Standard work is as easy as PB&J

July 15, 2010

J.L. Mitchell, Certified Lean Leader, Creative Director

Want to start a standard work, company wide kaizen event? Standard work lists the normal tasks done with the least amount of waste. The result of standard work is current best policies and practices. A kaizen event is a continuous improvement philosophy based on lean manufacturing and the Toyota Production System. We created a company wide event that used a peanut butter and jelly sandwich demonstration to introduce standard work and engage the employees. Our company has 45 employees with multiple departments and we accomplished a one week, two and a half hour a day company kaizen event. At the end of our kaizen week, we had a company cook out and fellow employees brought in their favorite picnic dish. The following are the supplies needed for the interactive demonstration.PB&J



• White bread

• Wheat bread

• Chunky peanut butter

• Smooth peanut butter

• Grape jelly

• Grape jam

• Plastic knives

• Paper plates

• Copies for all employees of the “How to make a PB&J” form

• Pencils for all

We gathered the company into the cafeteria for a ppt presentation that covered what is standard work, why we do it, and the benefits. We passed out the “How Do You Make a PB&J sandwich?” form and asked that people write down the steps in 5 minutes. We asked how many people had 10 or more steps, then how many had 10 or less, then 5 or less. We chose one of those people to come to the front of the cafeteria near the table set up with all the supplies for PB&J. We had one of the lean leaders perform the task of sandwich maker while the other employee read off their instructions. Below was the result….yummy.

The purpose was to take a basic task such as a PB&J sandwich and show how many steps were actually performed and what steps were needed or taken for granted. Someone actually documented their wife making a sandwich and got 30+ steps. Someone did another version with mainly photos and reduced the number of written steps in half.

By far the best result of standard work is the discussions of best practice. For our PB&J demonstration, organizing your workspace was the first improvement. We had so many different supplies to make one simple sandwich, but we placed them randomly and far apart from one another on purpose. One employee suggested getting the peanut butter and jelly sold in one jar. Another person used 2 knives for their sandwich while another chimed in that you can use one and wipe it clean on the other side of the bread before dipping it in the other jar. One employee threw a curve and said they were the customer and didn’t want white bread; they wanted wheat with the crust cut off. We tackled work place organization, waste reduction, and satisfying the customer all in that little banter. That is what makes standard work so powerful.

Most people are very leery about writing down what they have been doing for ten plus years. It is viewed as a threat to what makes them valuable, special and indispensable in the company. The flip side to this is when these top performers are away for a week or more of vacation; they come back to a mile high of late jobs. Is this something you would like to come back to after a restful vacation? They suffer, the company suffers, and the customer definitely suffers because we have to wait for the top performer to come back.

Standard work is not written in stone, it is an organized set of steps to perform a task. The real benefit comes from asking why and improving the process. It is a compliment to, not a replacement for experiential learning or to find a replacement for you.
Willington Companies has been practicing lean since 9/11/07.