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Question:

How often should you have a mass update of labor standards after you have measured improvements? Since the standards are used to calculate productivity, when do you establish a new baseline after the improvements have been achieved? Or do you continue to measure from the same baseline until something negatively affects productivity?

Answer:

Mass updates based on hypothetical assumptions should be avoided. There is a general tendency to pad time standards and not to report improvements to time standards in such a system.

Updating time standards after improvements are made can be done immediately after implementing a new method if operators agree that there is no learning curve. The important point is the concurrence of operators. When there is a learning curve, allow operators to become fully trained before setting a new standard.

Lean efforts fail when operators believe that management is pursuing continuous improvement simply to make them work harder.

Create working conditions in which trust exists between managers and the workforce. This will set the stage for operators to want to produce more while continuously improving processes so that the company can earn more and share the added benefits equitably among the work force. Teams, communication, and management commitment to fairness — which are the tenets of lean — are keys to achieving this.

Merwan Mehta, Ph.D.

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