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WHAT ARE STANDARDS?

Standards are documented agreements containing tech­nical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines, or definitions of char­acteristics, to ensure that materials, products, processes, and services are fit for their purpose. These standards can be two types: internal and external. External stan­dards are consensus agreements reached between all economic players in that industrial sector—suppliers, users, and often governments. Various standard setting bodies such as IEEE, ISO, and UL are driving standards and the activities related to certification. They agree on specifications and criteria to be applied consistently in the choice and classification of materials, the manufac­ture of products, and the provision of services. The aim is to facilitate trade, exchange, and technology transfer. Although external standards are extremely important, this article will focus on internal standardization and its interplay with innovation. Internal standards are mutually agreed-to systems, processes, and specifica­tions that people from all areas of the corporation agree upon and do not deviate from.

WHY IS THE QUESTION OF INNOVATION AND STANDARDIZATION IMPORTANT?

Today everything runs on data. Businesses are now a collection of various data collection points. Decisions that used to be made in isolation are no longer feasible because almost every piece of hardware that is purchased, from automation equipment to quality measurement equipment, comes with a database. Equipment that was previously stand-alone now needs to be integrated with centrally held information. These new databases can easily create overlap with current corporate systems, and new systems are proliferating from many different en­try points to the corporation. Each person or group that makes a decision for a specific system will go through a sometimes detailed decision process that makes sense for the decision at hand. Problems occur when the sheer number of these systems is calculated and they cannot be supported in a cost-effective manner. Attempting to link these systems to corporate systems becomes an ex­tremely daunting task.

Innovation and standardization are not just topics for consideration in the software and hardware arena but also with business processes. Reengineering discussions of the

past centered on innovating outmoded business practices and processes. New processes that were designed were almost always superior to the former but often were not successful. The reasons for this often centered on the amount of change, timing of the change, amount of user acceptance, communication of the changes, politics, and follow-through. These are still the issues that must be overcome in order to be successful. The game plan must be to establish an environment that continually fosters reasonable and measured change while maintaining a core of common practices and systems.

First find out how different areas are doing things. Differences are opportunities. There are two types of opportunities: plant-to-plant opportunities and struc­tural opportunities. An example of plant-to-plant op­portunities is a comparison that is made between different plants on how many inspectors each plant has. If one plant has more inspectors, the first plant can learn from the second plant how they are more productive. The second type of opportunity is structural. Using the previous example, if the two plants do the inspection in a different manner, then the exercise becomes one of studying work content and roles and responsibilities. This kind of comparison may or may not be easily com­parable because of facility layout, production differen­tiation, workforce differences, or local union contracts.

Most variance is not value-added. Drawings in dif­ferent formats do not give you additional value, but if only one format is acceptable, it can be part of a ma­chine specification that is provided to the OEM. You need to evaluate if non-standardization is value-added and eliminate variances so you can have common com­parisons (apples to apples).

Continued

Part 1  Part 2   Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6  Part 7  Part 8


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