Posted by: JC Gatlin | April 21, 2010

Improve the Homebuilding System with Work Standards

Standardized Work is a step-by-step description of how to perform a process. It documents “the best way we know how to do it today.”

At its best, it ensures that the process is implemented the same way from jobsite to jobsite, community to community, state to state. Done right, a standard will reduce recurring errors and defects. But, at the very least, it will set a baseline from which future improvements can be developed.

Any home builder that is seriously committed to delivering a pleasurable home building experience must set and follow work standards. Those standards guide execution and decision making. (The alternative is inconsistent execution, and inconsistent and often conflicting decisions made by individuals reacting to problems.)

Work standards target the sub-processes of a total value stream. What that means is that all the individual components that make up a larger process must be standardized.

In the Home Building System, the construction of a home is made up of a series of large processes. These large processes follow a logical sequence such as block, then frame, then drywall. Now, work standards break down each large process into manageable components. Take the frame process for example. It will be made up of a series of sub-processes – such as lumber delivery, framing the walls, take-offs and the frame inspection. For a lean home builder, those sub-processes will follow work standards.

Here’s an example of a work standard for lumber delivery:

Lumber is packaged and bundled in specific groups determined by species and when it will be used by the framer.

Lumber suppliers may change from market to market, but the lumber delivery standard will be followed by all suppliers. As long as the lumber is packaged and delivered per the standard, the jobsite Construction Professional can easily count and confirm the delivered order, and the frame crew — when breaking into the lumber pack – can easily access the first needed pieces on top.

When documenting work standards, we use a “Standardized Work Instruction Sheet” or SWIS, for short. This breaks the sub-process (such as the lumber delivery) into individual, chronological steps. Each step must be written as simple and clear as possible. Include photos or illustrations that further explain the actions within the step. The visual aide will help convey the idea more effectively.

You can find many examples of standardized work in the world outside of lean homebuilding. Next time you’re at a fast food restaurant, look for a poster that demonstrates to employees how best to wash their hands. Airlines have instruction sheets not only throughout the airport but also on the airplane. Your kid’s jungle gym set that you had to assemble yourself included step by step instructions along with illustrations showing how piece “D” fits into groove “A.” There’s even a website ( that breaks down just about anything you could possibly ever want to do into illustrated step-by-step instructions, such as this one for “How to Make 3 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake.”

© April 2010 Homebuilding Partners, Inc.   twitter-logo


  1. […] Improve the Homebuilding System with Work Standards dal blog Lean Homebuilding di J. C. Gatlin: Come si creano i fogli di lavoro standard (traduzione automatica) […]

  2. […] they follow or are they open to following standardized work? Will they understand lean concepts? Will they use the First Time Quality […]

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