5 Levels of Toyota’s Work Standardization: Learning from the Source. | Lean Frontiers

5 Levels of Toyota’s Work Standardization: Learning from the Source.

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NOTE from Lean Frontiers: The following guest post comes from Oscar Roche of the TWI Institute. Lean Frontiers is pleased to welcome Oscar as presenter to both the TWI Summit and Kata Summit. These two events make take place between February 17-21, 2020 in Austin, TX and together have come to be known as “Skills Week.” Learn more about Oscar and the many resources offered by his organization by visiting https://www.vwaust.com. Learn more about the TWI Institute by visiting www.twi-institute.org.


By Oscar Roche, November 2019

As with “Chinese whispers” (aka telephone game), as things get passed on, interpretation changes.

After spending 3 days with Mr Isao Kato, Mr Taichi Ono’s HR advisor, in Japan at the end of October it became clear that our understanding of Standardized Work has developed many shades of grey. When provided with his “5 levels” model and associated requirements for each it was succinct but daunting. We realized most of us are at Level 1 or 2. That was the bad news. The good news is a tremendous amount of value can be gained from getting to Level 2. Further, in Mr Kato’s view, most Toyota plants are at Level 4, few at Level 5. That was heartening!

We’ll first establish some base terminology for 3 things – Standardized Work, Work Standards and Standardization.

In the phrase “Standardized Work”, which is the goal, the word standardized is an adjective; it describes the work. Here “standardized” consists of 3 elements:

  • At takt – the rate at which products must be made in a process to meet customer demand.
  • Work sequenced precisely such that an operator performs tasks within takt time.
  • Standard inventory (WIP) such that the process keeps operating smoothly. (This includes units in machines or on conveyors in a continuous process.)

The work itself is the foundation. Obviously without work none of this would be possible or make sense!

Resting immediately above the work are Work Standards. These are things (often documents, but don’t have to be) that clearly communicate what the required standard is – what is acceptable. The critical workplace element of “take action against unacceptable” is given life.

Essentially there are 3 types of Work Standards.

  • Those relating to the output, the product or service being provided.
  • Those relating to the machine/equipment that produce the output. (In a very manual process, there may well be not many of these.)
  • Those relating to the human that produces the output or runs the machine and/or uses the equipment that produces the output.

Lastly there is the term “Standardization”. Standardization is a verb – it is the things we do to build adherence – moving from theory, the Work Standards, toward Standardized Work. It is here that there will be a pull for many of the tools we hear about and see such as:

  • An effective training system. Perhaps this is the most important.
  • Effective leadership (as people won’t always do what they know is right!)
  • A way of removing “normal” impediments to flow e.g. 5S.
  • A “Just In Time” system e.g. Kanban.
  • Problem solving methods and continuous improvement patterns.

By the way, building adherence through effective use of these tools and others reduces waste in the system.

As emphasized in the opening Mr Kato outlined 5 levels of Standardized Work. What follows is a very high-level view of this model.

Work Standards are at Level 1. Without them effectively in place progression through the levels won’t be possible. Work Standards, where applicable, are to include a time component – the standard time to do each element of the work (by the machine and/or the person).

Level 2 is where balancing the work to takt begins along with work sequencing and WIP for Just In Time. Charts and tools are used to illustrate. There is heavy emphasis on training to the standard along with means by which “unacceptable” can be quickly identified.

Level 3 requires a rapid means of addressing “unacceptable” to be in place along with reoccurrence prevention. The focus now comes on standardizing incidental tasks and levelling the distribution of work considering volume and workload changes.

Level 4 is now getting to the fine points of Standardized Work – pursuing very low cycle up and changeover times, multiskilling people and driving genuine continuous improvement.

Finally, Level 5 will see a rigorous system of checks and balances in place for ensuring the effectiveness of rapid response and continuous improvement.

And now … take a breath. As Mr Kato said, not every organization can and needs to get to Level 5. But substantial benefit will be gained by adopting the philosophies of Standardized Work to take you as far forward as is needed.




Standardization Step Up 2 Along with Implications for Management and Supervisors
Wed, May 20, 2020
2-2:30 PM EDT  •  Free

An Introduction to Standardized Work and the 5 “Step Ups:” What We Understand from Toyota

Without Work Standards (Step Up 1) There Won’t Be Standardized Work

Learn TWI & Toyota Kata following a prescribed continuum from awareness to skill development to mastery.

Griffith Post School Options (GPSO) is an organization that recognized early on that risk will be best managed through the knowledge, skills and actions of their Frontline Leaders.

While the daily deliverable for GPSO is positive ‘participant outcomes’ and for every interaction for this to be the underlying intent, this must be done in an environment where the risk to the general wellbeing of participants and staff is sufficiently mitigated.

Coupled with that above, by late 2019 GPSO participant numbers were rapidly growing. Growth and risk were heading for a clash! Does that sound familiar?

In February 2020, a Situation Analysis was conducted where the objective was twofold:

  • With a view to providing a pathway toward building “practical compliance” and therefore better management of risk, examine day to day operations and how they link to policies and procedures already existing.
  •  Introduce key stakeholders to concepts and methods that, if applied, will assist GPSO to achieve one of their objectives being reduced risk.

In March 2020 TWI Institute Australia and NZ commenced work with GPSO (contained within a One-Page-Plan) with the guiding purpose being:

  •  With respect to risk management, build the capability of new Team Leaders (primarily) in building continuing alignment to system content at the “coalface”.

The first training then mentoring cycle was based around the skill of instructing using TWI Job Instruction as the practice method. The existing 3 Team Leaders were involved (Hanna, Tess, Catherine plus members of management). Then covid hit! Consequently, all mentoring immediately went to ‘live online’ so momentum wasn’t lost. Along side this Josephine (admin) focussed on building a software system to plan, manage and track training.

Around May 2020 a second group of Team Leaders were appointed (Brooke, Colleen, Cassie and Marc) making a total of 7. A training and mentoring cycle followed for all 7 focussing on the skill of leading using TWI Job Relations as the practice method. The second group of 4 then did their ‘skill of instructing’ (Job Instruction).

The last program all 7 did together was developing a program of Leader Standard Work. Other skills such as risk assessment was focussed on with support people. All the while, because of the excellent service being provided, participant numbers continued growing!

I’m sure readers of this will be thinking ‘well, what happened, what was the result?’ Or what happened along the way? Or perhaps you have other questions?

Here’s your opportunity. Join Josephine, Hannah and Brooke on 17 June (2pm EST) and hear what they have to say. Click here to register and submit your question.

Oscar Roche


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