Dynamic Work Instructions & Why Do You Need Them?

By: Ben Baldwin

August 12, 2021

Dynamic Work Instructions

Dynamic Work Instructions are essential to the modern manufacturer. But in the case of standardized digital processes, what does dynamic mean?

The word dynamic (or dynamism) is a process or system characterized by constant change, activity, or progress. In today’s industry, you need to be dynamic. Whether you are building a wide variety of products or mass producing one item, the ability to change laterally, progress vertically, and continuously improve is no longer about innovation, it is about survival.

In the manufacturing field, dynamism is essential to effective processes, a strong workforce, and intelligent software. Everything in your operation should be focused towards constant progress. Without the ability to be dynamic, your competitive edge is lost.

In What is MTS, MTO, ATO, and How Can You Use These Strategies?, we explored these three different production strategies and how each is an effective method for certain products and business models.

Now let's explore how you can use dynamic work instructions within any production method to pave the necessary steps towards continuous improvement and the future of Industry 4.0.

Why Dynamic Work Instructions Matter

Whether in high-mix or low-mix manufacturing environments, the ability to change, augment, and improve your operations is fundamental to modern manufacturing. Industry 4.0 is constantly evolving and your processes and software should be equipped to do the same.

For high-mix manufacturing, variety is the core of the business model. Customers choose the product variation that suits their needs and the manufacturer assembles the product. Dynamic software enables your operation to be flexible to market/customer demands while also being resilient to shifts within the industry.

When using paper work instructions and SOPs, workers need to sift through an endless binder that has them reviewing pages 3-8, then 125-135, and finally, pages 80-90. Even if using a digital format like Microsoft Word or Excel, the outlook isn’t any better. Workers need to scroll through a seemingly endless digital document to hopefully (often not too consistently) find the right information and instruction.

This is not an intelligent system. Your work instructions should not function like a “choose your own adventure” novel. You want to give the customer the choice for different products while limiting process variations.

Create dynamic work instructions

With dynamic work instructions that adjust to the specific production model needed, your workers follow the right instructions knowing that the software has loaded the proper steps every time.

For low-mix manufacturing, constantly improving and fine-tuning your processes are paramount to staying competitive. Dynamic work instructions never hold you back from evolving to the next improvement in productivity and efficiency.

Your work requires dynamic and resilient practices. Shouldn’t your software be as flexible, resilient, and dynamic as the rest of your business?

Product Variations vs. Process Variations

Before delving too deep into how dynamic work instructions function, it will be helpful to look at the difference between product variations and process variations. One is a benefit of well-implemented dynamic practices and the other is the result of poor process management.

  • Product Variations: These are the selections that customers can choose for one product. An example of this would be the options that customers select when buying a car. Customers opt for A/C, an enhanced sound system, or the sport package. Each is a variation of one specific car model.

  • Process Variations: These occur when the process is not followed in a precise pattern and deviates from the intended specifications. An example would be an employee applying the wrong product variation or skipping essential steps within a procedure. This leads to process degradation and inferior quality.

Dynamic work instructions enable you to pursue product variations while mitigating process variations.

With the powerful ability to standardize multiple processes over any product and its variations, companies can accurately manage their operation while adhering to and advancing their quality standards.

How to Use Dynamic Work Instructions

In our guidebook of the week series, our very own Spero Zervos raided his son’s lego toys to show how work instructions can be dynamic to the specific needs of any production line.

Check out the video to see how you can create and use dynamic work instructions to build and standardize an endless possibility of product variations!

For companies engaging in MTO (Make-to-Order) or ATO/CTO (Assemble-to-Order/Configure-to Order), dynamic work instructions open the door for greater management of customer demand and process control. By using intelligently designed software, employees receive the order and build the right product every time. There is no need to shuffle through papers or decipher which configurations should be applied. VKS accurately guides the worker with the correct procedures.

4 Major Benefits for High-Mix Environments

Dynamic processes and high-mix manufacturing are one and the same. In high-mix manufacturing environments characterized by many different product lines, there can be innumerable product variations as well, complicating the entire operation. Companies need an effective method to control their processes and quality output while also giving the customer the product and value that they require.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the 4 major benefits dynamic work instructions have on high-mix manufacturing environments.

1. Access the Right Instructions Autonomously

What’s better than accurate process control? Accurate process control that autonomously does the work for you. As seen in Spero’s video, our work instruction software will autonomously select and guide product variations in one of 2 ways.

  • Loading specific work order numbers: Operators enter the specific work order number or scan a barcode and VKS pulls up a guidebook with the configurations pre-selected. As the operator is assembling the product, VKS will jump automatically to the appropriate steps. The selection and application of product variations are streamlined.

  • Operator selection through forms: As operators go through the guidebook, a VKS form will prompt them to select the right product configuration. Using the toy car example in Spero’s video, our work instruction software will ask the operator if they are assembling the car with a black or red hood. VKS will autonomously take them to the appropriate assembly instruction.

red hood

Each of these methods enables your work instructions to dynamically and autonomously progress to the needed procedures.

2. Capture Production Data on Every Product Variation

If workers are manually navigating through one set of physical instructions, then it can be extremely difficult to accurately capture the production data on each specific product variation. But with software built for dynamic productions, every procedure is tracked.

Much like Spero’s example in his video, imagine that you are an ATO/CTO (assemble-to-order/configure-to-order) manufacturer of toy cars. You notice that the toy car product’s cycle times are getting longer and longer. There seems to be something throwing the cycle times out of the normal range for this specific product.

Since each variation is accessed through a specific work order number or chosen through forms, you track the longer cycle times and realize that there is a trend within one product configuration. Toy cars that are assembled with wings at the back take twice as long. Upon further investigation, you see that workers have to walk to another section to retrieve the wings. You quickly remedy the logistical error and cycle times go back down.

wing installation

With in-depth knowledge of each product, its variations, and associated data, you have complete visibility into your operations and solve this otherwise complex issue.

3. Dynamic Continuous Improvement

Dynamic practices do not only move laterally from one product configuration to another. They also move vertically as they progress and improve. Your processes should always be changing for the better and the tools you use shouldn’t hold you back from accomplishing this goal.

Dynamic work instructions enable you to quickly update one or more guidebooks with the click of a button. As opposed to printed manuals, your work instructions can be updated to quickly implement improvements. No need to wait on retrieving and re-printing paper SOPs.

Imagine you have a new safety protocol that needs to be added to multiple processes. Simply create the slide in VKS and with the click of a button, you can add it into all appropriate guidebooks. Also, add access restrictions that only let operators progress to the next steps after they have verified that the new protocols have been reviewed.

4. Work Instructions for Employees with Varying Experience

Every company has employees with varying degrees of experience. Good work instructions give the least experienced workers detailed information while not slowing down workers who are faster and more experienced. Your work instructions need to be dynamic to the various skills of your workforce. There are a few ways to accomplish this goal.

  • New employees/trainees: When training new employees, add links to supplementary documents. Workers can access this additional data if they need additional information. Once they have those processes understood, they shouldn’t need to use those resources any further. But the link is there in case there is a need.

  • Moderately experienced workers: Operators with moderate experience will be the bulk of the workforce. The work instructions are written for them to understand and easily follow.

  • Workers with a high level of experience: With our dynamic work instruction software, well-experienced operators can access expert mode. This mode enables operators to skip certain elementary steps and review the core procedures. This allows trusted people that are very familiar with a process to perform it faster.

4 Major Benefits for Low-Mix Environments

low-mix

Companies engaging in MTS (make-to-stock) strategies and low-mix manufacturing may not need lateral dynamic practices. The product is built through a highly repeatable process and there is little need or demand for product variations.

But as we’ve seen, dynamic work instructions enable companies to move and progress in multiple directions; especially vertically towards improvement. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the 4 major benefits dynamic software has on low-mix manufacturing environments.

1. Dynamic Access to Powerful Resources

Manufacturers engaging in highly repetitive productions will find it useful to use dynamic work instructions under a resource approach.

With this resource approach implemented, workers have constant access to your company’s best practices and SOPs. If there are any questions as to how a process is accomplished, then employees quickly look up the process and receive up-to-date information.

This creates a dynamic method where workers review and obtain the most recent information when needed. No longer do they need to look at a dusty binder full of out-of-date procedures.

2. Dynamic Continuous Improvement

Ok, so this is a point we have already reviewed but it is pertinent for every production style. Continuous improvement can only function if your documented processes are up to date. If your instructions are not current, then how can you implement the best course of action?

Your technology should never hold you back from pursuing continuous improvement.

Too often, we have seen companies forgo implementing better standards because of the cost and time it would take to implement them. Improvements are then only integrated sporadically, hindering the incentive to find better ways to operate.

But with dynamic work instructions, updating your SOPs is simple and fast. Once a new method is ready to be rolled out, update your process with the click of a button. Then use the DMAIC Approach to continuously roll out ongoing process improvements.

3. Controlling Process Health

Despite the low variety of products in typical MTS environments, there are always procedures that are not frequently repeated. This includes jobs like machine maintenance, machine set-up, and various inspections.

Dynamic work instructions enable companies to document any process, allowing users to competently perform duties that are not carried out regularly. Workers may not know how to perform machine maintenance but with a comprehensive guide, workers easily assess the problem and perform the correct work.

Inspections and machine set-up function the same way. Workers follow the appropriate guides and resources to make sure that machines, equipment, and systems are running efficiently.

4. Training New Employees

And finally, training requires dynamic instruction. Above all others in your workforce, a trainee’s skill level is one of the most dynamic aspects of your operation. They go from knowing very little about the operation to producing value on the shop floor in a relatively short matter of time.

For this reason, your training curriculum needs to be dynamic and progressively change based on the skill levels of your employees. With dynamic work instructions, create the curriculum that suits your training needs. Start in the classroom and progressively phase into shop floor production. Our software will supervise and capture valuable training data, helping you identify key areas of success and improvement.

Create dynamic work instructions

Dynamic Work Instructions Grow with your Business

Dynamic work instructions are tailored to the specific needs of your product, your business, and your people. No matter your production strategy or product line, VKS is scalable to the size and the specific needs of your company.

If your current software is holding you back from progressing and actively growing into the next modern age of manufacturing, book a demo to see how dynamic software can help you achieve your Industry 4.0 goals.

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