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Top 15 Manufacturing Smart Forms & How to Use Them

By: Ben Baldwin

January 24, 2023

Top 15 Manufacturing Smart Forms & How to Use Them

Digital work instructions provide people with quick and easy information, giving users access to years of experience and knowledge within one platform.

But what if you want to capture in-depth information like operator confirmations, employee feedback, and specific production data while also engaging workers?

The answer is manufacturing smart forms.

As an Industry 5.0 innovation, manufacturing smart forms enable you to gather quality data, part numbers, inspection information, operator feedback, and much more within one platform. It is one of the key ways VKS gathers data and engages your employees.

And while manufacturing smart forms are an infinitely versatile tool, 15 manufacturing smart forms come out on top as industry favorites.

But First, How Do Manufacturing Smart Forms Collect Data?

There are 4 distinct ways manufacturing smart forms collect data.

  1. User Entry: Enter quality information, notes, and feedback directly within the work instructions.
  2. Smart tools: Collect quality data automatically through smart tools, wireless calipers, scales, and other sensors.
  3. Barcode Scanning: Scan item codes to quickly track serial & batch numbers with accuracy and precision.
  4. API Integration: Automatically capture and share manufacturing smart form data by integrating your work instructions with your other key business platforms.


Where Does The Data Go?

While collecting data is good, retrieving the data and deciphering the information is crucial. Only when the data is accurate and specific to your operation will you be able to make informed decisions that reap positive benefits in the long run.

All the information collected by our manufacturing smart forms can be viewed through several different mediums.

  • VKS Reports: The data is sent here for quick and easy retrieval.
  • Spreadsheets: Manufacturing smart form data can also be exported from the work instruction software to create your own comprehensive reports.
  • Integration with other systems: You can automatically funnel manufacturing smart form data to other databases and business platforms like BI software and your ERP.

“VKS helps us to go towards zero paper in our operation. We use VKS to do reports on waste and quality as well as work instructions for our teams. With digital operations, we don't lose information and the reports are easier to look at, so we are saving lots of paper in the process.”

Sakaiza Rabefarinotrona, Schneider Electric Methods Engineer

3 Ways to Boost Manufacturing Efficiency With Smart Forms

  1. Set up VKS smart forms to gather and validate production data in real time. Workers can manually enter data or VKS can gather the data autonomously.

  2. Manufacturing smart forms automatically send data to supervisors, managers, and team members so that they always have the information they require when they need it.

  3. As workers fill in their manufacturing smart forms, the VKS rule engine can automatically display messages, guide the user to the appropriate next steps, and/or prompt them to complete additional forms.

Top 15 Smart Forms that Make Data Collection Easy

Now that we have a good overview of manufacturing smart forms and how they collect data, it’s time to dive into the real world and discover how you can collect loads of unique data from your operation.

Manufacturing Smart Form #1: Product History

Product History

In industries requiring a high level of accuracy, a precise product history is crucial. This is true not only for yourself but also for your customers.

When a Product History form is used, you have tangible evidence that the product was made within your customer’s specifications at every step. This level of transferable information provides your customers with a whole new level of quality assurance.

Use the Product History form to capture in-depth product genealogy, part dimensions, pass/fail verification, and serial number validation every step of the way. This manufacturing smart form enables you to ensure quality with every part and gain the necessary traceability with every procedure.

“For some of our customers, we export the VKS data and send it directly to them. They want the VKS reports because they receive the data and it verifies the inspection requirements. Our customers save time when receiving our product by having this information.”

Lee Punnett, Republic Manufacturing VP of Quality

Manufacturing Smart Form #2: Andon Form

When Andon was first practiced, Toyota employees would pull an “Andon Cord” when they noticed an error, had a process improvement suggestion, or were concerned about quality. The production line would often stop and the team would resolve the issue or make the necessary adjustments before starting the production line again. This practice was a revolutionary step toward how we view the importance of continuous improvement today.

But now, with the use of Industry 4.0/5.0 technology, we have a much smarter and more efficient way of helping you use Andon within your facility.

Workers can select Andon manufacturing smart forms to flag problems or improve the assembly line quickly. If a worker discovers an issue or requires assistance, they can open an Andon form, fill it in, and VKS immediately notifies the right people of the issue or process improvement. Additionally, once the Andon form is completed, VKS directs the employee on the appropriate next steps, ensuring that the worker is never left without the knowledge they need.

“Our teams enjoy the forms and email generations that can be sent out to different groups. I set up VKS to have a form pop up when the operator pauses their work. If they select the Andon option, another form pops up for them to fill out. The information is automatically sent to us and we go to the workstation and start problem-solving from there.”

Adrian Riojas, KONE Coal Valley Manufacturing Engineer

Manufacturing Smart Form #3: Safe-Start Checklist

Safe-Start Checklist

When starting a machine or procedure, the beginning actions are crucial. As we discovered with extrusion processes in How Your Machine Setup Affects Quality and Performance, one slight misstep in machine setup can create a lot of defective material.

While your workers follow detailed digital instructions within VKS, you can use Safe-Start Checklists to verify that all components are in the right place and all processes were followed correctly.

VKS will actively block users from progressing to the next step if the right measures are not verified in the manufacturing smart form.

Manufacturing Smart Form #4: In-Process Quality Checklist

In-Process Quality Checklist

While having a detailed history record after production is a powerful tool for quality assurance, it is extremely useful to enact quality control mid-production. This way your teams can spot defects or errors before they head over to packaging, or worse, out the door.

In-Process Quality Checklists help you maintain quality practices at key points during the production process. These manufacturing smart forms can automatically display at timed intervals, specific steps, and/or based on the number of completed units. Alternatively, they can also be accessed manually by the operator to give you maximum flexibility.

These forms prompt users to enter key factors such as:

  • Temperatures
  • Measurements
  • Batch composition
  • Calibrations
  • And more to ensure quality performance every step of the way.

If any chosen metric is outside of normal parameters, the work instructions will give the operator the appropriate next steps.

Manufacturing Smart Form #5: Final Inspection

Final Inspection

Once an assembly or task is completed, it can be incredibly useful to give the finished product a detailed once-over. Final Inspection forms give users a comprehensive checklist that ensures the product is ready for final delivery or the next stage of production.

This form can either be completed by the operator or by a team lead/supervisor.

“Assembly operators were filling out papers by hand and then handing them off to QC (Quality Control). Then QC would go over the same information and validate it. Now with VKS, we've turned that process into operators doing a self-inspection as they go. When they’re done, the inspector just goes through and reviews the information. Our inspectors would normally spend an hour inspecting something and now with VKS, they are down to 15 minutes. Plus, our inspections got way better because of VKS!”

Lee Punnett, Republic Manufacturing VP of Quality

Manufacturing Smart Form #6: Personal Protective Equipment Checklist

Personal Protective Equipment Checklist

It’s happened to most of us, we stepped out on the shop floor only to realize we’d forgotten our eye protection, hard hat, or mask.

The PPE Checklist makes certain that every worker is wearing the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the right job. Operators confirm with their work instruction software that they are wearing each of the required PPE for their specific job.

For example, imagine you are building x-ray machines for customs inspections at the airport. Much of the inner components and walls are covered in lead, and operators working with this material will need to wear a protective covering, as well as gloves and glasses.

With the PPE checklist, operators are reminded to wear these items while also confirming that they are following the required EHS (Environment, Health & Safety) measures.

Manufacturing Smart Form #7: Broken Tool Report

Broken Tool Report

As much as we may not like it, our tools get worn out and broken with continued use. In previous generations of manufacturing, when a tool was broken, the item would often get tossed aside and the operator would fetch a new one, leaving managers and supervisors wondering what happened to all their tools.

Now, operators are prompted to give a report about when a tool is broken and why. The information is then saved and sent to the appropriate people. Management can then use the data to determine the what, when, where, and why of tool failure.

pro tip

Pro Tip: When trying to figure out the root cause of an issue, use Root Cause Analysis to find and solve the problem.

Manufacturing Smart Form #8: SPC Form

SPC Form

Data that is captured from one instance is valuable, to say the least, but data that is captured and compiled over time is downright powerful. Statistical Process Control (SPC) forms enable users to track trends and fluctuations to discover odd fluctuations (or the lack thereof) over time.

Ensure the distributions of data points are within the optimal range by measuring factors such as

  • Equipment calibration
  • Batch temperatures
  • Quality results
  • And other frequencies

If a process is showing consistent repetitions within the SPC control chart, then there's a chance that something is affecting the readings. For instance, if your CNC machine is consistently giving calibration readings on the high side of the optimal range, there could be a factor that is affecting the quality of its work.

SPC forms enable users and leadership to track trends and catch issues before they cause any real harm.

Manufacturing Smart Form #9: Non-Conformance Report

Non-Conformance Report

When a product, service, or process does not conform to specifications, there needs to be an easy way for users to address and flag the issue immediately. The first step to resolving issues is by identifying them.

With NCR (Non-Conformance Report) forms, operators can quickly detail and record the specifics of any issues at any point within an assembly. The information is immediately sent to leadership while also stored for later review.

NCR forms enable businesses to achieve continuous improvement by easily reporting irregularities and problems.

Manufacturing Smart Form #10: Non-Conformance Resolution

Non-Conformance Resolution

As important as it is to record non-conformance issues, it is equally important to record their resolutions. Non-conformance resolution forms enable operators to detail what resolution was used to fix the problem while enabling leaders to track and observe how issues are resolved and the final disposition of reworked parts.

What’s great is that these resolutions can be tracked over time and used to implement new strategies. If there was a common solution being used to solve a host of non-conformance issues, this solution can then be identified and implemented into the normal working process.

Manufacturing Smart Form #11: Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge Sharing

Your employees on the shop floor are a wealth of knowledge and experience. Nobody knows the job better than the people who perform it day in and day out. This makes them the best people to watch for improvements and make suggestions.

However, the process needs to be easy or it simply won’t be done. Your workers are already busy performing their other tasks and responsibilities so they need a simple and effective method to share their knowledge.

“We had all this tribal knowledge and best practices in place, but VKS helped us capture, record, and share it“

Rachel Manson, Engineering Supervisor Crystal Group

With the Knowledge Sharing form, you gain powerful shop floor insight by empowering operators with an easy-to-use and readily available manufacturing smart form. Operators can enter suggestions for improvement with pictures and videos directly from their workstations at any point in the assembly process.

### Manufacturing Smart Form #12: Peer Inspection

Peer Inspection

Sometimes, it can be efficacious to have a second pair of eyes inspect the work that’s been performed. For instance, when training a new operator, inspections from a peer or a supervisor can be a great training tool while also ensuring that the product is good to go.

When a process needs a secondary inspection, use a Peer Inspection form. Peers scan their ID badges and verify that work was done in conformance with the process laid out in the guidebook.

Between checklists, step-by-step instructions, and periodic peer inspections, it’s tough to miss any defect!

pro tip

Pro Tip: Thanks to our 6.5 update, users can create an autosave smart form to pre-emptively notify supervisors that the workstation will soon be ready for an inspection, mitigating any waiting time.

Manufacturing Smart Form #13: Configure To Order (CTO)

Configure To Order (CTO)

For product lines with several variations, Dynamic Configuration forms allow users to enter specific configuration information. This configuration information then enables the work instruction to direct the operator with the appropriate next steps.

For instance, imagine that you build high-end custom toy cars with several variations. These variations are dictated by the work order and the desired product of the customer. Currently, you have an order for a red car with an orange hood, scooped spoiler, and a right-sided driver seat.

By entering this information into your configure to order form, the instructions will display only the necessary steps to fulfill the customer's order.

Within the manufacturing smart form, operators can select the model variations at key points within their work instructions. Or the specific model can be selected automatically through ERP integration and the use of the VKS Variables Feature.

Manufacturing Smart Form #14: Pause Inquiry

Pause Inquiry

When an operator pauses their work instruction, you need to know why. Was there an accident, tool malfunction, or a scheduled break?

Pause Inquiry forms prompt operators to identify the reason for the pause so that you can accurately track the occurrences and reasons for disruption in work. Capturing this type of data helps to identify any process issues or any gaps in Overall Labor Effectiveness.

Manufacturing Smart Form #15: Electronic Device History Record (eDHR)

Electronic Device History Record (eDHR)

Used for medical device manufacturing, electronic Device History Record (eDHR) forms enable operators to capture key data to provide the business and its customers with a complete history of how the product was built.

The form is used to gather the following data:

  • Serial numbers
  • Manufacturing dates
  • Part dimensions
  • and many more pertinent details

Additionally, achieve double verification by tracking who worked on each specific unit with VKS signatures.

Manufacturing Smart Forms Change How You Interact With the Industrial Environment

Every operation is different, meaning you need a data-capturing tool that can augment itself to suit your specific and ever-growing needs. And while we’ve gone through the top 15 manufacturing smart forms, there are innumerable customizations that can be made to your work instruction platform and smart forms.

manufacturing smart forms editor

This is because VKS enables you to custom-make your smart forms to gather any bit of information that is valuable to your process. Take the most beneficial elements of each of the above manufacturing smart forms and create the best data-capturing tools for your operation.

Curious about how VKS is used by other companies? Search our Case Studies to discover how the industry is using work instruction software and manufacturing smart forms to innovate and push the boundaries of manufacturing excellence.