Standardized Work Starts with the Sequence of Work

Good Continuing Operations Planning includes the creation of standardized work to help create a more flexible work force able to fill in for missing team members.  That standardized work includes the work content required to build a product or provide a service as well the timing, location, and expected outcome. All of these elements are necessary to create valuable documents for training and work design, but it start with the work sequence.

The work sequence is the order in which the work content is completed and often varies from person to person.  Something as simple as making a cheeseburger needs specifics about which goes first the pickles or the ketchup.  These specifics are captured in the sequence  of the work elements listed on the standardized work.

Sequence matters because, it reduces variation, and helps standardize the work area.

Reduces Variation

“The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work.” W. Edwards Deming

Even the task of making a cheeseburger with a top bun and bottom bun, mustard, ketchup, pickles, and cheese has several variations for how it can be made.  The ingredients can be placed on the burger first then added to the buns,  or the mustard and ketchup can go directly on the bun and the cheese added to the burger on the grill.

And with all of the distractions of making food fast and filling a full order that variation can create a different sandwich time after time.  (Including a sandwich that is missing the pickle. )

If the process is standardized, the first step is agreeing on the sequence.

The top bun is toasted and then ketchup and mustard are added. Then onion and one pickle for a single cheeseburger are added to the bottom bun (the heel) and a slice of cheese (American) is added – then one burger patty is put on top of the cheese and the top bun is put on. Then it is wrapped.

When the simple the sequence is agreed upon the variation can begin to reduce as everyone is instructed through training, documentation, and / or visuals to perform the sequence the same.

Standardize the Work Area

Now that the sequence has been established we can start to design the work area to reduce variation and the likelihood of an error.  Given the example above we now know that the top bun should be first in the assembly line, followed by a toaster, then the ketchup and mustard dispenser, the onions and pickles, bottom bun, and American cheese. All of the ingredients can be located in the same sequence helping the assembler visualize the construction as well as those who replenish the supplies to know where to look.

It seems obvious and simple in the example, but applies in our operations.  The work content for assembling products, mixing ingredients, running equipment, or serving a meal all have a sequence that, when defined, begins to reduce the variation and create the ability to standardize the work area.

Help your organization create a good Continuing Operations Plan that includes the creation of standardized work to help develop a more flexible work force and start the standardized work with the sequence.


Brian Kurtyka

Brian Kurtyka

Brian Kurtyka

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