ensure that tasks are performed consistently, regardless of who is performing them. This is particularly important in industries where consistent quality is critical, as it helps to ensure that the output meets established standards and requirements.
Enhanced safety: Standard work instructions can aid in lowering the risk of accidents and injuries at work by outlining precisely the steps and resources needed to complete a task safely.
For example, standard work instructions might include guidance on the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hard hats, gloves, or protective eyewear. They might also contain guidelines on how to handle dangerous objects or equipment safely or how to lift and move large objects. These guidelines can help workers lower their risk of mistakes and injuries while also maintaining a safe workplace.
Easier training: Standard work instructions can improve training effectiveness and efficiency by providing clear, step-by-step instructions, especially for new employees or workers learning a new task.
It is often necessary to give comprehensive instructions on how to perform a task correctly when training new employees. This can be time-consuming and may require a lot of one-on-one instruction. Standard work instructions offer a clear, concise manual that new employees can consult as they learn, which can speed up the process. This may help them understand what is required of them and how to carry out tasks correctly, which may help cut down on the time and resources needed for training.
Additionally, for experienced workers learning a new task or process, standard work instructions can also be a helpful resource. Standard work instructions can help to ensure that employees understand the proper way to perform the task and can complete it consistently and efficiently by providing a clear and detailed guide.
Enhanced communication: Standard work instructions can promote better teamwork and communication by outlining the expectations and requirements for completing a task.
When several people are engaged in the same task or process, having clear, concise instructions can help to prevent confusion and misunderstanding. Standard work instructions can ensure that everyone is on the same page and seeking the same objective by giving everyone a common reference point. As everyone is following the same set of instructions, this can enhance teamwork and coordination.
Opportunities for improvement: Organizations can find areas for improvement and implement changes to increase efficiency and effectiveness by routinely reviewing and updating these guidelines.
Standard work instructions should be periodically reviewed to make sure they are still accurate and applicable. It is crucial to update standard work instructions to reflect changes as work processes change and advance. This can ensure that the instructions are still describing how to complete a task in the most effective and efficient way possible.
Regularly reviewing standard work instructions can help in identifying areas for improvement in addition to keeping them current. Organizations can identify areas where changes could result in increased efficiency and effectiveness by carefully analysing the work process and looking for ways to streamline it or eliminate unnecessary steps. This might entail altering the work process itself, updating the standard work instructions to reflect these changes, or both.
Characteristics of Standard Work
There are some characteristics that effective standard work instructions should possess:
Complete: Standard work instructions should be complete with all the information required to complete the process, they should be accessible by the operators who conduct the process and the instructions should also be up to date.
Baseline: Standard work instructions should form the baseline of continuous improvement activities, so that any improvement made is built upon the current standard set within the standard work instructions.
Created by Subject matter experts: Standard work instructions should be created by subject matter experts of those who conduct the process as they will have the clearist understanding of how the process should be done and be able to write it in a way the is understandable and avoice missing any key information.
Focused: Standard work instructions should only focus on what really impact the work and not include any irrelivent information which could confuse the operator.
Evolve: Standard work instructions should evolve over time as the process is updated, if standard work instructions are out of date or not relevant they are likely to be ignored by operators and allow bad habbits to form.
Training: Standard work instructions should be used to traing new employees or current employees who are new to the process to ensure they follow the standard process and remove any variation from operator to operator.
Types of Standard work instructions
One-point lesson – One-point lessons are a type of standard work instruction that focuses on a single, specific topic or objective. They are usually short and concise and are designed to be used as a quick reference or training tool. One-point lessons can be used to teach new skills or knowledge or to provide a refresher on existing skills.
One-point lessons are often used in manufacturing and other industries where there is a need to train workers quickly and effectively on a specific topic or procedure. They can be used in conjunction with other training materials, such as standard worksheets or procedure manuals. One-point lessons are typically written in a clear, easy-to-understand format, using visual aids such as illustrations or diagrams to help workers understand the topic. They are often reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that the information is accurate and up to date.
Standard Operating Procedures – Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are a type of standard work instruction that outline the steps and resources required to perform a specific task, procedure, or activity consistently and effectively. They are often used in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and government to ensure that tasks are performed consistently and to a high standard.
SOPs typically include details such as the tools and equipment needed, the sequence of steps to be followed, and any necessary safety precautions. They may also include information on how to set up the equipment or materials needed for the task, and how to test and verify that the task has been completed successfully.
SOPs are typically written in a clear and concise format, using simple language and visual aids such as illustrations or diagrams to help workers understand the steps involved. They are often reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that they reflect the most efficient and effective way to perform the task, and to incorporate any new ideas for improvement. SOPs are often used in conjunction with other standard work instructions, such as process instructions or procedure instructions, to provide a complete guide to performing the task or activity.
Changeover instructions – Changeover instructions are a type of standard work instruction that outline the steps and resources required to switch a machine, system, or process from one product or operation to another. Changeovers are often necessary for manufacturing environments where multiple products or variations are produced on the same equipment.
Effective changeover instructions can help to minimize downtime and increase efficiency by clearly outlining the steps and resources needed to make the switch. They may include details such as the tools and equipment needed, the sequence of steps to be followed, and any necessary safety precautions. Changeover instructions may also include information on how to set up the equipment or machine for the new product or operation, and how to test and verify that the changeover has been successful.
Changeover instructions are typically reviewed and updated regularly to reflect any changes in the changeover process or to incorporate new ideas for improvement. They are often used in conjunction with other standard work instructions, such as process instructions or procedure instructions, to provide a complete guide to performing the changeover.
How to create standard work instructions
Step one – Identify the task or process to be documented: The first step in creating standard work instructions is to identify the task or process that needs to be documented. This may involve breaking down a larger process into smaller, more manageable steps.
Step two – Analyze the work process: Once the task or process has been identified, it is important to carefully analyze it to identify any areas that could be improved or streamlined. This may involve observing the work process in action, collecting data on how it is currently being performed, or soliciting feedback from workers.
Step three – Identify the most efficient method: Based on the analysis of the work process, the next step is to identify the most efficient method for performing the task. This may involve identifying and eliminating unnecessary steps or activities, or finding ways to streamline the process which can be done by using Value add/non-value add analysis.
Step four – Document the standard work instructions: Once the most efficient method has been identified, it is important to document it in the form of standard work instructions. This may involve creating a written document, a flowchart, or a visual guide that outlines the steps and resources required to complete the task.
Step five – Review and revise the standard work instructions: It is important to periodically review and revise the standard work instructions to ensure that they are still accurate and relevant. This may involve updating the instructions to reflect changes in the work process, or incorporating feedback from workers who are using the instructions.
Step six – Communicate the standard work instructions: Once the standard work instructions have been created and reviewed, it is important to communicate them to all relevant workers. This may involve providing training or holding a briefing to ensure that everyone understands how to use the instructions and follow the process correctly.
In conclusion, standard work instructions are a key tool in lean manufacturing and have been adopted in a wide range of industries to ensure that tasks are performed consistently, efficiently, and safely. They involve documenting the most efficient and effective way to perform a task or process by breaking it down into small, detailed steps and specifying the appropriate tools and resources needed to complete the work.
Standard work instructions have several benefits, including improved efficiency and consistency, enhanced safety, easier training, and enhanced communication. Effective standard work instructions should possess characteristics such as clarity, detail, and simplicity, and should be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect any changes in the work process or to incorporate new ideas for improvement.
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