Job Instruction - Key Points about Standard Work and Kaizen

People don’t like details. How often have you heard, “I don’t care how you do it, just get it done.” For training, we skip over details so we can get the person working quickly. When it comes to standard work, we focus on filling out the form and getting it posted in the work cell. Unfortunately, standard work can quickly become expensive wall paper if this is the attitude we have towards details.

Fortunately, we can determine how Job Instruction relates to standardized work and methods improvement. What reasons suggest why training someone in the methods used for standard work is so important? Why are we told that standardized work is necessary for a successful continuous improvement program?

There are two major reasons. The first is related to methods improvement. From an industrial engineering viewpoint, there are five basic factors that must be considered when analyzing and improving work:

1) Materials
2) Design of Product
3) Sequence of work
4) Equipment
5) Method

In particular, people get hung up on factor #5 during the JI session: “who cares if Sally does it differently than Betty? They get the same result and nobody gets hurt.” But when we discuss Standard Work, the importance of teaching good methods becomes clear. Remember, in Standard Work there are three basic elements that must be determined:

A. Takt time
B. Work Sequence
C. Standard WIP

Standard work makes an assumption that you have the work area ready, the job is repeatable or patterned, and the volumes are relatively stable. But notice the common link between methods improvement and standard work: work sequence. If we want to adhere to standard work, we must have an established work sequence. An example might be washing dishes. First the material (1) is dirty dishes. Second, the design of product (2) is clean, dry dishes. The sequence of work (3) is clear the table, scrape the dishes, stack the dishes, wash dishes, dry, and put away dishes. The equipment (4) is water, sink, soap, scouring pad, wash cloth, etc. The method (5) is dependent on the person doing the job. The third and fifth factors are where Job Instruction becomes critical for success.

So, if this were an operation that was to make money, we tend to establish time standard associated with the work sequence. The problem of course depends on the person doing the job, whether the area is setup properly, are the methods for each step of the work sequence identical, etc.

This is why Job Instruction is so important, which is the second point of this post. We can establish the work sequence quite easily, but getting people to wash dishes, in step 4 of the job, to the desired specification is the real challenge. People will learn on their own. Should we let them learn poor ergonomics, timing, quality and safety key points on their own? What is the chance of one person adhering to takt time if they learn their own methods? So, if you think standard work is as simple as writing down the work sequence, controlling some WIP levels and establishing a takt time for the pace of work, think again. Remember, “If the person hasn’t learned the instructor hasn’t taught.” The real trick lies in teaching people to do each step of the work sequence using the current best practice.

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