Success with Standardization

Standardized practices form a baseline for continued improvement


It is not uncommon for maintenance and repair facilities to find themselves plagued with struggles training new employees, failure to deliver expected outcomes on time, or the inability to work with consistent cycle times. I might suggest that these types of challenges could be corrected with the standardization of procedures, training, and documented best practices. Establishing standardized practices involves collecting and recording data, which then forms a baseline for continued improvement.

Tribal knowledge vs. a better way

Many times the responsibility to train others within the organization falls on those who have become “fixtures” in the company or repair facility. They possess what is commonly known as “Tribal Knowledge,” which would disappear with them should they leave, or as the saying goes, get hit by a bus tomorrow. But more importantly this type of training or passing on of ways to accomplish a task fails to guarantee consistency in content or maybe even quality. Many times tasks are done a certain way just because that is how it has always been done. But does anyone ever ask “Why”? And does anyone ever ask what the consequences of doing it that way are? Has anyone ever considered there might be a better way?

Let me share a story. This old country boy’s wife sent him to the store for a ham. After he bought it, she asked him why he didn’t have the butcher cut off the end of the ham. This old boy asked his wife why she wanted the end cut off. She replied that her mother had always done it that way and that was reason enough for her. Since the wife’s mother was visiting, they asked her why she always cut off the end of the ham. Mother replied that this was the way her mother did it; Mother, daughter, and “this old boy” then decided to call grandmother and solve this three-generation mystery. Grandmother promptly replied that she cut the end of the ham because her roaster was too small to cook it in one piece (Ziglar 1975).

In the early 1960s, when practical light twins started becoming popular, there was no such thing as a Multiengine Flight Instructor rating. If you were a CFI for airplanes you could teach in single or multiengine, land, or sea based on your pilot ratings. Many people were killed during training accidents as instructors developed their own methods of teaching in dramatic fashion what they had just so recently learned themselves. Many instructors gave their first multiengine instruction the day after they became a multiengine pilot. Some instructors had several thousand hours of multiengine flying and some had less than 10 (King Povenmire).

Continual improvement

Running a successful repair facility is about how the organization functions at every level. Standards for behavior, procedures, and training go a long way toward promoting a culture of continual improvement. We all know too well of the risks inherent in the aviation world, whether we fly the airplanes or repair the airplanes. Creating standards opens the door to identifying those risks, managing them, and best of all mitigating or eliminating them. Today many organizations are “self-insured” for a significantly high amount of consider this; how would your facility be economically affected by a disastrous incident or accident that could have been prevented by an employee complying with a documented procedure.

With the institution of standards, your organization becomes more efficient and saves money. You are likely to notice less re-work, improved completion time for tasks, enhanced quality of work, and more positive employee attitudes as a result of decreased frustration in knowing what is clearly expected.

Henry Ford once said, “Today’s standardization, instead of being a barricade against improvement, it is the necessary foundation on which tomorrow’s improvement will be based.” This is as true today as when Mr. Ford first said it.

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