What it's about
In this article we provide a background on why work instructions are important and what to consider when creating a new one. Since work instructions are key to perform operational processes in a safe and reliable manner, the right software is crucial to support the creation of work instructions. At the end of this article, we point out a few decision criteria to choose the right software.
What is a work instruction?
Work instructions describe how to perform an activity, either via text or using videos, images and pictograms. For new employees, the work instruction is a concrete guide that leads them step-by-step through the task at hand. For experienced employees, it serves primarily as a reference book, as they are already familiar with the process flow. Especially on the shopfloor of assemblies, maintenance of machines or testing of end products, the work instruction is of great importance in order to be able to realize the added value of the company efficiently. But also in other areas of the company, e.g. in administration, work instructions serve as a valuable store of knowledge and the basis for smooth processes.
Why are work instructions important?
Customer-specific products are booming, so that companies must also offer their goods in batch size 1. As a result, the variation and combination of different tasks to be performed at a workplace and by an employee are also increasing sharply. An employee has to master an almost infinite number of processes. In order not to be overtaxed and not to forget anything during the process execution, he must be able to access the work instructions simply and quickly. At the same time, due to the shortage of skilled workers, companies face the challenge of training unskilled workers very quickly or performing tasks at the highest precision possible with less workers due to the Corona-crisis.
How do you write a work instruction?
The work instruction should be prepared by a qualified and experienced employee who is directly involved in the respective process (e.g. from work preparation). It is also advisable to consult the quality assurance and quality management departments. In addition to technical completeness and correctness, company-wide standards regarding format and the use of images and texts should be observed. Further, the work instructions should be flexible and easy to adapt to future changes. At the end of the creation process, there is a defined release and acceptance process according to the four- or six-eyes principle. Read here why you should not use popular word processing applications to create digital work instructions.
What should work instructions include?
A good work instruction is clearly structured and comprehensible. The following questions should be answered:
What do I have to do? A precise job description explains what needs to be done.
How do I do it? Exact execution is described.
When and in what order should I do it? The time schedule is presented step by step.
What do I have to do it with? The tools for correct implementation are listed and their use is explained if necessary.
What do I have to consider? Complete safety instructions are the be-all and end-all when it comes to preventing risks and avoiding dangers.
What is the validity of the work instructions? The work area and user group of the work instruction are defined.
Who is my contact person? In case of queries or change requests, the user has to know who is responsible for the work instruction.
What should I consider when choosing the right software for work instructions?
quick initial creation of work instructions
integration of images and videos
easy and flexible change options
recording and integration of the user’s feedback
conformity with existing standards
In addition to the specialized creation of work instructions, it is important that the software is a component for the provision and use of the created work instructions, so that the employee has easy and quick access. This makes scrolling through paper instructions a thing of the past.
Modern work instructions are the central element for creating value and achieving corporate goals, because they store and manage valuable expertise and provide it in the right place at the right time. In addition, a work instruction must answer all questions relating to a process. Therefore, it requires a carefully considered structure. With the help of special worker assistance software, the digital creation and management of work instructions is just a cinch.
Work Instruction 4.0
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About the author
Moritz Stern is head of strategy and marketing at Operations1. Before joining Operations1, Moritz worked at Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consultancy. Here he advised clients from the operations environment around the globe on strategic issues. Previously, Moritz worked for Alstom Power, Merck KGaA and Arthur D. Little. Moritz holds a degree in industrial engineering (M. Sc.).
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