The goal of standard work principles is about anticipating outcomes. If “X” actions are taken then “Y” will happen. There is always the opportunity for error, but in a true standardised lean office these would only be due to directions not being followed or followed in the wrong order.
Standardizing Office procedures requires that every process must be analysed, optimised and documented. Once in place, the biggest challenge then is to enforce into the workforce the concept of moving away from the new processes. Sustainment typically requires two tools: firstly staff usually require training and secondly measures/metrics are put in place to monitor activity and provide a method of escalating issues as a result of non-standard activity. Many organizations will also implement routine process auditing.
Product variation is a typical business waste – producing inferior products or products that don’t conform to customer requirement. Process variation then can be a substantial problem resulting in excess cost. Typically in a Manufacturing environment organizations have reduced variation by adopting standard processes ( increasing quality as a byproduct). The goals of implementing standard processes in an office environment are pretty similar: take for example the Sales Invoice – it requires a certain quality of production to ensure that the company is paid – get it wrong and it can have a severe cash-flow implication! Standard processes help products conform to what they should be.
There are certain steps to consider when implementing standard work in an Office environment – again they have their origins in manufacturing but are equally applicable to service environments –
• Takt time – This is the maximum amount of time dedicated to the task in hand in order to meet customer requirements.
• Work Sequence – It is imperative that all staff are aware of the sequence of events that must happen in order to achieve the desired result. Ensuring that staff do not deviate from the dictated path is of utmost importance
To complete the above elements there are also 3 main tools used to document standard work and facilitate kaizen. All three tools are adapted from their manufacturing roots to assist with ensuring that standard work is being achieved:
• Standard Worksheet – This is the prime example of visual management in regards to lean. It is used to document the existing process steps to provide a baseline for improvement.
• Time observation sheet – This allows in depth analysis of a process to document the time that the process should take. It is also very helpful in identifying any non value adding steps.
• Work combination sheet – This is the final step in standard work organising. As the name implies it is a combination of the two sheets above and is used to record all waiting times in an easy to understand graphical representation of the process.
In Summary, standard work aims and objectives are the same in an office environment as they are in a manufacturing one. It is the method to keep processes constant so that the outcome is what was predicted and it was achieved in the most efficient and professional way.