Discover the concept of standardized work, how it benefits an organization, and which types of work and processes should be standardized.
Updated 31 Jan 2023, Published 14 Oct 2022
Standardized work is an approach to establishing consistent processes within an organization, resulting in consistent outputs. It is the process of defining a task, how it’s done, who does it, and when the person needs to perform the task. As a collaborative process, it should involve the supervising team and the workers on the ground who perform the tasks.
Standardized work is seen as one of the cornerstones of continuous improvement, and organizations use the approach to develop consistency and stability. The process also cuts down on waste, ensures constant uptime, and boosts efficiency within the organization.
Any process that is clearly laid out with concise instructions for whoever performs the task can qualify as standardized work.
For example, for many machine and equipment operations, there are documents to state who performs the task and when. The documents also contain the precise methodology of certain tasks to ensure that person performs them properly and safely.
Another example of standardized work is a customer service script. These scripts contain whatever the employee has to say in certain situations and how to approach different types of customers. While it’s not the most obvious example, this clearly describes a certain process and shows how to approach the process, so it qualifies as standardized work.
As a key component of the Lean method, there are many benefits that come with standardized work. Standardizing different processes and documenting them brings lots of benefits to an organization. Some of these benefits include:
There are many inherent risks that workers and organizations face on a daily basis. While some risks can be eliminated, there are some risks that workers must accept and take steps to mitigate.
Setting up a standardized work process for different tasks lays out the safest way for workers to finish tasks. When you lay out the documents that show the appropriate way to accomplish a task, workers are more inclined to follow the process for their own safety.
Organizations may use standardized work to establish protocols to follow for different jobs. Additionally, standardized work allows employees to focus on the tasks at hand without any distractions.
Another benefit that comes with standardized work is efficiency. To start, standardized work provides more structure for employees to follow. This removes a lot of the guesswork so employees can get on tasks right away.
And since the work becomes more predictable when standardized, planning and scheduling are much easier. This way, managers can come up with the most efficient schedule that reduces wasted time and improves overall productivity.
Through standardized work, organizations can better identify issues. It’s important to determine these problems right away so that you can apply a solution before the issue affects productivity.
One obvious benefit of using standardized work is improving the organization’s finances.
To start, standardized work reduces downtime and waste and allows you to detect processes that you can improve to reduce operational costs. This allows the organization to spend less money compensating for waste and paying for repairs and put their money into actual improvements for the business.
Additionally, standardized work allows for better budget planning. That way, it’s easier to lay out how much a project may cost and what measures the organization can take to reduce costs.
Lastly, standardized work allows for more consistent and comprehensive communication between teams and employees. Standardized work processes make information and knowledge available to the entire organization and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Since the workplace is more efficient and there’s less confusion, employee satisfaction also goes up. And when employees are satisfied, production and overall quality can also increase.
Any workplace process that occurs more than once and follows the same process every time should be standardized. This includes the protocol for operating different machinery, different cleaning processes, how to pack certain products, and even the organization’s safety measures.
One good way to gauge which processes to standardize is by talking to employees. Supervisors and managers can learn a lot by asking their employees different questions. For example, they can ask the team which steps in the process need more consistency. From there, it will be easier to figure out which processes would benefit the most from standardization.
This practice applies to any industry. For example, barber shops and salons may benefit from standardizing their work processes. Even if they have to approach every haircut differently depending on the style, the team can lay out clear steps for barbers and hairstylists to follow so that the processes are more consistent and results are more reliable.
It’s ideal for organizations to take steps to standardize any type of work process that is done regularly and in the same relative manner. That said, keep in mind that not all work processes should be standardized.
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Work processes that do not involve a consistent process or are done differently every time cannot be standardized. Certain tasks require a unique approach every time, which can make it difficult if not impossible to standardize.
But even if some processes can’t be standardized, the framework can be standardized. For example, artists doing logo designs for a company may approach each design differently. However, they can lay out a standard framework to follow every time, such as creating a draft, making a sketch, rendering it digitally, then making fine adjustments.
Standardized work and standard work are the same general concept. However, standard work may imply a bit more flexibility than standardized work, which can be good for certain situations.
Standardization establishes consistency, stability, and reliability in an organization. When work is standardized, the results are much more reliable, and productivity can go up.
Just about any industry or organization can benefit from standardized work. While not all processes are ideal for standardization, establishing consistent and reliable standards for different processes can bring the organization a lot of benefits.
Standardized work is one of the integral foundations of the Lean methodology. By standardizing work processes, organizations can operate more efficiently and deliver quality products with less time and resources wasted.
While applying for standardized work within an organization may offer a lot of benefits, doing so can be a bit complicated. This is especially true when introducing new standards to the organization.
This is why businesses can use tools like SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) to help apply the concepts. SafetyCulture makes it easier for organizations to standardize processes and keep everyone on the same page. Some of the features you can use to do this include:
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.
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