By Dave Lechleitner
The job traveler is a simple document, but perhaps one of the most cru- cial in any fabricating shop. Without that document, a pallet of parts becomes a very large paperweight. The document provides the context to turn the act of value creation into
cash. The traveler typically covers who the customer is; a part description; the
quantity to be produced; due date; and job details, such as how the parts will be
made (for example, small batches or all at once).
Should that document be more than a simple review of the basics? The tenets
of lean manufacturing suggest “yes.” With the addition of refined work instructions (see Steps to Create Standard Work Instructions sidebar) on the traveler, the document becomes a continuous improvement tool. In a culture where
employees are empowered and management listens to them, the work instructions evolve as work improvements are made or as the task changes.
What Is Standard Work?
Standard work is a written description of the safest, most efficient, and highest-quality method to perform a given task or process. Typical standardized work
attempts to answer four questions:
1. Who does what?
2. When does that person do it?
3. How is the work done?
4. Why is the work done that way?
In fabricating environments where the same part or assembly is being made
over and over, assembling good work instructions is straightforward. The posi-
tion identified and estimated time required to complete the work elements are
included. The most efficient work routine or steps needed to complete the job
are included. The description of the quality check to ensure the work was done
correctly before sending the part or assembly to the next step of the process
also is part of the instructions.
Fabricators that make high-mix, low-volume products may scoff at the idea
of standard work instructions. The might argue that every part is different, with
little or no consistency in the type of parts or the quality requirements from one
customer to the next. That may be true, but that doesn’t prevent work instructions from containing valuable guidance that can assist with continuous improvement efforts.
Making Adjustments for Job Shops
When looking to refine standard work instructions for a high-mix, low-volume
manufacturing environment, the shop manager should first focus on those activities that have little to no variation from job to job. These instructions might
cover routine machine maintenance and gauge and tool calibration. From a
quality perspective, the operator can be directed to inspect material thoroughly
before beginning a task and then conduct a final inspection at the end of the
job. (This step shouldn’t be summarized in just one sentence. It should be expanded upon to answer questions about how often the inspection is done and
where the findings are recorded once the inspection takes place.) In addition,
the steps required for discrepant parts should be well-documented, including
how to document nonconformances or corrective actions.
Even a high-mix environment might have some opportunity for development
of standard work instructions that actually detail manufacturing steps. The key
is identifying “repeaters” or “runners,” those parts or assemblies that are similar
in design and come through the shop on a regular basis. Those types of jobs
often will have similar work steps, and their work instructions will be similar as
well. When management creates detailed work instructions for what seems to
be a one-and-done job, it is actually investing in a quality approach for all work
because the same standard work instructions
will apply to similar jobs.
Again, this is in line
with the thinking that
these types of documents should be used
to maintain quality
and eliminate waste in
production. Without a
critical look at parts/as-semblies and the work
processes tied to them,
job shops can’t expect
work instructions to have
an impact on quality.
The Case for
The ideal time to create
standard work instructions is when the quote
is prepared. The information is all there, and
ideally the estimator has
a good understanding of
the fabricating processes
needed to complete a
job. The reality, however,
is the sheer number of
quotes that a fabricating
shop sends out. It probably does not make a lot
Communication is the key
to less rework
Shop management software makes collection and creation of work instructions simpler than having to create
them from scratch for each new job sent to the shop floor.
Notice in the dialog box that the operator made notes
explaining why a job took longer than the time set
forth in the work instructions. Estimators can use that
input and make changes to quotes so that they are