Standards Part 8: Example for a Work Standard

In this series I have talked a lot about standards in general, work standards, standardized work. Let me now show you an example of a work standard, an actual instruction on how to do a work. Since standards in industry are usually confidential, I present you my own standard on how to make a cup of ramen noodles. I used a software tool Soft4Lean SWI to help me with the format; more on that later.

Why to Make a Standard

I have made instant ramen before, and it always worked out. Hence, the actual process is not a problem… which straight out goes against my first advice, you must start with a problem. Sorry. I just need a standard to show it to you… Which again contradicts my earlier advice, just because you can have a standard does not mean that you should have a standard. Oops. Sorry again. Not a good start for this standard, but it will get better, I promise. And I will iterate and do the PDCA.

The Task

The task is basically simple: You take a cup of ramen, fill it with boiling water, wait three minutes, remove water, add the sauce, stir, and eat. You probably have done this before. But there are a few tricks and critical points:

  1. After filling the cup with boiling water, you put the lid back on. But sometimes the lid does not sit right. This can easily be checked by rotating the lid a bit. If it rotates easily but does not come off, then it is tight and will not fall down when you drain the hot water later.
  2. When draining the hot water, make sure to keep your fingers out of the rising steam. Most people figure that out after the first time, but why burn yourself once?
  3. While draining the water, some ingredients get stuck to the lid. If you drop the cup carefully from 10–15 cm height upright, the impact will drop some of these ingredients back into the cup. Important for a perpetually hungry guy like me.
  4. A particularly nifty trick is for getting all the sauce out of the sauce package. You open the sauce package, put it into the cup with only a corner sticking out, and then press the lid down on the cup. If you now pull out the sauce package, the lid will scrape all the sauce out of the package easily and quickly. See animated GIF for an example. By the way, this also works with most similar foil packages, and also e.g. between a pot and a pot lid. Overall this reduces the waste of sauce that remains in the package.

1st Round: Basic Steps

Soft4Lean Android app for mobile and tablet

The first round is merely to get an overview. I made myself a cup of ramen, noting down the steps I had to do. The Soft4lean SWI app on my tablet allowed me to note down the steps, and also take some pictures. This did not yet include much details, but merely gave me a first draft of the steps. I ended up with three pages of standards, the first one is shown below. You can also download this first version as a PDF here.

2nd Round: Refine Steps

Soft4Lean SWI screenshot

I switched to the Soft4Lean SWI software on my PC, since typing on a tablet is tough. I added more text. While trying out this second version, I added more pictures and also decided to also tweak the sequence a bit. I also reduced the row height to save space, but it is still two pages long.

Note how I did not fill out all fields of the reasons column? This is intentional. Try to focus on the more important steps, and if there is nothing to write in detail, then you should not add unnecessary fluff. The first page of this two-page standard is shown below. You can download this second version as a PDF here.

3rd Round: Verify

Next I wanted to verify the quality of the standard. I printed out the standard and had another cup of ramen while following the standard. For example, I added that I should turn off the beeping timer (Step 4.1), which I forgot in the first two versions. Other than that I did not change much, indicating that the standard seems to work. But it is still two pages long. The first one is shown below, but you can download the full standard of this 3rd version as a PDF here.

4th Round: Shorten

The standard is overall good, but still two pages long. This makes it more difficult to display without flipping some pages. Hence, I tried to narrow it down to a single page. I changed the template style in the Soft4Lean SWI software to a simpler style. I merged some steps, getting down from 24 steps to 18. I also removed some images that may not have been fully necessary. Below is the updated standard, now on a single page. You can also find this 4th version of the standard as a PDF for download here.

5th Round: Verify again

Trying out the standard one more time, I decided to merge step 2 & 3 and remove the image from step 3 as it did not add value neither to the operator nor to the observing manager. Since there were no other changes, I think the standard is good for now, or at least until the next improvement round. I did all of this over the course of a couple of days, not because it takes so long, but because I did not want to eat 5 cups of ramen in one sitting. Below is the final standard, which is also available as a PDF here. While I did not mention it explicitly, all those iterations are also loops of  a PDCA. Always see if it works, and improve if not.

Put Standard at Workplace and Train Operators

Still life with standards and fruits

After creating the standard, I put it up in my kitchen. And just if you are wondering, my kitchen always looks very clean and has attractive fruits lying around. It is not like I spent one hour cleaning my kitchen before taking pictures. Don’t believe anybody that claims otherwise! My kitchen pictures are not modified, just like people on Instagram would not use a filter to make them look better than they do, right?

So now I have to train the other operators … which means … I have to train my wife in the use of the kitchen

I have the feeling that telling my wife how to cook may be not good for my health and lead to an untimely end for my blog, just a week before its 8th birthday. Hence, let’s just assume I have trained all operators, okay?

The Software Tool Soft4Lean SWI

I got an offer from Tomasz Koch from the Lean Enterprise Institute Poland to try out the software tool Soft4Lean SWI that helps in creating a standard. It helped me in creating this example standard for my cup of ramen. (This app is also available in Portugal through the Lean Academy Portugal)

Disclosure: Tomasz and I have known each other for quite some time now for our mutual benefit, and occasionally even do business together. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

Soft4Lean SWI worked for me and made creating a standard quite a bit easier compared to the usual messing around with Excel. Overall it was quite intuitive and easy to use even without a manual. It also exports into PDF and MS Excel format if you want to do further tweaking. However, I am not an expert in standardized work software, and there are also many other tools out there like Dozuki, Starling, VKS, EaseWorks, Cioplenu, and many more. As far as I can see, they don’t offer groundbreaking new ideas, but they do make the grunt work of putting a standard into Excel (PowerPoint? Word?) much easier.

Now, go out, write your standards, improve them, make sure they actually work, and organize your industry!

Series Overview

2 thoughts on “Standards Part 8: Example for a Work Standard”

  1. Professor,

    Seeing an example of the development of a work standard lead me to realize that the training guides that I develop for a coop position is a form of a work standard. I will be able to incorporate your PDCA process of basic, refine, verify, shorten, verify as I have been having trouble with some. I am using powerpoint at this time but may look in to some of the other programs you mentioned are available.

  2. Ethan, good analogy. What I do for trainings is to make a powerpoint slide deck, and instead of notes which many other people use, I have hidden slides with notes (i.e. what to ask the students, results of exercises, etc.)

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