Changing Company Culture through Lean

Change in Company Culture through Lean

Lean culture has proven that organizations can consistently improve their competitiveness. Thousands of companies have been inspired by the path set by Toyota, giving people the conditions for the pursuit of improved process flexibility and reliability. The Lean philosophy sets people as a fundamental part and seeks to provide them with the methodologies and the initiative to drive the improvement of all processes within their organizations.

Lean philosophy focuses on innovation and development process, not only because of the strong impact it has on the company’s results in the short and long term, but also because it strongly influences the performance of other processes:

  • Supply chain and purchasing efficiency
  • Productivity improvement through process improvement.
  • Improving the social environment
  • Development of new customers and markets
  • Customer satisfaction

It is therefore essential for any company to be able to identify and define the best compromise between:

  • The innovation organization model for future growth
  • Excellence in product/service development and improvement processes
  • Integration with other business processes (Lean Enterprise).

You cannot make this massive change overnight, nor can this new culture come from the bottom up, and more importantly, if the conversion to Lean is to happen, it has to be about people. You must help them see the waste and opportunities that have always existed in order for the change to be consistent and lasting.

How to change the company’s current culture

Ohno insisted that “costs are not to be calculated, but to be reduced” and that in production, data is important, but he preferred to put a higher emphasis on facts. So we should not be obstinate in the study of work without first understanding “the culture” of the company in which we want to implement an improvement methodology.

Lean culture does not respond to a unique standardized work scheme that we can copy from one organization to another. It is a way of being, of doing, that we must stipulate according to the structure, objectives, philosophy, and many personal aspects of each individual company. In short, it is important to take into account the essence and DNA of every organization. Fortunately, F.W. Taylor laid the foundations of the scientific organization of labor, and later Henry Ford introduced the first mass automobile production lines.

In the early 1990s, when the Japanese model arrived in Western countries, the characteristics of a new production system combining efficiency, flexibility, and quality were introduced. The concept of Lean Manufacturing (Lean applied to the industrial sector) was used for the first time. Today, the Lean Philosophy has evolved to new specific applications such as Lean Service (applied to service companies), Lean Office (applied to the office sector), and to other areas.

Under this philosophy, the common connection point is the performance of all members of the organization, establishing quality principles aimed at continuous improvement of the company. To point out that the essential pillar is with no doubt the elimination of waste (delivery, stocks, resources in general …). However, one of the biggest wastes of all time, and more in the industry 4.0 context with automation as a priority, is not taking advantage of the talent of the people who make up the human capital of the organization.

Steps for changing company culture

This work begins with the leader, and as we mentioned in our blog “Leadership and Continuous Improvement” he must dedicate himself to this approach because her/his success or failure will be determined by her/his actions and involvement. It is not possible to manage the change of culture in the company and the application of the Lean philosophy by delegating it. The leader has to be practical and lead the way, walk the talk, her/his example must be the reference for the entire organization. As such People who decide to follow the behavior of their leader will assume naturally the responsibility of changing the company and its culture.

Changeing Company Culture


Bring the entire team together and explain WHY the change to Lean needs to be made, WHAT kind of results are expected, WHEN it will start and HOW it will be implemented. Do not forget that this message must come directly from the leader, again, it is not permissible to delegate. Be sure to also communicate to your team what they can expect for their own benefit, and be committed that the application of the Lean Philosophy in the Company through the involvement and contribution of the knowledge and know-how of all the components of the Team, is not oriented to the reduction of the Workforce, but to the improvement of Competitiveness and Job Security.

Define Objectives

Define and communicate the objectives that, once achieved, will differentiate your company from the competition. Clarify your answer to the question: “Why do we need to change?” These objectives will serve as a guide for all members of the company. And they must be realistic, but also ambitious and demanding, and they must be especially focused on improving processes by eliminating anything unnecessary. If you change your processes, your results will improve as you meet these objectives.

Adequacy of the structure is imperative

But it is not enough to set the objectives and set the path. If you want to change the company culture, you must make the organizational changes necessary to have the opportunity to achieve those goals, moving from functional departments based on the same type of team to value-stream teams.

How digitalization can help us to change company culture

Our people are connected in networks of all kinds, not only in the company but also in their day-to-day social life. Therefore, digitalization is part of the Lean cultural change. We definitely must take advantage of digitalization to make life easier for people in the company in Lean applications, in the same way, mobile phones have changed our lives. There is a huge benefit in time and resources with the mlean Production System suite of apps whose primary goal has been changing the culture of the company. We do believe that the most wasteful action today is not utilizing the base of knowledge of any company employee to improve the company’s performance. We believe the future is digitally….human. Learn more about the most company lean manufacturing suite of apps.

How to run a Kaizen Event successfully

How to perform a Kaizen Event

What is Kaizen?

We are pretty sure that if you are reading this blog is because you have heard talking about Kaizen. But what is kaizen? It is a Japanese word that started to be used in the master lessons of Deming and Juran during the development and recovery of Japan after II World War. 

Kai = change

Zen = for a better 

Kaizen = change for a better or continuous improvement

It is basically a continuous improvement process worked by team members in the Gemba. The result should be clear action plan in the short term and with low or zero cost. 

Why a Kaizen Event

Do you have unstable processes, weak standards and consequently random results?

We have learned that, in order to stabilize results, we must master Job Standardization (see Blogs on the subject, citing the 3 previous blogs).

Before starting a “Kaizen” Event, it is necessary to have a “Stable” situation, that is to say, we are already practicing the basic lean tools, which in themselves give us a very important contribution to Continuous Improvement, these basic tools are:

  • The 5 S’s
  • Standardization (visual Work Instructions)
  • Job Observation
  • Problem solving

Kaizen must go much further, it aims to break with what it is already in place, established, proposing ambitious objectives to improve our results (Safety, Quality, Productivity, Deadlines…).

Once the Kaizen is done, we will return to the instability of the new solution, therefore, the practice of the basic tools will lead us to the stability and to be able to start a new cycle of Kaizen improvement, that is why we say that improvement has no end…

The figure explains the Kaizen cycle:

How to run a Kaizen Event

Therefore, Kaizen:

  • questions the existing
  • sets ourselves ambitious new targets
  • carries out an in-depth analysis of the current situation from different angles
  • is formed by a multidisciplinary teamwork with the stakeholders involved in the project
  • executes a robust action plan immediately (or in the short term) and at the lowest cost

Kaizen principles

In order to participate in a Kaizen Event, the first thing you need is to have a state of mind open to change things and to question the established

Principles for success in Kaizen:

  • Getting rid of preconceived ideas
  • Do not look for excuses, look for solutions
  • Not defending the current situation, calling it into question
  • It is better to get it right quickly, than perfect later
  • If something is wrong, correct it immediately
  • Search for solutions that do not cost anything
  • Problems are the source of ideas
  • To find the real causes, ask yourself 5 times “why?”
  • The ideas of 10 people are worth more than the knowledge of a single person
  • We can always improve

And, in addition, continually think about eliminating waste:

  • Overproduction
  • Stocks
  • Maintenance
  • Production of defects
  • Non value-added operations
  • Inactivity
  • Useless movements

How to implement a Kaizen Event: Content of Kaizen Method

Organization and responsibilities:

    • Create a multidisciplinary team in which different actors skilled in the subject matter of the process to be improved can participate. These are the suggested team members:
      • A Kaizen event leader, who is familiar with the methodology, not necessarily an expert in the process in question, will lead the work shop.
      • Team Leader of the area: at least 1 (if possible 2 or 3)
  • Operators “upskilled (U) and/or trainers of trainers (O) according to the competency matrix ILUO”, of the positions that need improvement
    • One representative from engineering
    • A logistics representative
    • A maintenance representative
    • A quality representative
    • An ergonomics / safety specialist
    • Management participation in the presentation of the work shop for validation and recognition.
  • Kaizen Event planning:
    • The adviced time for this workshop is a maximum of 2 days, depending on the perimeter. The presence of all stakeholders is a must to be successful 
  • Preparation of the work shop:
    • An area must be selected by the head of the department, and following the improvement priority (derived from the strategic objectives – Hoshin Kanri).
    • Selection of the positions by the team leader and group leader
    • Information collection of the positions studied by the team leader
    • Preparatory observation (all participants)
    • Preparatory discussion with Team Leader operators
  • Define an improvement strategy and quantified objectives based on the problems observed and agreed with the management, some examples:
    • Reducing the number of trips (-20% operating time)
    • Elimination of 2 trunk twists (ergonomics) when picking up parts

Basic notions; it is desirable that all participants are knowledgable with them: 

  • The 4 principles of economy of movement:
    • Reduce the number of movements
    • Execute movements at the same time
    • Shortening movement distances
    • Make movements easier or ergonomic
  • Ability to identify non-value-added or wasteful activities:
    • Overproduction
    • Stocks
    • Maintenance
    • Production of defects
    • Non value-added operations
    • Inactivity
    • Useless movements
  • Improvement knowledge in the implementation of the job positions

Job observation:

  • The first step is the job observation at the shop floor (the Gemba), using different types of analysis for each job analyzed:
    • Analysis of the 7 types of waste
    • Operational sequences analysis (simplified timer)
    • Analysis of movements
    • Simplified ergonomic analysis (and safety)
    • Analysis of non-cyclical operations

Examples of the iKaizen mlean application to be introduced:

Analysis of the data collected:

  • Sharing the data collected:
    • It is a matter of pooling the data collected in the analyses and transferring it to A0 formats, usually by wallpapering the walls of a large work room. This will allow for group discussion.
  • Problems identification:
    • For each of the operating sequences of the job position:
      • We will record the details of each problem encountered, and provide a figure to it. Document Analysis of operating sequences
      • At this stage, we will never deep into a discussion of possible solutions. 

Preparation of improvement proposals:

We have identified, listed and coded the set of problems emerging from the various analyses.

The participation of all the members of the group is necessary through brainstorming. Everyone must participate, especially the operators present:

  • Each problem, taken in isolation, is the subject of a “5 why” analysis; the participants, once they have identified the root causes and have exchanged their proposals for improvement
  • For each improvement proposal, we will try to evaluate the gains (in terms of execution time, ergonomics …).

In addition, we will ensure that all improvement proposals will be based on the different improvement principles of each analysis carried out:

  • Principles of improvement of the 4 principles of Economy of Motion:
    • Example: If we have detected a problem with work with both hands simultaneously, or reduce the dead time of each hand to balance the left hand, right hand work.
  • Principles for improving movements:
    • Example: Bringing workplaces closer together, reducing distances, etc…
  • Ergonomics and safety improvement principles:
    • Example: Reducing stress by adjusting working heights or facilitating the choice of parts or tools.
  • Elimination of non-cyclical operations:
    • Example: Treat systematic anomalies (that lengthen the duty cycle) as a problem. Or reduce frequency operations
  • Principles for improving the balance of posts (if several posts are affected):
    • Example: Assigning each operator a complete process function or concentrating losses at the beginning or end of the process.

This phase will end with our list of identified problems, immediate (or short-term) improvement proposals and the expected benefits for each.

Execution of improvement proposals:

  • After reflecting on their feasibility, effectiveness and cost, the participants select the most appropriate among all the proposals. With the assignment of a person in charge and a commitment deadline.
  • Kaizen proposals that will be implemented immediately are separated from those that will not.

Testing, presentation and completion of the Kaizen event:

It is advisable to implement one or two trials to confirm the validity of the expected gains. In addition, we will have discussed the plan with the other actors who have not participated in the Kaizen event (other operators, Team Leader, Maintenance, etc…).

We will implement trials and action plans in the short to medium term. As we confirm the results, we will establish the new working standards and train all affected participants in the changes.

Management recognition of the team:

This is the leader’s moment, to show management’s commitment to continuous improvement. Recognize, not only the participation of the personnel, but also their contributions by describing problems or providing solutions. Show the need that the participation of “everyone” is essential to continue progressing towards sustainability. 

We are all important and we can all contribute! 

Digital application of Kaizen

As we have seen, the implementation of a Kaizen event requires the allocation of many resources, especially in terms of the number of people involved and a large number of documents. 

Especially the “bureaucracy” in compiling all the analyses in A0 formats. This forces us to move away from the Gemba and into a room far away from the posts in order to manage.

Today, with the mlean iKaizen application, not only are we paperless, but we can work directly on the Gemba, immediately see problems and deal with them quickly. 

Immediate benefits of the application:

  • Estimated time gain of 40% in the work shop (of each of the participants)
  • Immediacy and efficiency due to proximity to Gemba
  • We will avoid the loss of information associated with paper
  • We will ensure the capitalization of experience and traceability


if you have already the Basic Lean tools implemented in your factory and you want to improve event more, please Request a demo for the ikazen tool. 


mlean sponsors the “XIII Noche de la Ingeniería Informática” in Valladolid

Noche de la Ingeniería Informática mlean

This year, mlean is sponsoring a major professional event for the Computer Science community in Castilla y León, the XIII Noche de la Ingeniería Informática, on Friday June 24th.

The event is organized by the Professional College of Computer Science Engineers of Castilla y Leon (Colegio Profesional de Ingenieros en Informática de Castilla y León) with the aim to recognize and celebrate the Computer Science community in our region. This event is considered an annual meeting point for universities, professionals, companies, and public entities, as they will all participate in the event. After two years on standby, the IT night comes back to celebrate how technology has contributed positively to improve people’s lives.

The sponsorship marks a proud moment for mlean, as Computer Science is at the heart of the mlean Production System and represents a significant part of the engineering team. “We are excited to participate and sponsor this event; we believe that technology impacts on everyone’s lives” says Roberto Delgado, CEO at mlean. “Indeed, the event is a clear opportunity to position ourselves in the IT community, develop students’ talents and give them that opportunity to create that impact by developing our mPS spreaded all over the world.”

During the event, the i3 Awards Ceremony will be held as well as a Talk by Sergio Boixo on “Information Revolution and Quantum Revolution”. Sergio is a Scientific Director of Quantum Computing Theory at Google, where the “Quantum (supremacy) Advantage” was demonstrated by just processing in three minutes of quantum computer a task designed to take ten thousand years in the world’s largest classical supercomputer.

Additional information is available on –

Continuous improvement and Safety

Continuous Improvement and Safety

Maintaining a safe work environment is essential for any business. No employee wants to work in hazardous conditions, and it will reflect poorly on your organization if the proper standards are not upheld.

However, workplace safety is not static and must be continuously monitored and improved to be effective. Here is a closer look at continuous improvement and safety and why it’s vital for a healthy, productive workplace.

What is Continuous Safety Improvement?

Continuous improvement and safety refer to the ongoing implementation of measures and protocols to improve safety processes in the workplace.

Work environments today are constantly changing and adapting. As you implement new systems and processes to manage inventory and meet customer , you must be sure that you are updating safety procedures as well. Managers and operators can do this by requesting feedback, analyzing data, and addressing any potential weaknesses in the current production system.

Continuous improvement is the only way to ensure that your safety protocols are up-to-date and employees don’t fall victim to any potential flaws. While it can often seem tedious and time-consuming, it will pay off in the long run to avoid any serious accidents or injuries that could delay production or result in a lawsuit.

How to Improve the Safety of the Workforce Continuously?

There is no one way to continuously improve safety standards. Managers and organizers must carefully analyze the company’s production system to look for areas that need improvement. All the same, here are a few ways that companies can analyze the current work environment to decide where to start.

1. Get Feedback:

Employee feedback is crucial to continuous safety and improvement. They are the ones at risk, and they are also the ones who must follow the proper protocols to keep everyone else protected. So, it’s important to get their input to better understand the potential issues from a ground level and implement new safety strategies that will actually be effective. Managers and operators should solicit feedback from employees of all levels – from the cleaning staff to the corporate suite. That way everyone feels included and can offer a unique perspective that will lead to more effective solutions. mlean’s Improvement Ideas solution is a fantastic tool to get this crucial feedback from employees.

2. Use Data:

Managers and analysts use data to make better decisions about many aspects of a business – so safety processes should be no different. Recording and analyzing important KPI can help you identify trends and mitigate potential problems before they become a safety risk. Plus, it can help you make better use of powerful technologies that can also be used to improve safety standards. However, the data you analyze should go deeper than accident rates and injury reports. You should analyze as many aspects of your production system as possible to look for irregularities and shifts that may be a cause for concern.

3. Look for the Root Causes:

If you truly want to improve safety standards in the long term, you have to look at the root cause of the problem, not just the effects. Rather than slapping a band-aid on the situation and calling it a day, try to treat the underlying wound so that it can properly heal. For instance, if workers in your warehouse are being injured regularly, you should first make sure they receive the necessary treatment. You should also look into the work environment and safety protocols in the warehouse to determine why this is happening. Then you can determine how procedures could be changed or implemented to find a solution. This will not only solve your current dilemma; it may also uncover other safety concerns that have yet to become a problem.

From our experience, one of the main causes for accidents in the workplace is the lack of strong and updated standards and the lack of well trained workers.

Safety and Continuous Improvement

4. Make the Investment:

Continuous improvement and safety aren’t free and may require occasional or recurring investments to implement properly. You may need to purchase new equipment or software to keep workers safe or even hire new employees to create and enact new safety protocols. Besides, keep in mind that it is an investment, not a sunk cost. Keeping employees safe is an essential responsibility of a business. While it may temporarily impact your bottom line, improved safety measures can also boost morale and employee satisfaction, which can lead to a more productive workforce. Plus, it can save you from potential lawsuits or bad publicity caused by unsafe conditions.

5. Repeat and Improve:

Finally, to maintain a safe work environment for the long term, you must continue to implement these strategies regularly and constantly look for ways to improve. No matter how much you plan and regulate, the occasional accident is going to happen. Moreover, any timeworker safety is compromised, you should look to determine why it happened and brainstorm ways to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future. This is not a one-time process that can be completed and then forgotten. Managers and decision-makers must constantly analyze and improve to keep up with the constant changes in the workforce. So this process should become a regular part of your daily or weekly routines, to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.

Why is Continuous Improvement and Safety so Important?

Worker safety is a key responsibility of a business. Your employees are trusting you to not only fairly compensate them for their time, but they are also counting on you to ensure that they are not being put in danger by entering your organization.

Certain risks are unavoidable, depending on the industry you’re in. Additionally, as a business owner or manager, you have a responsibility to do everything in your power to maintain a safe, healthy work environment for all your employees. Continuous safety improvement is the only way to ensure that you can identify potential threats and neutralize them as quickly as possible.

There is no one way to implement these protocols, so you’ll have to develop safety procedures that make sense for your organization. But having a strong system in place to respond to challenges and make adjustments based on critical feedback and data will go a long way toward creating a work environment where everyone feels valued and safe.

What is Hoshin Kanri?

The Hoshin Kanri strategy planning and execution system were developed in the 1950s by Professor Yoji Akao in post-war Japan.

Created within the framework of the Total Quality Control (QTC) methodology, this strategic management model is about sharing the objectives of the organization at all levels of the company so everyone can contribute from their knowledge and the needs of their position.

Assuming that every person is an expert in his or her work, then each person’s expertise is reflected in the overall objectives of the company, which would make the company the best in its field. Thus, all workers in an organization are aligned toward the same strategic objectives.

Hoshin Kanri is a Lean approach used to implement strategic improvements that encompass all areas of the company.
The phrase Hoshin Kanri means policy management and represents the concept of guiding an entire company in a clear, consensual direction. The name is composed of three Japanese words: Ho (method), Shin (compass), and Kanri (management or control).

Let’s now see why Hoshin Kanri is necessary and what are the steps required for its correct implementation.

Why Hoshin Kanri is necessary

When companies do not implement Hoshin Kanri, every member of the organization goes their way without knowing the objectives to be achieved in the short/long term. With the Hoshin Kanri methodology, we know and inform the organization of where we are and where we want to go, what are the Company’s objectives and what are the foreseeable risks and opportunities.

How to implement Hoshin Kanri

In this figure, we can see the action path within the PDCA cycle:

What is Hoshin Kanri - PDCA Cycle

P: Plan Phase in the Deming PDCA cycle

Step 1 of 4: Building or updating the vision

This phase starts with the identification of what is desired, and clearly stating the intended purposes, with clear ideas and relevant information. The goal is to clearly define the purpose of the organization, and vision, where realistic but demanding goals and objectives are established with a clear and direct mission. This plan should always be applied, especially in good times, and not wait for times of crisis. Once the vision is defined, we move to the next step.

Step 2 of 4: Diagnosis of the situation

This step is aimed at identifying where we currently are, and we do it by:

  • Running a preliminary diagnosis of the current internal and external situation
  • Defining what our strengths and weaknesses are

Step 3 of 4: Strategic analysis and definition of strategic axes

Once the diagnosis is performed, we move forward defining where we want to be in the future:

  • Definition of a company strategy for a specific term (3 or 5 years)
  • How we want and need our company to be after this period
  • In which market niche do we want to be or compete
  • What we want to stand out from our competitors
  • Which parts of our organization and our processes are most relevant to fulfill this strategy

Step 4 of 4: Establish detailed annual objectives and associated action plans

The last step in the planning phase of the PDCA cycle is establishing specif objectives and action plan to achieve them, by creating annual plans that further break down the 3-5 year strategic objectives:

  • Establishment of goals and objectives to be achieved
    • Objectives should be clear, concrete, and measurable
  • Identification and assignment of responsible parties
    • This task is fundamental since they are the ones who will define and apply the actions that will make it possible to achieve or not achieve these objectives

D: Phase D in the Deming PDCA cycle: Execution of action plans

The objectives themselves are a declaration of intentions, if we do nothing different, they will not be achieved. It is now time for each manager to use the Deming cycle (PDCA) or kaizen events based on the SCORE methodology (Select, Clarify, Organize, Run, Evaluate), assign collaborators and together with them define and schedule the action plans through which they will achieve those objectives.

At the end of a complete deployment cycle:

  • Every stakeholder knows:
    • Its objectives and those to which it contributes
    • Actions to be piloted by him, in addition to day-to-day management
    • Other actions in which it participates
  • The piloting for the achievement of each objective is organized:
    • Continuous monitoring by each pilot
    • Periodic meetings (at the highest level) to evaluate progress and validate

C: Check Phase in the Deming PDCA cycle, Review and Process. Are the objectives being met?

Once the plan is being executed, it should be reviewed to check and see how the company is progressing towards meeting the objectives, for which we must:

  • Set review schedules
  • Establish the plan’s monitoring, measurement, and evaluation system
    • At this meeting, each manager will present the evolution of his or her objectives, the necessary measures to achieve them will be provided and, if necessary, some of them will be reformulated

What is the Hoshin Kanri Methodology?

A: Act phase in the Deming PDCA cycle, closing the cycle:

As its name specifies, PDCA is a cycle that must be run again as it allows us to:

  • Stabilize and capitalize on the experiences of the Plan
  • Generalize the practice
  • Leverage self-criticism throughout the process to improve and provide feedback
  • Restart redefinition of objectives (P phase)

Why should companies implement Hoshin Kanri?

Hoshin Kanri Planning helps develop a strategic direction deployment at all levels of the company, from the CEO to the local team leader, generating also new ways to successfully communicate and monitor the chosen course for the organization.

Why should companies implement Hoshin Kanri?

Benefits of Hoshin Kanri

  • Hoshin Kanri helps to have a clearer vision of the current status of the organization

The Hoshin Kanri model can be seen as a map that helps us get to the ideal state of an organization. For a map to be useful it is essential to be clear about where you stand on it. Thus, one of the most important issues in the model is that it establishes benchmarks of the organization’s current performance and determines indicators to measure progress towards success and that ideal state.

  • Hoshin Kanri generates unified commitment

No organization performs better than one whose employees are committed to the objectives. Unlike other strategic models, the Hoshin Kanri model comes to life throughout the entire organization. All goals, objectives, and improvements of each person, area or team are aligned. In this way, workers feel much more committed when they see that their work is critical within a global picture.

Among other advantages that can be generated by applying Hoshin Kanri to implement your strategy, we can highlight the following:

  • It improves the organizational alignment of employees
  • It increases ownership and commitment to results
  • It helps focusing on actions that lead to results, not just numbers
  • It makes it easier and more consensual decision making
  • It gives widespread awareness of the importance of the strategic plan
  • It increases problem-solving orientation

What are the disadvantages of using Hoshin Kanri?

Hoshin kanri, like many management tools, is a powerful methodolgy. However, like any tool, if not used properly, it can have some disadvantages, for example:

  • The greatest danger is to implement the method without understanding its purpose and without a proper development of what is stated in the Phase Plan.
  • Hoshin kanri only makes sense if the objectives are met. If the objectives are not achieved by a wide margin, either because they are not realistic, or because of lack of motivation and involvement of the organization, then the whole exercise makes no sense and loses credibility.  Then, the process becomes a meaningless race in which the staff knows they have to participate, but which does not engage them, and finally does not contribute to their knowledge and does not make them feel it as something strategic. As in all cases, leadership is essential to keep this tool active and dynamic, adapting it to the reality of the market, the Company and the existing resources.


What is Standardization and Digital Work Instructions? Part I

What are digital work instructions?

Let’s start this post with some quotes that I think are particularly relevant to introducing the concepts of Standard Work and Standardization in Lean projects:

  • Taiichi Ohno (1912-1990):
    • “There is no improvement possible without standard. The beginning of all improvement is knowing exactly where you are.”
    • “Something is wrong if workers don’t observe daily, find things that are tedious or ineffective, and then rewrite the standards. Even last month manual should be out of date.”
    • “The standard is a living document that may be in continuous evolution, subject to the P(S)DCA improvement cycle.”
  • Masaaki Imai in his book Gemba Kaizen:
    • “The standard is the starting point for improvement. Always after a Kaizen, we will have either an improvement of the current standard or a new standard.”

What is Standardization?

As a reminder, one definition of Standardization would be: “The Standard is the best currently known way of working which allows us to achieve quality, cost and delivery objectives while guaranteeing people’s safety” Therefore:

  • It must be common to all people (new employees, old employees, etc.).
  • It must be defined in such a way as to ensure the efficiency, regularity, and rationality of operations, in the pursuit of operational excellence.
  • The Lean Standard is designed to develop learning

“Anyone” must be able to master it through training and coaching. Training is understood as the practice of skills.

I remember the panic caused by the maternity leave of a colleague, very competent in her activities, which we were able to solve with no issues in time thanks to the construction by herself of work standards that served to train two people. This is the key: we create standards so that they can be used to train others and avoid variability or non-quality (reworks, scrap, etc….among others)

Standardization helps to avoid variability between people and avoid working in firefighter mode, avoiding falling into a vicious circle, in which we do not have time to train and generate quality problems and wastage. It sounds very common, but the construction of the standards by the actors of the activity itself favors the creativity of the people to be in a permanent search for the improvement of the standard. In addition, we will capitalize on the best practices in the standard.

For years we have been making standards by hand, i.e. on paper, which entails an arduous and tedious activity of having to write down each standard, with its key points, what is prohibited and why, and what to do in case of anomalies, etc. Oh, and then keeping them up to date! This is a difficulty that requires a lot of time and resources for companies, which they often do not have, and it is done poorly. We often find obsolete standards that do not serve to train teams.

One of the main problems we face is managing teams, especially when your company grows. But the more your company grows, the more difficult it is to work efficiently with all employees. This is where standardization becomes essential to reach each and every one of them with robust standards. Today, with the visual work instructions tools, such as mlean -Visual Standard –, we achieve several very important advantages:

  • Absence of paper or Excel…
  • Instructions of digital standards
  • Construction of these with the actors themselves and in the field.
  • Ease of paperless change management
  • Ease of training people through videos
  • Elimination of misinterpretation, a way of looking at it throughout the enterprise(s)
  • Savings on translations
  • Etc…

What are digital work instructions?

Visual Standard, (mlean’s digital work instructions tool), is a tool that allows you to transfer information about standard work practices using visual media, mainly videos. In other words, it is a way to visually communicate your company’s know-how processes through a method that requires almost no prior training. It is easy to create and to change on the fly or as we change the process. The key point is how with this tool, you speed up the learning process and the readiness of your team.

And why should it be visual? Visual information is much more accessible than text. Only 10% of people remember what they hear and only 20% remember what they read. However, more than 80% of people remember what they saw and did.

Standardization Objectives

As the main objectives for which we would implement standardization, we can highlight the following:

  • Troubleshooting
  • Process improvement
  • Generation of higher yields
  • Activity and context management
  • Results improvement
  • Reduction of indirect and direct costs
  • Process automation

What is Standardization

Standardization benefits

The Benefits of Standard Work are many and we are not listing them all. In addition, standardization improves the entire internal and external process of the company bringing innumerable advantages and benefits that, on many occasions, go unnoticed. Some of the main benefits would be:

  • Ensures correct performance of the work
  • Reduce costs
  • Reduces time
  • Streamlines and shortens processes
  • Improve the quality of the service or product
  • Enables better forecasts and predictions
  • Allows us to better adapt to changes in the environment
  • Promotes corporate culture
  • Allows for greater liberalization of management

Why use digital work instructions?

So we have already seen the objectives and benefits of standardization, and work instructions are a key part of it, so let’s dive into some advantages of digital work instructions with more new concrete cases that will only translate into efficiency, knowledge sharing and time savings for the plant.

Reduction of training times

Imagine your company hires two new employees. For the first few weeks, they will need someone to teach them how to do each task, and while this experienced person is teaching them their various jobs are not being done. This specific situation leads to a lack of efficiency that can be easily solved by implementing digital work instructions such as Visual Standard. Or let’s go further: Your company may hire a worker who may not speak your language as well as you would like, which makes teaching them even more difficult and less efficient. The solution is the same: video work instructions. They may not understand you perfectly, but they will understand you with pictures or videos and with the ability to show sequences of what he/she has to accomplish. Plus, the savings in time and money in translation, in sending instructions made, for example, in a factory in France in French to a plant in Poland. The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” has never been so true.

Reduction in paper use

Another good point that will make you decide on digital work instructions is that you will digitize the work in the factory through the use of tablets -among other electronic devices- and eliminate the use of outdated paper versions, improving the transfer of knowledge throughout the organization. Thus, any updated information will now be available to every worker who requires it, improving communication between teams and above all instantly! You will avoid many trips to the computer to change the document, print it, and place it on the workstations. That is, you will do it right where the changes are happening and the change will be in real-time.

Other advantages of digital work instructions

However, it’s not all about sharing and creating standards – which is great – it’s also about stopping and preventing anomalies from occurring on the shop floor. As soon as a problem occurs, the operator will alert through the visual system and let the right person know what the problem is, even more, where it is occurring. Thus, once this system is fully implemented, anomalies could be prevented.

It is said that one thing leads to another: safety. When you have reduced setup times for each operator, reduced errors on the shop floor, and eased the transfer of information – leading to a greater understanding within the organization – you have invested not only in efficiency but also in safety. Safety of the individual and of the assets. And that is an important issue to keep in mind.

How to implement Digital Work Instructions?

To implement the digital instructions we will proceed as before, i.e. we will rely on the SDCA cycle:

  • S: Setting the standard
  • D: Applying the standard and training people
  • C: Check, observation of compliance with the standard and search for improvement opportunities
  • A: Improve the standard, correct deviations, and implement improvements

The work instructions in Visual Standard will include all the aspects that we have on paper:

  • Main stages, key points, reasons for the key points
  • What is prohibited and why
  • What to do in case of anomaly
  • Operation times
  • Others…

We will continue to rely on the 4 principles of economy of movement and the observation of the 7 wastes for its creation, therefore, in its construction, nothing changes!

The main advantage of visual work instructions is that we will do it on a tablet in the field, without paper, with the team leader and his operators. The savings in management time is estimated at more than 50%.

As for the implementation of people training, with these digital work instructions – Visual Standard – it will be much more effective, as we have indicated above. Then it is clear that the great advantage of having a digital library of standardized processes is that it is very easy to manage and keep up to date. This way, we are generating information that is available when we need it at any time. Whether to consult previous processes or to create new ones, there will always be a single database with reliable information.

How to manage Standardization Management?

In the following blog posts we will discuss how to manage the standardization management with more digital products in our standardization solution:

Request a demo

If you are thinking about implementing a visual work instructions tool in your company, have a look at mlean Visual Standard solution asking for a demo that will give you the whole picture of how we can help you become more efficient, share knowledge, and have robust standards.