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Fact Sheet – What is Standardisation ?

by Chris Cooley

Standardisation is perhaps the most important element of any Lean or Six Sigma implementation. Creating a standard is the starting point for any continuous improvement cycle and is the means for embedding the improvements made so far.

There is often the misconception that standardisation is about creating a set of work instructions with which you beat up your employees when they do something wrong. Standardisation is far more than that.

Think of standardisation as embedding what you have developed so far in order to provide a solid base- “Standardisation is your best of today applied consistently”

Types of StandardStandardisation graphic

Safety Standards

How your company operates Health & Safety in the workplace. More than a set 0f rules or adherence to legislation, it is about creating a culture of Health & Safety that manifests as a common way of working throughout the business, even thought the exact requirement of each area may be different. Should be referenced to a company H&S map. The most basic and important company standard.

Environmental Standards

Rules for how the company operates within the environment. How it disposes of waste and recycles as much as possible. Also an opportunity to make money or avoid cost through recycling, correct disposal of waste products and saving energy.

Quality Standards

Quality requirements – matched to customer requirements and specification – basic set of quality rules that applies to every product or service if these rules are designed effectively and by following these rules every time poor quality should not be possible – includes boundary samples / inspection rules /  master samples.

Standard Specifications

This standards controls how any equipment used in any process is operated and includes set-up instructions, operating parameters and technical instruction sheets (TIS). Normally applies to machinery but can and should apply to any type of equipment used in the business. If this standard is followed, break-downs will be minimised and the final product will be the same every time.

Standard Procedures

Generic operating Rules for the business covering the basic common ways of working for any area. This commonises material flows, standardised visualisation of KPI’s, a standard of required 5S for any area. If implemented properly a visitor would be able to go into any area or department and by the way the standard procedures are operated know that is the same organisation.

Standardised Work

Generic company work methods focussing on reducing waste and the risk of poor quality. e.g. in some manufacturing businesses there may be a rule stating if there are 3 consecutive rejects then the process is stopped to fix the problem. In a call centre it may be if there is 3 consecutive complaints about the same service then the issue is escalated even further. Standardised work methods are important to control any exceptions to the normal process and are a means of protecting the customer and the reputation of the organisation.

Operator Instructions

Standardisation is probably most misinterpreted as meaning just operator instructions. This is the explanation of the job work elements – used by management to check the standard (include inspection standard) and actually shouldn’t be used by the operator if the operator is fully trained. If a job is complicated the operator may have more detailed instructions. Management should use the operator standard as a check that the proper process is being followed and therefore there is minimal risk of waste or rejects or poor service.

Purpose of standards

  • Fundamentally standardisation is about improving the output of the whole system not just about individual elements
  • More than just a set of laminated Work Instruction Sheets (WIS) but a tool to reduce waste
  • A basis for process stability
  • Means of ensuring quality
  • Eliminates or at least reduces variation

If standards implemented and followed

With effective standards there should be no possibility of producing unexpected waste, product failure or service failure.

If there is an issue before starting to use problem solving tools, ask the following questions:

  1. Was there a standard ?
  2. Was the standard sufficient and guaranteed to avoid the problem ?
  3. Was the standard being followed ?

By asking these questions there will be clues to help you complete the problem solving exercise and solve your problems for good !

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