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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Managers must be teachers: training is a key responsibility of a lean manager, and operators standards and standardized work training tools

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Monday, March 25, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

As you mention job instructions, I’m assuming that you’re referring to Operations Standards Sheets. This lists de specific standards that must be met in order to achieve standardized work – safety standards, training standards, equipment operations and maintenance work standards, quality of materials, components and operations standards. I’m not sure how often these would change. Sure, kaizen might lead to modify these standards, but this would involve other departments in many cases, and certainly engineering – and isn’t likely to happen that frequently.

On-the-job training is a fundamental part of the supervisor’s responsibilities. The objectives of such training are, firstly, to make sure the operator is can confidently handle the job (ie knows the job standards) but also, secondly, to develop the person’s ability to respond to change. This has more to do with standardized work.

Standardized work is a chart of the work sequence for each operator. It maps operator movements through the cell: feet movements, hand movements, eye movements. Standardized work changes as the plant’s volume changes (takt time change) or if different variants are added to the process, or indeed if kaizen changes the work content on the cell. Every change in the standardized work requires on-the-job training sessions so that people fully understand new processes or changed work.

It would be convenient if we could set up a work process once and for all, but in real life processes change in minor ways almost every day. What happens if someone doesn’t show up for work? The supervisor has to train someone. Or if any equipment is modified. Operators need to cope with all these changes and learn to master different work content for any takt change, additional variants, new processes and so on. The ideal situation is for every person to handle their work station, but also be competent at every other work station as well. In short: more training.

When it comes specifically to kaizen changes, the check in the kaizen process itself requires that all operators in the modified station have okayed the change – so they are in the loop from the start. On the job training is what a lean manager does. Every day. Obviously, when standards or standardized work is changed, supervisors should make sure every operator understand and masters the change. But the point is that this is what supervisors must do, change or not, every day to deepen the understanding of the work and spur suggestions for kaizen.

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