So you’ve decided to implement visual work instructions into your manufacturing process, how do you begin?
Capturing the necessary visuals, whether photos or video or textual annotations, is the foundation of your path to standardization. It’s a necessary step for better efficiency and higher quality.
Here are our best tips & tricks for setting up your VKS guidebook or custom work instruction software solution. In this article we will go over the “dos” and “don’ts” for empowering your workers through photographic, videographic, and text-based instructions.
How to Take Pictures for Instructional Guidebooks
Dos for Taking Good Pictures for Digital Work Instructions
✅ Go to Gemba! This phrase from Lean Production means to “go to the shop floor where it is happening.” In other words, the most effective way to improve operations is to actually see the actions being performed by your workers in your own factory.
Your own workflow is the best example to take photos of because your process will look exactly the same in real life as it does in your instructions.
✅ Use high resolution so users can zoom for more visual cues when necessary. This may seem obvious, but it’s incredibly important. You don’t want to spend a day capturing photos of your work processes only to upload them and find out that they’re blurry or not pixelated enough to be seen clearly.
✅ Carefully consider angles and perspectives. You could be taking photos of the exact same machines for your guidebook that workers will be using in real-time. However, the perspective may not be where the worker will be standing and viewing the machine when actually performing the task. Thus, the worker will have more difficulty mirroring the action shown in the instructions.
It may make a better photograph to have an interesting angle, but we’re not trying to win any competitions here for creativity, so stick with the view that is most common for the user.
Don’ts for Taking Good Pictures for Digital Work Instructions
❌ Don’t use an unfamiliar actor or fake, staged locations. You want the user of your work instructions to follow the instructions step-by-step exactly. Introducing new elements that aren’t familiar will lead to users guessing, since the equipment around them doesn’t look like what the screen shows.
The same goes with the user you show in your pictures. Using an operator that knows your particular production quirks and requirements will show how another worker in your own factory will perform the actions.
The goal is to replicate things in photos as close to reality as possible, so use what resources you already have.
❌ Don’t assume prior knowledge. Even if your production line is staffed by experienced shop floor workers, you want your instructions to be resilient to turnover problems.
You may need to onboard many brand new workers in the future who will require step-by-step instructions and verbatim direction.
As well, the prior knowledge of machines or techniques won’t necessarily be the same across your experienced workforce. You don’t want to accidentally leave anyone out by assuming prior knowledge.
How to Capture Video for Interactive Work Instructions
Dos for Capturing Good Video for Work Instructions
✅ Segment actions in different videos to keep them short and sweet. You don’t want to make a clear, step-by-step video and then upload it in one long file. If an operator needs clarification on a small step, they will have trouble searching through to the exact spot of instruction they need.
✅ Make actions slow and deliberate when showing a process. Especially if your subject is a worker with much hands-on experience, they may have the muscle memory to quickly perform a required action perfectly. However, a new worker might not see the action clearly.
Even actions that may seem simple, like turning a knob, can be unclear, so perform every action deliberately and slow down when necessary.
✅ Include showing the worker when necessary. In some videos, you may not need to show the worker beyond a hand or two in frame. However, some other processes may benefit from showing more of the worker. Some examples are showing the individual moving between machines or performing actions that are labor-intensive like lifting, adjusting, and moving items.
Use your best judgment when deciding how much of the worker you need to show for every step of instruction, and edit accordingly.
Don’ts for Capturing Good Video for Work Instructions
❌ Don’t attempt to capture your video instruction on the shop floor. While going to Gemba may work for capturing photos, video shoots tend to be more complicated.
Even if you’re an amateur videographer, your team is going to want to take multiple shots from different angles to fully represent the work instructions.
Things like awkward lighting, noisy background sounds, and other workers coming into frame may interfere with communicating clear instructions.
It’s okay to video the steps on the shop floor, but schedule this during downtime or after hours so you can get the perfect view without compromising production.
❌ Don’t be too quick! Video offers a lot more visual information than pictures, so you want to make sure operator movements are slow and methodical so they are easy to mimic. This includes transitions between segments and any edits you might make to the uploaded video.
The goal is to be as simple and instructive as possible, so perform the actions meant for instruction with fluid, accurate movements.
Perfecting Added Text in Digital Work Instructions
Dos for Adding Good Text in Work Instructions
✅ Eliminate words when they are too detailed or redundant. Ideally, most of your work instructions will convey direction visually, so adding too much description clogs up the process.
Remember, you can always add visual annotations or notes that only pop up if the user requests more detailed information. Let the user prompt the software for more help only when needed.
✅ Keep in mind the different levels of actions that a user might need extra assistance with.
For example, if a user needs more help with affixing a mechanical component, you want to ensure that they get the information they need. This means when they click the annotation they see relevant information, instead of lots of text about machine maintenance.
This may require you to troubleshoot and test your work instruction sequence, but will ultimately help you avoid issues in the future.
✅ Use action words precisely. When talking, humans may interchange words like “flip” or “turn” when referring to a switch, or use non-descriptive action words like “make”, that don’t provide much explanation.
When creating work instructions however, standardize the list of action verbs you mean to use so that only the clearest actions are communicated. That means don’t say “tweak” or “adjust” when you mean “turn to the left to meet XYZ calibration levels”.
Don’ts for Adding Text in Interactive Work Instructions
❌ Don’t eliminate steps. And yes, we did say above that you should be eliminating words, but steps are different. Imagine your line worker is a new hire and doesn’t know how to set up a jig before using machinery.
You want to include every possible step that will be performed at each workstation. This includes setup, basic troubleshooting, and responding to unexpected machine malfunctions in the rare case they occur.
In other words, if an operator needs to gather a component from another station, mention where that station is and show what the part looks like so there is nothing to question about the direction.
❌ Don’t include too much detail. Specifically with added text, having too many words and too many fine details in print rather than visual can lead the user to skim for information.
When a user skims, they may miss critical information or assume it isn’t relevant. Try to guide the user through the process step by step with clarity and simplicity.
Putting It All Together For Visual Clarity On The Shop Floor
These helpful tips and tricks will help you to implement your work instruction guidebooks more quickly on the shop floor.
As well, by keeping these things in mind, you will improve accessibility so that your workers will have only the best information to perform optimally for quality manufacturing.