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Lean—Three Standardized Work Tools

October 13, 2017

Per Henry Ford:

 “Today’s standardization is the necessary foundation on which tomorrow’s improvement will be based.  If you think of ‘standardization’ as the best you know today, but which is to be improved tomorrow, you get somewhere.  But if you think of standards as confining, then progress stops.” Quote by Henry Ford in publication titled "Today and Tomorrow," 1926.



The process of standardizing your work routines is sequential if you use the following tools in this order: 

1.    Job Analysis 
2.    Balancing Operator Work, and
3.    Developing and Posting Standardized Worksheet


Tool 1--Job Analysis:  Job analysis is both an art and a science. The first step is to identify the work elements a value adding staff member must perform in order to complete one cycle of work at a particular bench or workstation.  Note that this activity is also the first step in helping staff members identify their best practice approach.  


1.    The people who work at this bench must agree on what the work elements are, and in what sequence they are performed.  
2.    Each sequential work element must have a fixed-point start and stop time so that you can time it with a stopwatch.  
3.    Each work element should be classified as value adding (changing the form, fit, or function of the specimen) or non-value adding (one of the eight Lean wastes).  
4.    You should time at least 10 complete cycles using a variety of trained skilled operators.  
5.    Identify the best cycle time and the worst cycle time and then calculate the average.  
6.    Usually the variation between the best and the worst is associated with some form of embedded Lean waste.  
7.    Be sure to identify the Lean Waste and remove it (Kaizen) from the work process before finalizing your cycle time calculations.

Tool 2--Balancing Operator Work:  In a laboratory environment, your value adding staff members know which workbenches are over burdened and which are sized right to meet physician turnaround expectations.  A visual display of the work being performed at each workbench (a stacked bar chart showing cycle times per sequential work elements) in your value stream enables you and your Lean work team to see which processes are overburdened, right sized, or eligible for more work. Discuss the findings with the team and brainstorm approaches to improve the work balance within your processes.  

Tool 3--Developing and Posting Standardized Worksheets: Standardized worksheets usually have three major sections:  

Section 1:  Process title and various process related characteristics and statistical information like TAKT time, planned production time, required number of value-added operators, and volumes.

Section 2:  Value added operator work elements copied from the finalized "job analysis" performed using Tool 1.  This section usually includes the work elements, key points for each step (quality, safety, technique, etc), your work element-level timings, and a summation of cycle time at the bottom. 

Section 3:  The work sequence diagram or walk pattern showing sequential flow, required materials and supplies, and required safety and quality checks.

Note:  In the laboratory environment, these standardized worksheets are posted within the process production area facing outward so the lead technologists, supervisors, and operation's manager can readily tell normal operations from abnormal operations without having to debrief the value-adding operators.  


Posted standardized worksheets are visual management tools not operator training tools.  
•    Make sure these worksheets are tied into your document control system and updated whenever you make additional improvements to your processes.  
•    Be creative--these tools are designed to help you manage and support your operation easily.  
•    Make them work for you.  
•    Google "lean standardized worksheets" for examples of different styles--click on the "images" tab to review numerous additional examples.

As always, I look forward to your discussion, observations, and insights.  You may contact me at if you want to discuss this topic with me.

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