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Starting Point of the improvement, the standard is the basic tool of problem solving and management.


By definition, a standard is the best way to make known to date1. It represents an organization, a sequence of tasks, an instruction… that all must know and implement in its daily work.

In this, the notion of standard induces several things:

  • There is a way of doing
  • All teams are informed and trained at the standard
  • The standard is up to date

Standardization issue

Basis for improvement

The standard is the basis of the improvement. Taichi OHNO indicated ” without standard, we cannot improve2. A standard allows to define a measurable performance level (in terms of quality, cost and delay) and guarantees a predictable result.

From this level, we can set up cycles PDCA/SDCA to gradually improve performance.

Reducing variability

A standard allows to reduce the variability of the process and to smooth the level of performance of the teams: the less good integrating the knowledge of the best and the best caregivers the less good.

Dealing with variances, reacting

A standard creates a known and shared ” norm ” so that the abnormality becomes obvious. As we integrate new standards, reaction automations are seen.

For example, when you see a stop sign, you stop. It is an automatism on which today we no longer have to think.

Focus on Value Added

Standardizing tasks makes it easier to dedicate to tasks with real added value, rather than wasting time on trivial, repetitive tasks… This phenomenon we find in what doctors call decision-making fatigue.

Decision fatigue is a medical term that was formulated by Roy Baumeister3, a researcher in social psychology. He says, “Successful people don’t make better decisions through their will. Is develop habits that reduce the number of decisions they have to make and, therefore, stress. already in 1887, the American philosopher William James wrote : “The more we will be able to circumscribe the details of our daily life to the reflexes of automatism, the more our higher faculties of mind will be released to do their job properly.” 4

The founder of Facebook approached the topic at a public conference:

I want to make sure that I have as few decisions as possible in Take on anything that does not concern Facebook. I am fortunate to be in a position where Every day I get up and can help more than a billion people, and I’ll feel like I’m not doing my job well if I was to expend my energy on superfluous and frivolous things. »

These comments echo those held by Barack Obama in 2012. Journalist Michael Lewis asked the American president to teach him… to be President. Among his advice, the cloakroom:

« I only wear blue or grey costumes, I try to minimize the number of decisions to make. I don’t want to take it in relation to what I’m wearing or what I’m eating, because I have too much to take besides. You need to set up a routine, you don’t have to be distracted by trivial things during your day. »5

Capitalize knowledge

As the company moves forward, the standards evolve and adapt to the new level of the company. This capitalization allows to pool the knowledge and to train the staff.

Integrating broad constraints

A standard should not only represent an operation or a sequence. A standard must also incorporate broader notions that are an integral part of work. We find:

  • The constraints of HSE
  • The concepts of ergonomics in the work

Team Manager

By definition, a standard represents the work that needs to be done. The setting up of the standards allows it to facilitate the work of the managers:

  • Makes it easier to control tasks.
  • Guarantees more accurate task scheduling.
  • Makes it easier to distinguish the error from the fault.
  • To make operators aware of their work

Moreover, the standardization of the processes allows to help managers in a more holistic management of the company:

  • More accurate and reliable indicator steering system.
  • Facilitate the identification of the ” core business ” tasks of other tasks and thus facilitate the decision to subcontract or not.
  • To facilitate the definition of the functions of the staff and the recruitments to be carried out.

How far to go in standardization?

Standardization has been used excessively, with the failures that this type of approach may have known. It is necessary to define the right level for ensure social peace and performance.

The Karasek model Clearly highlights this point: At the most the teams are constrained by high standards of standardization, at the most the psychosocial risk is present and at least we have performance.

It will be based on the Karasek Questionnaire To identify the right level of our standards.

Standard work VS standard work

the working Standard, Sagyo Hyojun 作業標準: These are the set of conditions, rules and specifications that define the work. These are mainly product/service related values such as the torque level to be reached.

Standard work, Hyojun Sagyo 標準作業: This is the document that indicates the process, the Takt Time, the inventory levels. This is actually the SOP.

Prescribed work/Actual work

We know that it is enough to go to the Gemba and observe the reality to realize that the standards are not or poorly applied.

That’s what the ergonomists call thegap between the prescribed work and the actual work.

Before pointing fingers at the operatives by concluding that they do so in knowledge, most often this demonstrates many other causes:

  • Standard Unsuitable: obsolete indications, equipment down…
  • Standard Poorly designed: the movements and displacements indicated generate fatigue, risks MSD… and the operatives adapted it.
  • Autonomy in the work : The company leaves the operatives autonomous in the work and leaves the standards.
  • Lack of training : The standard may simply not be known to people or it is too complex.
  • Cultural: The company develops an oral culture more than written.

Identifying these gaps will allow you to bring out sources of difficulty or to the contrary of added value.

Contents of a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP)

A standard is a representation of a sequence of operations to get a result. In an SOP, we find:

  • The different stages of the procedure with the detail of the step
  • Photos of the details of the operations to be done
  • The quantities, the necessary tools…
  • Travel and interactions with other operators
  • Safety or quality indications
  • Managing the simultaneity of tasks via a simogramme
  • Time balancing with the Takt time via a Yamazumi Chart

Step 1: Observe sequences of operations

First rule: A standard is built with the users. This is because the Gemba teams are the ones who know the job best, and they will use them.

Using measuring devices (photo, video, stopwatch, card…), we will observe the sequence of operation and annotate each sequence taking into account:

  • Travel
  • Tasks to be performed
  • The means to be used
  • The time to perform each sequence
  • By raising all possible figures: distance, temperature…

It is also a good time to raise the points of progress.

Concept of sequences of operations

The sequence of the operator’s work and the sequence of transformation of the products or a service should not be confused and the work of man/machine should be distinguished:

  • The operator’s working sequence: This is the working time required by a trader to execute a sequence of operations and get a result.
  • The sequence of product/service transformations: This is the total time that a product will move from an initial state to a finite state. It is representative of the real time of value added.

Concept of WIP Standard

The standard WIP stock is the minimum amount of parts required at each stage so that operators can repeat the manufacturing cycle continuously:

  • Measure the standard WIP after each workstation
  • Set a standard WIP goal: Maximum 1 unit if possible

Step 2: Document the layout of the work environment

Represented at the scale, all elements of the workstation must be indicated:

  • The Stocks
  • The equipment
  • Tools and other equipments
  • The location of other positions and other operational

The whole issue is that we can quickly understand the operating flow of the work area.

Step 3: Divide the process steps into elemental tasks

When observing the operative sequence, we must structure the course in tasks and sub-tasks, always to bring structure and understanding to the standard.

Step 4: Document the steps of the process

Each step must be documented. Typically, a control step must include the criteria of controls, their values and their tolerances. A machine cycle must have settings… It is also required to indicate where the Poka-Yoké are.

The challenge is to allow the operational to have all the necessary elements for the work as close as possible, without having to move to the quality point for example.

Step 5: Illustrate the standard

In order to carry out a visual SOP, pictures and drawings are added. In particular, put photos good/not good to simplify the quality controls and illustrate visual criteria that are difficult to measure.

Step 6: Assign a time for the realization of each step of work

For each of the steps, identify a time for their realization. If we do not have them, we will use the tools of the measurement of working time.

Step 7: Identify key points for QHSE and ergonomics

For each of the steps, we identify all the elements related to the procedure: the concepts of hygiene, safety, environment and ergonomics. For example, by adding logos on the stages at risk.

Step 8: Confirm with the manager/team

All the elements must be validated by the team leader and the team. Obtaining this consensus improves the adherence of people to the use of standards.

Characteristics of a good standard

  • Concise: A standard is not a novel.
  • Realistic: Standard work must have been observed and developed with the help of several operators and teams.
  • Visual: It contains photos, videos, logo
  • Simple: It has a clear structure
  • Full: Safety and quality operations are part of the standard work.
  • Structuring: It contains all the data so that the person easily understands his work sequence. It causes reactions if the person finds a discrepancy.
  • Referenced: It must be referenced to facilitate its research and structure the audits
  • Validated: It must be signed by officials to engage the operational.
  • Takté: The standards must allow the Takt time to follow, neither below nor above, and foresee the different scenarios of Takt time.
  • Balanced: The standard is built to have balanced sequences.
  • Efficient: It does not contain Muda.
  • Ergonomics: It takes into account the ergonomic constraints to eliminate MSDrisks.
  • HSE: It takes into account the elements of hygiene, safety and environment.

In conclusion

Rather than judging and blaming, the manager has to ask the questions related to the implementation of the standards.


1 – M. Ballee, G. Beauvallet (2008) – Talent Toyota, working Paper n ° 16

2 – T. Ohno (1978) – The Toyota spirit

3 – F. R. Baumeister (1998)-“The Self,” In Handbook of Social Psychology

4 – W. James (1887) – The principles of Psychology

5 – The World (November 28, 2014) – Why do Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg always dress the same?

F. Bourgeois (2012) – what does the ergonomics that Lean does not know/do not want to know

INRS (2013) – Lean Manufacturing: What place for health and safety at work

J. Drew, B. McCallum, S. Roggenhofer (2004) – Lean goal-succeeding the company at the fairest

T. Narusawa, J. Shook (2009)-Kaizen Express

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