Standard Work: 12 Tips to Improve Work Performance & Employee Productivity

Wuraola Ademola-Shanu
December 20, 2022
min read
September 19, 2023
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In this article, we’re sharing 12 guaranteed standard work tips to improve work performance and productivity for Product and Production teams.
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Standard work replicates and predicts organizational systems and processes. 

Without standardization, it isn’t easy to have continuous and sustainable improvement since employees tend to perform the same tasks in different ways. The results? Inconsistent work outcomes, poor work quality, more human errors, increased uptime, increased costs, wastage, and general inefficiency. 

The best-standardized work methods are those that adapt to organizational changes, allowing for continuous enhancements or adjustments as per the current need — ultimately improving work performance and ensuring quality work.

This article explores what standard work is, standard work tips and how to use Scribe to automate process documentation.

What is standard work?

Standard work refers to the breakdown of work into the sequences and components necessary for each employee to understand and correctly carry out a specific process the same way, every single time.

Standard work has its origins in the manufacturing sector. It is a key principle of lean manufacturing, which relates to establishing exact procedures to make products in the simplest, safest, and most effective way. It also involves establishing, communicating, adhering to, and improving standards.

🆓 Related Resource: Standard Work Template You Can Use Today

How does standard work, work?

Setting up standard work begins with creating, clarifying, and distributing detailed, expert information on how certain tasks should be performed and executed by every employee. Once  it's shared, every employee must practice these standard instructions consistently, without compromising efficiency and safety. 

And since these standards are not set in stone, each employee should endeavor to improve the prevailing standard, with discoveries in new best practices shared as soon as they occur.

What are the elements of standard work?

There are three crucial elements of standard work. These elements are:

Take time

Takt time refers to how long it takes to produce products or perform services to meet customer demands. To calculate takt time, divide the rate it takes to produce a product from start to finish by customer demand,

For example, if you have 3,000 minutes every day to produce your products, your available production time is 3,000 minutes. And if customer demand is 850 products a day, then your takt time would be 3.529 per minute. This means that to meet customer demands, you need to produce two products every 3.529 minutes.

Here's how takt time can improve your business's operations:

  • Aids in identifying underperforming workstations.
  • Faster and easier identification of bottlenecks. 
  • Provides more focus on value-added results in minimal waste. 
  • Once established, routine functions enable faster operators; hence, resulting in increased output.

Work sequence

Work sequence is a step-by-step explanation of the precise actions employees need to take to carry out specific tasks within takt time.

The work sequence needs to be as detailed as possible for consistent quality results. It should include each step of the process and be listed down in the order in which they need to be completed.

Standard inventory

Standard inventory refers to the minimum amount of raw materials and parts that you need to produce products to meet customer demands.

Knowing the amount of in-process inventory is important since holding too little or too much inventory could be wasteful. Insufficient material can disrupt the work sequence while having too much inventory can result in overproduction. Hence, having a standard inventory provides a balance.

Standard work: 12 Tips to improve work performance & employee productivity

Tip #1: Use the right tools

Research shows that employees who collaborate on the job and who have access to digital collaboration tools are up to 17% more satisfied with their job and workplace culture.

This is why using an effective online collaboration tool to create and share standard work instructions is essential. Since most employees now choose to work remotely, organizations must leverage cloud-based tools and technology to streamline work processes and achieve more productivity.

Look out for the following when searching for the right process documentation software:

  • It should meet your business goals. 
  • It should seamlessly integrate with your favorite tools/apps.
  • It must offer document security features.
  • It must be intuitive, easy to use, and has a simple learning curve. 
  • It should meet your budget.
  • It should allow you to easily share standard work templates and other documents to your teams, irrespective of location.
  • It should offer you a list of features that you and your teams could benefit from.
  • Should meet your budget.
  • Offer a free (trial) option that helps you use the tool to understand how it works.

Luckily, Scribe offers all of these features and more. You can document processes 15X faster, as Scribe automatically generates a step-by-step guide template of your processes while you work.

📌 Related Resource: 4 Work Instructions Chrome Extensions

Tip #2: Gather accurate information

If you are the manager or supervisor leading the process of creating standard work documentation, ensure to involve the people that will carry out the actual tasks. Allow them to share their knowledge, suggestions, and experience because they are best placed to offer insights on the work to be done and why. Their participation in the process also helps instill a sense of ownership when creating the how-to guide.

You can follow these steps:

  • Break down work into steps and number them.
  • Discuss each of these steps with your employees.
  • Think of ways to optimize each of these steps.
  • Apply the improved work method together.

Tip #3: Constantly review

Since the standard work documented reflects the currently known best practices, it shouldn't be rigid. Continue reviewing various aspects of the work processes, such as operator movements and product flow, to ensure you always have an up-to-date current standard.

Additionally, get employees to give their input and engage in troubleshooting any existing challenges to try and discover more efficient ways to get the work done. This might mean eliminating activities that don’t add value. 

Tip #4: Stabilize the process 

The 4 m's (man, machine, material, and method) must be stable enough to support the standardization of work methods. Machine downtime, labor shortages, training gaps, quality issues, variation of methods, etc. must be made stable.

Tip #5: Jot down variations

Take a look at the different ways employees perform tasks and try to find which method or methods are the most efficient and the safest.

Tip #6: Document your processes

When adopting standard work, it’s important to have comprehensive documentation. This should include inspections, guides, standard operating procedure (SOP) documents, and other information that you gathered.

Tip #7: Store all information in a platform

Document all the information collected in a single, central platform. This ensures that the standard work template is accessible and readily available. Use Scribe for managing, storing and sharing standard work documentation.

Having the document within reach is essential as it makes it easier to make changes when necessary.  It's also useful in helping employees to follow best practices and also create a foundation for the necessary training material.

Tip #8: Ensure the standard work document is easy to read & understandable

Document each activity or procedure in a clear and simple way that’s easy to understand. Avoid including too much detail since this will clutter the standard work instructions. Rather, focus on key activities and consider using visual elements to make the document easier to understand. 

Visuals demonstrate difficult concepts, help people learn faster, and retain knowledge for longer. Use charts, graphs, pictures, diagrams, screenshots, screen recordings and other media to bring the standard work to life. 

Tip #9: Implement standard work processes

Once you find the most efficient ways to perform certain tasks, the next step is training the workforce with these new best practices. It'll help them know how to perform these tasks in the most efficient ways possible.

Tip #10: Update regularly

It's important to allow for changes to the current process to be reflected in the standard work document, especially since takt time can change. Automatically, this renders your standard work template outdated and therefore useless.  

Therefore, make allowances for exceptional cases, for instance, when a certain situation calls for adjusted timelines. Set up a plan to deal with such scenarios and document the ad-hoc process changes. Additionally, outline the temporary changes that will need to be effected and communicate a suitable plan to return to the standard once the situation is back to normal.

Tip #11: Offer training

After documenting the process,  provide your team with comprehensive training on how to follow and apply the standard instructions. To help the team recall what they need to do, post the documentation at workstations and on the walls. You should also monitor standard work implementation to ensure compliance and confirm its effectiveness.

Tip #12: Always look to improve

While adopting standard work processes can make an instant difference, especially in operational efficiency and effectiveness; you must always strive for ways to improve. This means even if you’ve implemented standard work within your organization, don't forget to always look for ways to improve and better the business.

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