Thursday, May 14, 2009

What does "Standardization" really mean to a Company?

As some of you know, Standardization is the "foundation" of the Toyota Production System, it creates the benchmark for improvement. Taiichi Ohno was famous for saying "Without Standards there can be no Kaizen", this is so true when it comes to creating a culture for continuous improvement within a company. Often times we have to know where we are(current situation) to know where we are going (improvements or Ideal Situation).

Standardized work can be defined as:

A TPS tool for making quality products that is centered around human movements outlining efficient, safe work methods that eliminate waste (muda). It organizes and defines the major steps of the job which are important when a worker may do it differently each time. Also there can be certain motions within our work that are disorganized which lead to inefficiencies (waste) within those processes.

I can remember when I started at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) in Georgetown, KY, we had to write all our standardized work charts (STW) and work instruction sheets (WIS) before we ever made our first vehicle. This ensured we were building in "Jidoka" on our work processes. This was one of my first lessons from the Japanese trainers in Kaizen and making improvements. They consider it a necessity of our job and the culture we were in required us to follow it religiously. By doing this we were able to maintain and improve our team goals in quality, safety, productivity and cost. This has been one of the secrets to Toyota's success over many companies who struggle in their lean journey. I often hear " We don't make cars, or we dont do the same thing everyday; so standardized work doesnt fit in our daily activities". I reply by saying, "if there are people, processes and systems" standardized work, problem solving and kaizen can apply ANYWHERE!!!"

Another common myth about standardized work I hear is that many think of a rigid work environment where workers arent required to think (robots) when they hear about "Standardization", this wasn't the case at all at Toyota. If we had ideas to make an improvement to the current standardized work we discussed our idea with our leaders and it was considered depending upon the consensus and buy-in from other members and shifts. Once consensus was reached then we ran a trial to determine the effectiveness, if it was deemed an effective change then the Standardized work was re-written and everyone was trained in the new method. This was continuous improvement at its best, and I lived this "way of thinking" for 10 years while working on the production floor at TMMK. These were priceless moments in my own journey in understanding the tools of TPS.

Until next time,
Tracey Richardson

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