Standard Work

Discover what standard work is, the benefits of applying it, and how to effectively implement standard work processes within an organization.

What is Standard Work?

As the name suggests, standard work refers to the process of standardizing procedures within the workplace. That way, every employee has a standard set of steps to follow for specific tasks which aim to reduce variability, enhance consistency, and promote continuous improvement in the workplace.


A clear example of utilizing standard work in an organization is machine operations. When operating specific machinery, there are steps that employees need to follow to ensure that they run the machine correctly and safely. And if an organization establishes a consistent procedure to follow to operate the equipment, that’s an example of standard work.

Another less obvious example of standard work is when organizations give their employees scripts for customer service encounters. Establishing specific replies and approaches in different customer service situations is a clear example of standard work and processes within an organization.

What Are Its Elements?

To apply standard work within an organization, it’s important to know that there are three crucial elements of standard work. These elements are:

Takt Time

Takt time refers to how long it takes to produce products or perform services to meet customer demands. You can’t use a stopwatch to measure takt time. Instead, you have to divide the rate it takes to produce a product from start to finish with customer demand,

For example, if you have 1,000 minutes every day to produce your products, your available production time is 1,000 minutes. And if customer demand is 500 products a day, then your takt time would be 2 per minute. This means that to meet customer demands, you need to produce two products every minute.

Work Sequence

These are the specific steps that employees need to take to perform a service or a process. It should include each step of the process and be listed down in the order in which they need to be completed.

Standard Inventory

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


Applying standard work operations within an organization offers many benefits. Organizations may reap different benefits from standard work depending on their industry and other variables. Here are some of the more universal benefits that all industries may receive by employing standard work practices.

Reduced Variability

The first benefit is reduced variability. When organizations have standard processes, they can rely on their processes to manufacture consistent products each and every time. When this happens, the work becomes more predictable, which allows the organization to strategize more effectively and find ways to improve its existing processes.

Enhanced Efficiency

Another benefit of applying standard work is that it helps employees simplify their tasks. Most of the time, employees may find it difficult to figure out how to perform certain tasks in the most efficient and safest way possible. But when standard work is in place, they won’t have as many questions and can focus more on the tasks at hand.

Continuous Improvement

Lastly, using standard work processes in an organization can help you work towards continuous improvement. When adopting continuous improvement in an organization, you need to have standard work processes. Adopting standard work allows you to get a full view of current processes and how the processes affect production.

That way, you can easily figure out areas of improvement and different ways to enhance productivity and efficiency within your organization.

How to Implement Standard Work

Adopting standard work in an organization is a long process that may look different for every company. But to make sure you cover all bases when adopting these new processes, there are some steps that you cannot skip. Here’s a quick guide to how you can apply standard work within an organization and run into fewer road bumps along the way:

  • Gather Data – The first step is to collect data to establish your takt time and existing work sequence. During this step, it’s important to get as much historical data as possible because it will help the team establish efficient and productive standard work processes.
  • Note 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. This way, they know how to perform these tasks in the most efficient ways possible.
  • Strive for Continuous Improvement – While adopting standard work processes can make an instant difference, you will always be able to find ways to improve. So, even if you’ve implemented standard work within an organization, it’s important to always look for ways to improve and better the business.

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Challenges in Applying Standard Work

Adopting standard work within an organization is more complicated than it seems. It’s very common for organizations to run into the following problems when adopting standard work within their organization.

  • Managers may not be familiar with the actual problems employees face on the ground and fail to consider their input when establishing standard work processes.
  • It can be difficult for the entire team to agree that they need to employ standard work in their operations.
  • Training employees and educating them on standard processes can be a long and labor-intensive undertaking.
  • If leaders and workers are not working together, it can lead to ineffective standard work processes.


FAQs about Standard Work

Standard work and standardized work both refer to having set processes within an organization when performing certain tasks. However, the term standardized work can imply a bit more flexibility with the processes compared to standard work.

Standard work documents are documents that follow a set template to make it easier to create and understand the document.

It’s common to assume that standard work is mindless work. However, even if the processes and steps are standard, employees still need to ensure that they have the presence of mind to perform the tasks.

Standard work is usually created by team leaders and managers. However, it’s very important to include workers’ input when creating standard work to ensure that you cover all the bases and establish  processes that actually make the work simpler and more consistent.

Leon Altomonte
Article by
Leon Altomonte
Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He got into content writing while taking up a language degree and has written copy for various web pages and blogs. Aside from working as a freelance writer, Leon is also a musician who spends most of his free time playing gigs and at the studio.