Standardized Work Builds a Flexible Work Force

World class organizations understand the value in having flexibility. Not only in the ability to meeting changes in customer demand or introduce new products with great speed, but also in continuing operations.  Flexible organizations can keep the presses running even when some of people who fill key roles are missing.  Standardized work is the key to a flexible work force and the first step in automation.

The key to a flexible work force

A flexible workforce can fill roles up and down the value stream with a team of employees skilled in most operations.  It is the opposite of a press operator who “runs the press” or shear operator “who runs the shear”.  If either are absent, then the line stops.

The first step to building in flexibility is to establish the content, sequence, timing, location, and expected outcome of each task.  This knowledge needs to be documented in detail with visuals and quality criteria. 

Standardized work is the key to building the skill sets of the team.  It serves to organize the work area with ease of access to understanding how the process works and what tools are necessary. It also serves as a basis for training new tasks and quality outcomes.

First Step in Automation

Standardized work is the first step in automation. When faced with automating any task the programmer will ask for, the work content, specific sequence, necessary timing, likely location and of course the expected outcome.  They will then use this criterion to build the equipment and program the logic to reliably create produce the product.

Most equipment designs and software programs need this basic information to complete the process reliably on time. Just like a person does.

Turnover and absenteeism are often a problem at many organizations and a lot of effort is put into acquiring and keeping good employees.  World class organizations apply the same effort to standardizing the work so they can absorb the absent roles more effectively.

Help your organization meet changes in customer demand, introduce new products to market faster, and maintain continuing operations by using standardized work to be more flexible.  

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “52 Reflections for Operations,” now available through He is also the founder of UTV Advisors, a business consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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