Standardization and Lean

Many people in positions of authority at facilities have read papers or books on the lean concepts and decided to implement them in their facility.  While this is an excellent idea which can reap incredible rewards for the facility both in the short and the long term, it can’t be done without a lot of thought.  People tend to think they can directly apply the lean strategies to their facility without thinking through how it will be done and what impacts it will have.  Understanding that the lean concepts are not a blueprint used to implement these changes at every facility, but rather an instruction manual used to help create the blueprint for your facility is essential.

One of the most important steps in planning and implementing lean concepts in your facility is coming up with the standards which will be used.  Each facility will have unique standards because they are different than any other facility, even those which make similar products or services.  Standardization is at the heart of any successful lean implementation and it can’t be overstated how important this process is.

What is Standardization

Standards will help to establish the proper way of doing things to help ensure it is done in the best way possible every time.  This will help eliminate waste by preventing mistakes or errors, and can even lead to ongoing improvement opportunities over time.  Each process in a facility should have a standard associated with it so everyone involved knows exactly how it should be performed.  Standards can be considered best practices or processes, but they should be more than just an instruction manual.  Included in the standardization process should be explanations of why the specific standards were settled on.  This can help employees understand the reasoning behind them and even lead to further improvement.

How to Create Standardization

One of the most important steps in creating a standard is gathering information.  This should be done by analyzing how things are currently done and working with the people who perform the tasks on a regular basis.  With this information it is then possible to begin eliminating variations and find which methods are the best way to do a particular task.   Looking at each process individual is important, but it should be also reviewed as a piece of the whole process.  In most facilities every task that is done is just one part of completing the production of a product.  Having a good understanding of how each task fits into this overall process can help identify best practices for your standards.

Benefits of Standardization

Having standardization for entire processes not only improves the effectiveness and efficiency of a particular task, but it helps those working up and downstream from the specific task as well.  By preventing problems at each individual task it will save significant time and energy from those who would have to discover and correct the errors later in the process.  While creating lean standardization throughout a facility may be difficult at first, it will result in significant improvements and increased productivity for years to come.

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