I’ve posted a lot recently about the importance of implementing a standardized process – the ability to audit and measure, the ease of implementing improvements across the board, establishment of a baseline predictable process, and so forth.
So how do we make an existing non-standardized process into a standardized one?
Let’s identify the differences between a standardized and non-standardized process. Standardized processes:
- are, well, standardized with everyone using or performing the process doing so in exactly the same manner
- have all of the steps documented and explained with step descriptions and images or maps where necessary
- include all of the process step completion times listed so the process completion cycle times are readily available
- clearly state the resources required – manpower, work cells or desks, equipment, and raw materials
- are agreed upon by all process users and are considered the best practice at the moment with the resources that are available
- are predictable – with the process being completed in a consistent manner with a constant cycle time, it’s easy to project the throughput and capacity of a process
- fall in line with what the customer expects – why work on a process the customer doesn’t require? With a predictable process one can identify whether they will meet, exceed, or fall short of customer requirements and make changes to schedules or manpower as necessary
- are not permanent and can be updated to reflect improvements in cycle times, manpower, or resource availability
The first thing you’ll want to tackle are the customer requirements. How many completed units or cycles are expected within a specific amount of time? How many applications need to be filed today? How many claims need to be analyzed this week? How many completed assembled parts should leave this process every hour?
Next you analyze the available resources. This isn’t necessarily what will be used in the process but merely what could be applied if necessary. This will include the manpower, equipment, tools, and available capacities. Also, determine who owns the process – who is responsible for validating the accuracy and predictability of the process. Maybe it’s a department head, manager, or supervisor. If no one owns the process, there can be no validation or accountability to make sure the process remains standardized.
After this you begin to lay out the process. Using the input of the folks actually running the process and the customer requirements, map out each step of how the process would run ideally. In the best case scenario, everyone who runs the process would be together to share their best practices, questions, and ideas on developing the standard process. Identify what tools are used, be detailed in including all major and minor steps (as well as those steps that could be deemed lean waste activities), and come to a full group understanding (if not full consensus).
Remember, this mapped-out process doesn’t need to be perfect yet – merely standardized. The easiest way to collect information on mapping out the process steps is simply scribbling on a pad of paper or dry-erase board, while also scribbling out errors or moving things around. If you have a bigger writing space to work with, use Post-It notes for each step so you don’t have to scribble errors out frequently.
Any way you do it, you should be figuring out the easiest way to complete the process.
Here is an example of a list of standardized process steps, with completion times, for cooking burgers.
Each step is listed in order, receives a description that is easy to communicate, the amount of time the step should take, and the cumulative time needed through the completion of each step. According to this process, four burgers should be produced every 147 seconds. This particular process is a one-person operation but if more than one person is a part of the process those operators should be identified as well (such as Operator A and Operator B) with each of their steps.
This chart should be included in the documentation that is readily available to reference for all operators and should also be used as a guide for training. Everyone using this process should follow this procedure and not deviate.
In addition, depending on the process and the situation, it might be important to include a process layout – a map of equipment, tools, work benches, movement of people and materials, and where items are located.
However, as stated above, standardized processes are not hard and fast – they are made to implement improvements across the board! What if a burger flipper found a way to complete some of the steps faster – instead of flipping one patty at a time he used a long spatula to flip all four at the same time? What if he had opened buns in the trays ready to go before the patties were done cooking on the grill?
With standardized processes, this burger flipper can share his idea about doing things faster or with better quality and the process document can be updated. Remember, the document needs to reflect best practices and also identify updates to the process where things are being done faster, with less effort, and with improved quality.
So how can improvements be communicated, validated, and implemented? The owner of the process should also own the document and should be the point person for collecting improvement ideas. On a regular basis the process owner and process users should meet to review the process and potential improvements. If improvements are agreed upon by all users, the documentation should be updated to reflect the new “best practices” process.
A standardized process is followed by all, reflects the best practices, is time-based and measurable, documented, can be projected and predicted, is deemed necessary by the customer, and can be improved. Any questions?