Standard work is an insult to my skills

I heard ‘Standard Work is an insult to my Skills’ the other day in a machine shop.

Interesting point of view as the worker was very skilled, problem solving difficult programmes and set-ups in a high variety shop across many machines. The worker was stressed and output was very variable because if he was not available the less skilled had to wait for him to help with changeovers.

Lean thinking

Persuading this skilled man that the answer lay in making standard work did seem a big stretch.

Standard work is a building block of lean thinking. The principle is that there is a current best sequence and method to complete a task.

If you are in automotive supply there will be standards and methods measured in seconds, if you fix aircraft there are methods and sequences described like a Haynes Manual about how to change a wheel or a starter motor.

These examples of standard work ensure quality, productivity and are the basis for all improvement. If we change the sequence or method and it does not reduce the risks of failure or reduce the time required – then there is no improvement.

The machine shop example above was crying out for

  • Standard fixture mounting to reduce change over time.
  • Standard sequence for the parts that repeated every month.
  • Cycle time recording to determine the current best way.

Standard method sheets to allow unskilled to pre kit the tooling.

In the current environment with no standards, the skilled worker was the hero, he was the one who sorted it all out. It was his skill that got the parts out. He felt very threatened by standard work because maybe then the company would not need him anymore; he believed that transferring his hard won knowledge on to methods sheets would reduce his value to the business.

Real emotions, real feelings because the skilled worker enjoyed the technical challenges of this chaos but this must be addressed if this situation was to be improved.

The leadership task is to see if the technical challenge of problem solving that the worker enjoyed everyday could be channelled into the technical challenge of reducing the setup time.

In other words, make standard work the challenge not the threat!