How do you get really good at something? You keep practicing over and over again. How do you stay good at something? You stick to a training plan where everything is written out for you to do. Standard work procedures, while not glamorous, are critical for teams to sustain a culture of excellence. By minimizing wasted time and mistakes, a team can focus on maximizing efficiency and high-quality deliverables.
What is a Standard Work Procedure?
A standard work procedure is a document that lists out instructions to accomplish a certain task or series of tasks. They are typically written for high-repetition and/or high-complexity activities to ensure maximum consistency and accuracy. Not only is time saved while completing the task but also time is saved training new employees to do that task. As more standard work procedures are written, they become like training manuals or onboarding instructions as the team expands.
Why Are Standard Work Procedures Important for Engineering Simulation Teams Specifically?
While many simpler simulations don’t require a lot of model prep, more complex simulations relying on a variety of physics may require a more intricate and time-consuming setup. In the latter case, missing one critical step could be the difference between a stable, accurate solution and a head-scratching error. And while some rework, recalibrating, and adjustments are anticipated for any simulation activities, documenting that simulation into a standard work procedure eliminates a significant amount of trivial errors, forgetfulness, etc. At the end of the day, we are all still human.
How to Identify Simulations that Make Great Candidates for Standard Work Procedures
While having standard work procedures for all simulations would be the ideal scenario, every company’s product development cycle and product portfolio has a high degree of variability. Some years may be focused on continuous improvement projects, clean-sheet products, or both. Therefore, reviewing your team’s historical simulation projects will be a good filter for identifying the most requested types of simulations and those that caused the greatest heartburn. Regarding the former, high-volume (ie, repetitive) simulations are a great first starting point for documentation. This will give your team flexibility when it comes to who is assigned that simulation project and a tighter timeline to completion when estimating the work. These lead to greater team throughput, maximizing the company’s product development cycle efficiency.
But what about the simulations that cause problems? Are they good candidates for standard work procedures? The answer is unequivocally yes. Even if they are requested infrequently, simulations that prove to be extremely complex, difficult to set up, or are tied to high-visibility projects have the power to bring even high-performing teams to a grinding halt. Even documenting one or two of these simulation projects will be a tremendous insurance policy for your team if and/or when the same request is made. Avoiding delays and unnecessary stress will make all the difference for your team, their productivity, and their mental well-being.
Lastly, document the new simulations that your team is striving to learn about. Growing into new areas of expertise is much easier when they are documented in standard work procedures as opposed to on your coworker’s desktop sticky notes. It gives your team a starting point to make improvements as they grow in their knowledge of the subject area. Additionally, when onboarding new personnel, they don’t have to bother you with every detail of a simulation setup. That’s a win for everyone.
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