It’s particularly important in the manufacturing industry that operational and production processes remain reliable and consistent. And standardization is one of the best ways to achieve this. This article examines the benefits of standardization in manufacturing.
So, what’s standardization?
When we hear the word ‘standardization’, we tend to think of boring, mundane, repetitive tasks that anyone could perform. But there’s much more to it than this. Standardization combines processes, procedures, and visual work instructions in such a way that allows people to perform a task or job to the best of their abilities. What’s more, using a standardized approach often involves following prescribed standards and certification requirements, for example ISO standards.
Standardization generally focuses on consistency, achieved by applying a clear set of guidelines and best practices. In other words, it shouldn’t matter who in your organization performs the task, the results will always be the same without any loss of quality or productivity.
Another aspect of standardization is predictability. You then know exactly what to expect, what the results will be, and how long it will take. This is reassuring for staff and managers alike, as managers can then steer processes more easily and staff know in advance what the outcomes should be. Standardization also has benefits for customers, as they then know that the products or services they buy meet certain quality standards.
3 basic ingredients for standardization
Standardization comes in all shapes and sizes but is made up of three basic ingredients.
By ‘process’, we mean several consecutive activities that create an output from an input. Processes center on ‘what’ – they’re the strategies that define the key manufacturing components.
- tasks – what action is being performed?
- roles – who is involved in performing the task and how?
Lastly, processes give you a helicopter view and determine whether your standardization efforts meet national or international quality and safety standards.
By ‘procedure’, we mean the way in which standardization is implemented so that processes can be performed as effectively as possible. Procedures divide standardized work into steps and define their inputs and outputs.
For example, if your company bottles fruit, then your procedures should ensure that staff fill the jars in the right way (standardized), label the jars with the right labels, and use the right tools to do the job. The result is a consistent product that customers can rely on when they find them on their supermarket’s shelves.
3. Job instructions
Job instructions are the step-by-step instructions that teams receive on the work floor. Their aim is to ensure everyone follows procedures as correctly, effectively, and safely as possible. Good job instructions provide your staff with all the information they need to perform a task successfully. They’re the ‘link’ in manufacturing between standardization as a concept and the human factor.
Benefits of standardization in manufacturing
Standardization has many benefits, especially in manufacturing.
1. Greater clarity & predictability
Standardization avoids any unpleasant surprises. Your processes (inputs & outputs) become predictable, and you can plan them more easily. You know exactly how they’re configured, what steps they’re made up of, and how much time they take. This is reassuring for staff and managers alike, as managers can then steer processes more easily and staff know in advance what the outcomes should be.
2. Knowledge retention
Knowledge is the key to success, especially in our modern-day information society. By standardizing processes and tasks, it becomes easier to document and then retain knowledge. Standardization involves drafting clear instructions, which means it’s far less likely that you’ll lose important knowledge when someone leaves the company to find a new job or retire. What’s more, it also helps you onboard new staff more quickly.
3. Greater flexibility
Standardization makes it easier to rotate staff because they have a clear blueprint guiding them and allowing them to pick up other tasks more easily. What’s more, if you also standardize products and tools, it reduces the time needed to find the right replacement components or parts when something breaks.
4. Consistent quality
Is everyone performing a certain task in exactly the same way? If so, then output and ultimately your end product will be of a consistently high quality. In effect, this establishes an internal system of quality standards that can help set you apart from your competition.
5. Easier compliance
Most manufacturers have to comply with international, national, or sector-specific standards, for example ISO 9000. Non-compliance simply isn’t an option. In such a case, standardization acts as a control mechanism to help you comply with all the rules, regulations, and requirements.
6. Reduced waste
When everyone in your organization is performing a task in the same way, it then becomes easier to spot any bottlenecks or sources of waste. Once you’ve resolved these issues, your organization will become more economical with its use of energy, raw materials, and human capital.
The right tools for the job
If you’re thinking about getting to grips with standardization and want to reap the rewards, then besides the right people you’ll also need the right tools.
Standardization requires having a clear picture of all your staff’s skills, knowledge, and qualifications. Skills matrices are a great way to map all the information available about your staff’s knowledge levels, skills, qualifications, etc. What’s more, they also help you find replacements much faster, and you’ll always be prepared for your next audit!