Best Practices

What are Best Practices?

Best Practices are the established principle course of action within any situation. They can be used to make sure that the most efficient, cost-effective, and/or safe methods are being used. Typically, best practices are used within business applications as a way to establish the best working standards. These can come in the form of specific actions, guidelines, ethics, or ideas that enable businesses to produce optimal results.

For best practices to work, they need to hit on two key elements:

  1. They need to produce optimal results.
  2. The standards need to be repeatable.

It is simple enough to say that best practices are the methods that produce the best results, but it is equally important for these practices to be easily repeatable. For example, if workers consistently lack time to do a job within the established best practice, then the practice is no longer the “best”.

Real best practices give companies control over their processes and the ability to produce consistent results.

So what are best practices and how can you use big and small actions to find the best practices for your businesses?

Key Takeaways

  • Best practices are an established best course of action within a given circumstance.

  • Most best practices can be categorized into specific actions and broad initiatives.

  • Best practices need to be fluid so that companies can constantly improve their methods. Today’s best practice may not suit the needs of tomorrow.

  • Use systems like work instruction software to keep your best practices up to date and relevant to your current needs.

What Are Manufacturing Best Practices?

Within manufacturing, best practices can range from specific activities, like how to properly hold a hammer, to broad company-wide philosophies like transparency. Because of this, we can separate many manufacturing best practices into these two categories:

  • Specific Actions
  • Broad Methodologies

Specific Actions enable operators to know what action should be taken when faced with a specific task.

Broad Methodologies help companies stay on track within more complex circumstances where an explicit best practice or action cannot be stated.

Specific Actions Examples

  • Always lift with your legs: When it comes to health and safety, this is probably the most frequently heard best practice. This is because it is valuable to remind employees that lifting with your legs and not your back is the required and safe methodology.
  • Maintain the correct sequence of actions: Imagine you run a packaging solutions company: Every box and package needs to be assembled in a specific order. It may work to assemble the boxes in a different order but you and your team have determined that one specific order is the most efficient.

Broad Methodologies Examples

  • Lean Manufacturing: This business methodology/philosophy is essentially a set of guidelines. For example, lean manufacturing doesn’t tell you how to reduce waste specifically within your company, but it does help characterize opportunities for you to implement smart and efficient processes that meet the needs of your company.
  • DMAIC: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, & Control is a great way to establish and improve well-performing processes. This specific data-driven sequence enables manufacturers to efficiently adapt to new technologies and methods in a well-defined and structured framework. Like lean manufacturing, this approach simply provides a framework for improvement. What methods and specific actions you use will be up to you.
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Pro Tip

An effective way to ensure that specific actions and broad initiatives are being followed is through work instruction software. Set safety reminders and guide workers through the correct actions while opening new avenues for communication and improvement.

How to Establish Best Practices

When creating, developing, or improving your best practices, it is beneficial to follow a best practice. I know that may sound confusing but stick with me. To illustrate this point, let’s follow the above-mentioned DMAIC method to establish your best practices. This will enable you to find the optimal actions while setting the framework for improvement over time.

Define

Here you’ll want to define the process in question. Perform a Gemba Walk to engage employees to see firsthand how the operation is done. This will give you an accurate representation of the capabilities of your workforce while including them in the decision-making process. Also, look at who is consistently producing excellent results and incorporate their actions into establishing the best practice for the procedure.

Although going to the shop floor is a best practice in itself, having a system like an MES that enables you to track the productivity of your employees is a powerful and consistent tool in defining processes, complications, and achievements. It will also enable workers to communicate their ideas and funnel in more valuable knowledge.

Measure

Once you have defined the best practice, determine what metrics you will use to measure its effectiveness. This will enable you to accurately track progress once the best practice is integrated into the operation.

To see this in practice, let’s use the example of always lifting with your legs. Determine the key metric that will accurately gauge the effectiveness of the best practice. In this case, you’ll want to measure the number of back injuries before and after the implementation of this specific best practice.

Analyze

Now that you’ve determined your key metrics, you can analyze the effectiveness of the best practice. Figure out root causes and plan for greater improvement over time. When needed, modify your best practice to fit the unique needs of your operation, workforce, and goals.

This is another great opportunity to talk to workers. People are often resistant to new methods so involving them in the process will go a long way in developing a strategy that everyone is comfortable doing.

Improve

Here’s where you use the information you’ve gathered from analysis to improve your best practice. One specific best practice is to focus on improvements that will have the greatest impact for the better. Once these have been taken care of, you’ll have a good framework for smaller and more incremental improvements as you control the process over time.

Control

Everyone should be aware of the implemented best practices and have a way to review them when needed. With work instruction software that guides workers through their complex manufacturing tasks, employees gain the confidence that they are doing the right actions for every task.

Once you’ve gone through DMAIC, you’ll want to evaluate and refine the process. As your operation changes over time, improve and refine your best practices as necessary.

Should Best Practices Change?

It may seem counterintuitive but best practices are indeed fluid. As businesses evolve, gain new technologies, and improve their operations, the best practices that define the company needs to grow and change with it.

Just in terms of safety, think of all the industry standards that have changed over the past decade, let alone all the changes that occurred under the pandemic. Best practices should always follow the optimal and safest results.

That is why it is important to use methodologies and technologies that enable your company to quickly respond to industry shifts and master change. Software like digital work instructions helps you do this. Any improvement within a methodology or process can be updated on a company-wide scale with simply a click of a button. This allows every employee to have the most current and accurate instructions and best practices at their disposal. Remove the guesswork from your operation and firmly establish the best practices your company has to offer.

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