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Essentials of Effective Work Instructions

August 16, 2011

Effective work instructions are extremely important for all manufacturing companies. Unclear and ineffective work instructions can lead to mistakes, delays, quality issues and injuries, to name just a few negative consequences. High quality work instructions, on the other hand, are likely to result in faster manufacturing processes, quality improvements, faster and more efficient training, increased staff satisfaction and fewer disruptions.

So with the benefits of effective work instructions being so obvious, how do you make sure your company’s work instructions are effective?

While trying to answer that question I came across an article written by Patrick Sweeney, a noted consultant, writer and speaker on the topic of procedures and work instructions and founder of consulting company Explainer. In his article “Four Essentials of Effective Work Instructions” Patrick suggests four criteria that work instructions must meet in order to be effective:

  1. Credible: Workers Trust Them
  2. Clear: Workers Understand Them
  3. Accessible: Workers Can Get To Them
  4. Consistent: They Match Worker Training

But how do you achieve this? How can you make sure your work instructions are credible, clear, accessible and consistent?

According to Patrick, work instructions are credible when workers “believe that they define the one, single, proper way to perform a task”. They are clear when they “can be quickly understood by the worker with a minimum of effort”. Work instructions are accessible when “they can be located quickly and easily” and they are consistent when they “conform to a style guide developed specifically for procedures and work instruction. {…} Consistent work instructions also demand that the material used for worker training is consistent with provided job aids.”

When I hear all of that I right away think: VISUAL work instructions or even better ANIMATED work instructions. Animated work instructions are credible. It is easy for a worker to trust animated work instructions because they SEE the complete work procedure rather then just reading about it or seeing static images. Animations are clear and very easy to understand. They can be paused and rewind and most importantly, the effort for the worker is absolute minimal, they just need to watch and repeat what they see. If implemented effectively by the organization, animated work instructions would also be very accessible for the workers. They can be shown on screens on the shop floor, on hand-held devises such as phones and tablet PCs, or they can be accessible on screens in designated training areas. Finally, animated work instructions are extremely consistent and with the right tools it is easy for companies to establish a style guide for them. Furthermore, animated work instructions can be used in training as well as on the shop floor ensure 100% consistency between training and job aids.

The value of visuals has also been recognized by Patrick Sweeney who points out: “an ideal work instruction explains mostly with graphics using only minimal clarifying text”. But why be satisfied with static graphics when animations are so much more powerful? And with tools like Right Hemisphere’s Visual Communication software Deep Exploration it is very easy to create animated work instructions. Deep Exploration can import most native CAD files and enables users to create animations in simple, straight forward steps. Check it out for yourself:

Want to find out more about creating animated work instructions with Deep Exploration? Check out these tutorials to see how easy it is:

Tutorial: HOW TO Create Steps and Procedures (Animations) in Deep Exploration

Tutorial: HOW TO Do Animation Sequences In Deep Exploration

Tutorial: HOW TO Create Steps in Deep Exploration

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