What is Standard Work?

What is Standard Work (SW)?

  • Is the best way of doing a job we know until now, to perform it with safety and quality.
  • In any kind of activity, it is the basic instrument used to measure the quality of people’s work.
  • It is a simple, clear, and visual document presenting a standard method of accomplishing a task.
  • It’s created by the people doing the work, facilitated by their leader.
  • Ensures the correct use of tools and machines.

“Without a Standard, there is no logical basis for making a decision or taking action” –  Joseph M. Juran

Why is it so important to have standards?

  • Is the basis for stability. In Lean, Standard Work is the requirement for abnormality management, we want to define the expected working conditions in order to see deviations (problems).
  • We want to teach everybody performing a specific job to do it the same way every time and look for further ways for improvement.
  • Using Standard Work the quality and safety risks of related activity can be highlighted and people get aware of them.
  • Every time when we want to generate a process improvement, the actual version of Standard Work will be the starting point toward the next evolution.
  • Through SW we make it possible to identify and eliminate variations in the way of working. Of course, in this respect, the documentation held by the team should be always updated.

What are the elements of Standard Work?

  • Work (Standard) Sequence: is the steps required to complete a single process in the safest and most efficient way, while maintaining the expected quality of the unit.  
  • Takt Time reference is the pace at a unit that must be produced to match the rate of customer demand.
  • Standard Work in Progres (WIP): it defines the right quantity that shall be in between different workstations, at any moment in time, during the working hours.
  • Workload Balance: it visually represents the cycle times of the different operations versus Takt Time.


  • SW should be created for the user’s purpose but not to satisfy a formal requirement.
  • Develop an audit system to periodically review the adherence to the standards and identify new opportunities for their improvement.
  • Identify the experts that can own the standard work.
  • If the process is not already documented, then start with the current practice. If there are several versions (different people doing the same activity), integrate them by selecting the best of practices.
  • Documentation should be simple and easy to use: can be flow charts, checklists, excel macros, graphs, etc.
  • Where ever possible, promote the visual aids.
  • When necessary, create a training module to teach people about SW.


SW is the basis for the following improvements. In TPS it is the foundation of Lean house.

SW is a powerful tool for eliminating losses and initiating Kaizen.

It is a method of integrating quality & safety into the process.

“Without Standards there can be no Kaizen” – Taichi Onho

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