Standard Work on Your Packaging Line

US Navy 070401-N-5345W-098 An air department f...

Do you think this pilot follows best practices?

Beyond Lean has a series of blogs on the subject of Standard Work that ran last week.  Matt Wrye was kind enough to ask me to guest blog.  This post originally ran there:

Our new team is coming together for their 7 a.m. work session.  This team is working through the steps of Autonomous Maintenance and is working through their agenda when the area supervisor approaches the team.  His support is a welcome sight as he listens to the team’s interactions intently.  The team leader then welcomes the supervisor and asks if he has anything to add.

The supervisor says, “I have a request of the team.  The entire packaging department is running terrible and is way behind schedule.  Your cartoner is all jacked up and is acting crazy.  I need you to fix the cartoner and help get us caught up.”

The team was eager to help even though granting the supervisor’s request would require skipping everything that had been planned for that work session.   The team leader is very confident that they can get the line back up and running.  He proclaims,

“I’ve seen this before.  The line is running great then another shift comes in and starts making adjustments….we’ll get it going in no time.” 

Sure enough, after making a series of minor adjustments the line is up and running within the hour.  By the end of the day, this line is exceeding production goals.  All the team had to do was set up the cartoner properly.

Is this the end of the story?  Hardly.  Manufacturing veterans have all seen how individual operators all seem to have their own way to run their line.  In many cases, well intending operators and mechanics will start making adjustments as soon as the off-going shift clocks out, even on a well running machine.  Yet, as this real life event illustrates, there is one best practice.  You need everyone following the same best practice.

The team documented all of the mechanical settings and arranged for a prolonged production trial of these settings.  The settings were initially marked with temporary but secure arrows.  These arrows were replaced with permanent etchings.  While some got on board faster and easier than others, these settings are the documented standard and the expectation of every operator.

Do you have examples of how standardization has improved the productivity and reliability of your production lines?  Do you have standards that you need to put in place today?


This post was written for Beyond Lean as part of a series on standard work.  You are encouraged to check it out.  Please leave a comment below if you liked this article. You can also connect on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, subscribe via e-mail (right side bar), retweet, digg, or stumble this article.  You can check out my Facebook page and continue the discussion there as well.  Your feedback is appreciated.


About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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