Proverbial Points: Production Standards

Bob Williamson | October 18, 2017

Who isn’t familiar with the proverb “A penny saved is a penny earned?”

It seeks to convey the idea that what’s not spent today can be saved and eventually increase in value in the future. How does this relate to an efficient plant?

Improvements in equipment or process efficiency are often seen as “saving pennies” that can lead to lower costs per unit produced and/or increased capacity, and, ultimately, additional revenues. In many plants, however, there’s a tendency to chase dollars while overlooking “pennies” left on the floor.

When businesses waste lots of pennies, they can no longer afford to do what really must be accomplished. Yet, while lots of pennies turn into big dollars over the long term, countless operations ignore them.

Speaking of proverbs, consider “Waste not, want not.” It encourages the wise use of what we have, including time, money, and talent. Here, the term “want” doesn’t refer to a desire for something, but rather the lack of something needed to accomplish a goal. Let’s look at this in the context of production standards.

Production standards can be good for business or, if not closely watched, terrible. To be clear, a single standard can be easily monitored, updated, or eliminated when no longer relevant. But, in many manufacturing processes, there are several standards, with allowances for machine production rates, quality and scrap, and unplanned downtime.

Often created through well-intended industrial-engineering processes, production standards may, over time, become foundational, never changing, time-proven, legacy principles. To challenge their validity is akin to questioning if the sun rises in the east. The inertia of these past production standards can be nearly impossible to overcome.

Since a manufacturing process is made up of many different smaller processes, it’s relatively easy to overlook the many different production standards that could be getting out of whack with the reality of the day and needs of the business. Once the standards are written and approved, there’s no ownership, little oversight, and minimal improvement. Conversely, what if businesses constantly monitor their production standards, compare them to what’s actually happening, and then pursue ways to improve them? Aha: Continuous improvement in action!

Key points

All waste is not equal. When actual amounts aren’t reported, trended, or analyzed, how can waste be reduced? Simple: What gets measured gets done.

In the end, the proverbs “a penny saved is a penny earned” and “waste not, want not” point to the need to pay attention to seemingly small percentages and simple production standards in meeting the bigger needs of customers and the bottom-line balance sheet of the business. EP

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


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Bob Williamson

Bob Williamson

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