We welcomed members of OpExChange to our facility for a tour and a round table discussion where Timothy Lackey shared how the implementation of “Standard Work” was the vehicle they used to not only sustain the new level but also to build and improve on it.  Member companies traveled from across the state to participate in the event.

The following was published by Mike Demos, Vice President at OpExChange

Mission critical communications! That is what PCI Group supplies to their customers from both their facility in Fort Mill, SC and Dallas, Texas. This organization is a transactional mail company servicing highly regulated industries where security of customer information is essential. The team is passionately proud of their “white paper factories” which utilize state-of-the art digital processing to intelligently print and insert documents. Over one million documents are inserted and processed every day.

In 2015, the Fort Mill facility landed a new contract which resulted in over 300% growth in less than six months. They went from a two-shift operation of 80 employees to a 24/7 operation of 240. The senior leadership team realized that to grow to this scale and sustain they would need to change their approach to both production and quality. Existing methods of inspection and on-the-job training would no longer suffice.

The Fort Mill facility is an active member of OpExChange, a unique, peer-to-peer learning group in South Carolina. On February 6, Tim Lackey, PCI’s Business Process Director, gave the OpExChange team insight into how they accomplished this growth. Member companies travelled from across the state to participate in the event. Tim shared how the implementation of “Standard Work” was the vehicle they used to not only sustain the new level but also to build and improve on it.

Standard Work

Aristotle is credited with saying, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” This is the premise for standard work in Toyota’s “House of Lean” and one adopted by PCI. The goal of standard work is to eliminate variation by identifying and repeating the “best” method over and over again.

Although there are many elements to the “House of Lean,” the PCI leadership team realized that standard work is essential to the foundation of a lean program and went aggressively toward incorporating this. This would establish the foundation for further improvement.

Tim emphasized that an important facet for the success of standard work is employee buy-in. Rather than have an engineer or manager dictate the steps for the documents, they utilized teamwork from their process experts to establish the best method. To-date, PCI has created nearly 200 documented standard work documents.

The key steps Tim emphasized for implementing standard work are:

  • Involve several operators from the same area
  • Each employee individually lists their critical tasks and steps to do them
  • Merge the answers and have the team review them
  • The team agrees on the final version
  • The final document should be simple with visuals (one page)
  • Standard work documents should be easily accessible at the workplace
  • Review regularly and look for improvement opportunity

Tim provided a sample standard work document (attached.) It provides the simple steps needed to stack a pallet for delivery to the Post Office. It is simple, visual, and results in a consistent method. This particular document helped resolve pallet loading issues experienced at the post office.


The standard work documentation greatly augmented their training protocol and completely changed the way that cross-training and onboarding occur. PCI was able to revamp their training protocol:

  • The standard work document became the baseline for process training
  • Tribal knowledge and traditional on the job training were replaced with standard work training
  • With assistance from the SCMEP, PCI used training within industry (TWI) methodology. Subject matter experts became the trainers of standard works
  • Gamification – PCI recently started using a program from Centrical to incentivize standard work retention. This third party software provides a competitive (but fun) way for employees to quiz themselves on standard work and earn points

In addition, PCI provides on-going training in Lean Sigma methodology. There are currently three black belts, thirty green belts, and sixty yellow belt practitioners on their work force.

Servant Leadership

Tim shared that for a lean program to truly be effective, it must have executive support. PCI Group is a family-owned business. Their co-owners, Christian Kropac, Jr. and Skip Pawul are heavily involved with their team. Tim shared that the organizational chart is an inverted pyramid showing the owners at the bottom with the workforce on top. Chris and Skip want the group to know that they support them in their mission. The executive team is totally committed to their company being on a lean journey and realize it is essential for success in both their bottom and top line.

Business Impacts of Standard Work

PCI Group is recognizing many benefits from standard work implementation. Some of these are:

  • Better trained and engaged workforce
  • Reduced process errors
  • Increased service level to customers
  • Higher quality products
  • Increased efficiency and accountability
  • Reduced costs
  • Improved onboarding and training

Because of their standard work implementation, they were able to open their facility in Dallas in only three months. Without standard work, this could have taken as much as a year to accomplish. Remarkably, they did this without any major problems or disruption to customer service.

Event Summary

One of the benefits of hosting an event with the OpExChange is the peer discussion that occurs after the plant tour. After the plant tour at PCI, the team discussed things they saw that they could take back with them to their operations. They also gave constructive feedback on potential areas for improvement at PCI.

Tim concluded that PCI does realize that this is a journey and operational excellence is about continuously improving, striving for excellence. The steps that they are taking with standard work are definitely paying off. We look forward to our next visit to PCI Group!

The OpExChange is a peer-to-peer network of companies in South Carolina dedicated to learning and growing together. Member companies host events at their facilities and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to member companies that provide access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. If you are interested in joining, contact me or visit our website for more information.