6.17.2008

Standard Work Silos

There are all kinds of lean programs now: Lean Product Development, Lean HR, Lean Accounting, Lean Six Sigma, Lean Construction, Lean Healthcare, etc. TWI actually was used on the farm during the war period in order to train farm workers in ways to boost food production. I guess in a way, Lean Agriculture predates all that we know today! Speaking of farms, let’s talk about silos for a minute along with a core concept and skill that lies at the heart of Lean: Standard Work.

First off - there are silos in every operation and they aren’t going away any time soon, so get used to it! You are fighting 100 years of culture, so stop now. Sales, technology, logistics, HR and accounting aren’t going to just roll over because you say so! So, go after what is within your control and try to influence through daily kaizen. Standard work is one of those things.

The three components of standard work are:


  1. Takt time

  2. Work Sequence

  3. Standard WIP



Takt time is essentially the rate of customer demand. This is where you have a chance to engage the sales silo and bring them into the lean fold. In order to create standard work, you will need to know takt time, which means you will need to know volumes, product mix, etc. You will also need to know shift operating data, so you know have a great opportunity to teach sales and operations about how to bring alignment between their two silos.

Work sequence. This conjours up images of a supervisor watching his workers to ensure that a step is not missed and when he does….look out! Disciplinary action and punitive work schemes are not at the heart of work sequencing, although many managers certainly can make it that way if they choose. No, at the heart of work sequencing is kaizen. This is where we ask:



  • WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY is this step necessary?

  • What is the purpose of this step?

  • Where should it be done?

  • When is the best time to do it?

  • Who is best suited to do it?


  • And finally...

  • HOW can we do this a better way? How can this be done safely, correctly, efficiently?




  • Work sequence often brings in many questions about technology, product development and reliability. Many work combinations cannot be achieved without a machine modification, a new work layout or sometimes by simply questioning the work, we find we can eliminate the step altogether. Either way, you have an opportunity to bring your technical groups together and achieve alignment.

    Standard WIP is a predetermined amount of inventory which strikes a balance between capacities and demand. This is applied at all levels where continuous flow cannot be achieved. In other words, if you are employing kanban or pull systems, then you need standard WIP or a supermarket between that supplier capacity and customer demand point. Again, these inventory levels are not created in a vacuum, but rather with the input and assurance from both supplier and customer. This provides huge opportunities to seek further improvements in the workflow.

    In summary standard work isn’t about getting people to do their work because we "documented" it or we are "setting expectations." It is a symphony of all elements of the business; a result of indepth analysis, design and organization by many people across many functions. If you want to tear down your silos, metaphorically speaking of course, standard work is a way for you to do just that. Plus, I like the old look of silos in the landscape so leave them alone!

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    1 Comments:

    At August 22, 2016 at 1:51 AM , Blogger Naviya Nair said...

    I have read your blog its very attractive and impressive. I like it your blog.
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