Improving Efficiency and Effectiveness through Standardization

6/17/2015  |  Written by Terry Tidwell

Quality Industries began an important journey with a recent successful registration as an ISO:9001 certified organization in our Texas and Tennessee facilities. This exercise in quality management has been the beginning of some ongoing cultural changes in our organization. One of the most positive results for the business has been in the area of standardization. 

A well-crafted textbook definition of standardization from investopedia can be found here and reads, "a framework of agreements to which all relevant parties in an industry or organization must adhere to insure that all processes associated with the creation of a good or performance of a service are performed within set guidelines."

You hear stories of organizations that become extremely uncomfortable around some of the scrutiny and change associated with steps to standardization. People are asked to collaborate and compromise—sometimes individuals have to adopt an approach that is better for the team and organization, even though it’s not their preference. For Quality Industries, these ¨obstacles¨ are a non-issue. It's not that we don’t face challenges, but the act of creating a ¨framework of agreements¨ for our internal consumption delivers business advantages which, in the end, make all of our lives better and create excellent results for our customers.

Better standardization = better efficiency

A very simple example of the type of agreement needed for standardization is found in the many forms we use for day to day operations in reporting, tracking, requesting, and other means of internal and external communication and management. Many documents are already part of active processes in the organization. 

In a fast-moving and complex environment, it’s easy for differing versions of forms to appear and circulate. New forms are also developed and used by some, while not being used or even available to others. Personal computers contribute to quickly modifying a document to meet an immediate need, with no visibility or urgency to share.

The ISO:9001 certification was an opportunity to get our forms out on the table and get them organized. Some are gone forever, others were updated, consolidated, redesigned, and even new ones created. We now have fewer forms, better ones, and in some cases, specific guidelines for using them.

More standardization = more visibility

Training new personnel for the shop floor is another critical activity for success. It’s a process we need to constantly improve as we maintain steady growth. We need operators who can become efficient at the set-up and monitor of multiple jobs and cells for our many operations.

As part of our operator training for new hires, as well as for bringing existing operators to a maximum effectiveness, we adopted the ILUO tracking format. This process helps remove guesswork and assumptions that we previously relied on in the assessment of resource capability and availability on the shop floor. The ILUO tracking format helps us to know what our production capabilities are from a human resource standpoint in a given area at any particular moment.

With this system, operator machine setup and operating process skills are documented and grouped together in such a way that each operator can complete the requirements for a process, machine or cell. As they are completed the reporting chart is marked counter clockwise beginning with ¨I¨, adding an underscore to make an ¨L¨ for the next level/group of requirements completed, then another vertical line on the left to is used to make a ¨U¨ for the third level/group. Finally, when all possible requirements are completed we add a top horizontal line to complete the shape of an ¨O¨ which is actually the shape of square ⃞.

 

 

This single format illustrates a few of the many advantages standardization brings to our shop floor training and management, such as:

 

  • By having the predetermined requirements for the operators, everyone knows what the expectations are for complete training, safety and performance achievement. A new operator immediately sees what is before him and can look to his potential, even put it on a timeline.
     
  • Shop floor team leaders and supervisors also have direction for their training. They can match their objectives for personnel to the business objectives, and prepare for upcoming orders and projects. They can also spot potential risk. All of this is visible from the standardized reporting and available on demand on the company network.
     
  • With this system, upper management has a view at any time, of the immediate and potential capabilities of the shop floor, how many personnel are checked off at a particular level, etc, in order to forecast hiring needs. They also have the ability to coordinate resources for completion of certain operations simultaneously or consecutively based on available operators from the pool and their easily visible skill levels.

 

With the number of departments and processes that we currently have, QI is never devoid of people who simply know things and know how to do them. There’s even the occasional ¨black art¨ required to get things done in the most expeditious way. However, an active daily focus on continuous improvement by use of standardized processes truly eliminates speculation. Standardization helps establish and measure best practices, allowing the business to run more effectively and efficiently.