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5 Steps to Build Effective Work Instructions

By: Berenice Mengo

April 21, 2020

5 Steps to Build Effective Work Instructions

How Do You Write A Work Instruction?

If you find yourself struggling with drafting the best version of work instructions then you landed on the right page. Your goal should be building effective work instructions that will consequently improve your work methods and translate into higher productivity and a lower defect rate.

To get you started in the process of writing comprehensive work instructions we have built a guide or if you may, a work instruction, with 5 steps and a few other useful tips.

What Is The Purpose Of Work Instructions?

Work instructions are as much about knowledge transfer as they are about process documentation. Of course, clear and readable work instructions are always preferred, but the point here is that the work instruction is useless if it’s not consistently used by operators.

With this in mind, the following strategies will focus on the process of implementing effective work instructions rather than the specific techniques for how to write them. There are numerous cases of well-written work instructions that failed to be followed because they do not actually help the target audience.

Implementing innovative work instructions can on the surface appear to be a complex and time-consuming process, but with the help of this guide, VKS Digital Work Instructions and our staff of experienced Manufacturing professionals, you’ll be surprised at just how easy it is to drive big improvements in productivity and quality.

As a starting point, we suggest leveraging the DMAIC process (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) to guide the implementation. DMAIC is an approach to continuous improvement often used by manufacturers to improve, optimize and sustain process improvements, and in this case, may be a valuable tool for maximizing gains from standardization.

STEP 1 - Define The Job Process

This step has two crucial phases that once completed, will provide you with a work instructions template for future use.

Phase 1: Understand The Job Process

As a work instruction author, you need to understand the process you have been tasked with documenting to determine the best method for executing the work. In some cases, an author may be a medical device manufacturing shop floor expert with experience in most, if not all functional departments, but this is likely the exception. VKS is such an intuitive application that most users will quickly become comfortable with its capabilities, but knowledge of the exact production process could be more difficult. To understand the process, Authors will frequently do one or both of the following:

  • Spend a significant amount of time on the production floor, where the work is actually taking place. The operators will give you practical and beneficial information that will make your work instruction an accurate and valuable reference.

  • Collaborate closely with people who work directly in or with the process. The level of collaboration will vary depending on the situation but could include passive involvement of shop floor personnel in approving or reviewing the work instructions, or active involvement as a member of the actual project team.

Phase 2: Understand The Work Instructions’ Audience

Your primary audience is the operator who’s going to read and execute the work instructions. With this in mind, the work instructions must be clear and concise with very little room for interpretation.

Your secondary audience is the quality/engineering team that is going to be interested in the data that will be collected during the execution of the work, as well as ensuring the work instruction accurately depicts the process as it was designed.

The quality/engineering team needs to make sure that the process is designed correctly. Finally, they’ll use that information to make decisions about improving the process.

STEP 2 - Decide - What Do You Want To Measure?

In most use cases, valuable data is being collected or should be collected for any number of reasons. Defining the specific data collection requirements relative to your products, processes, facility and customer demands is a critical step in the process.

In the case of work instructions implementation using VKS, the built-in data collection capability really provides an opportunity to intuitively integrate data collection on the shop floor with the operator’s activities.

However, this can present a planning challenge when deploying smart work instructions. As a guide, some of the most common areas in need of better, more reliable data collection are:

  • Quality Control (QC)

Two key aspects to QC data is the measurement itself and the frequency of the measurement. VKS can help automate both with smart form display rules.

  • Productivity

Productivity monitoring should be seamless and flexible from a reporting standpoint. Determine the Key Performance Indicators for your operation and build your custom dashboard.

  • Traceability / Accountability

Visibility to the Who, What, When and Where can be critical to accountability and root cause analysis. Plan where you will need sign-offs, confirmations and other traceable points of reference.

Read a story on Traceability to see how crucial this function can be to your operations.

STEP 3 - Analyze The Effectiveness Of Your Guidebook

Collaboration is again key in the Analyze step. Talk to the operators who will be using work instructions to make sure they are effective and intuitive, make the changes according to their input. Talk to your engineering and quality teams to verify they will get the data they need in the format they need it.

This will be your final opportunity to validate your planned work instruction roll out with the 2 key internal stakeholders ahead of the actual creation and deployment of the documentation. Skipping the Analyze step can result in more edits, rework, and iterations so the message here is - collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!

Man watching work instructions on a tablet in a manufacturing plant

STEP 4 - Improve Your Process Documentation

You can now begin developing the work instructions. It is critical to work with both groups - Operators and the Quality/Engineering team to build a better, more effective and intuitive work instruction.

STEP 5 - Control / Sustain The New Documentation

The Control cycle is where you sustain the changes. It’s the phase where you see if your documented process actually works and if people execute the instructions as presented.

  • Iterate the first 4 cycles (Define - Measure - Analyse - Improve) as many times as necessary until your process is stable. Make sure that the right people see the right information at the right time.
  • Enforce compliance on the shop floor, making sure the team of operators is using the work instructions at all times during the process.
  • Create a feedback loop to implement changes and updates.

That control phase can be supported by internal policies and procedures in your organization that require VKS compliance. A system where procedures are not consistently followed is likely to break down.

Standardize Work Instructions

Work instructions are a crucial component of any business. Documented business processes improve the performance of the entire operation, and this is particularly true in manufacturing where more variables and higher risks coexist.

Using this document as a guide, in conjunction with leveraging the VKS Smart Work Instruction application will give your organization a clear advantage and help you standardize your best practices.

We are here to help! Book a demo with us to create the most effective work instructions.

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