Every company thrives when workers know how to do their jobs and do them well every time. In manufacturing, there is particular danger when workers aren’t fully trained, routine work isn’t standardized, nor documented with work instructions.
Great work instructions are clear, credible, concise, and easy to find. The old days of dusty binders with ancient Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are past…or at least they should be. Convoluted, messy, or hard-to-find work instructions confuse employees, or worse, may mean employees won’t seek help when they’re unsure what to do. And that’s a sure recipe for rework, injury, lost productivity, declining profits, and low morale.
Here at HowFactory, we also encounter many workers – in plants, factories, and even offices, who know tricks to make a process run faster, do the work better, or help a cranky machine run like new. This is great in the short term. Yet, what happens when that person quits or retires? Their knowledge is now gone, of no use to future employees. Time to start over again. Or maybe they passed on their knowledge verbally, furthering the cycle of “Tribal knowledge,” that exists in so many workplaces.
HowFactory believes in making great work instructions, because we believe in happy workers and thriving, profitable, efficient companies.
How to Create Great Work Instructions
Great work instructions are credible. A front-line employee is key to creating credible processes. Consider a line worker, floor manager, or other staff member who knows the work intimately. If, perhaps, your assembly folks aren’t comfortable writing and taking pictures, work as a team.
Whoever it is, first-hand knowledge makes the most credible work instructions. Involving front-line workers also means that when changes are made to the work instructions, workers on the floor are more likely to follow them. They’re not assured of credibility, relevance, timeliness, and can share in the sense of ownership over the work instructions. Changes also may not need to be made as often coming from someone who is extremely familiar with the process.
A front-line worker who creates (or significantly contributes) to work instructions can also get to the point. People on the floor want something clean cut and to the point so they can get the job done quickly and well. These employees also speak the lingo of the shop floor. Long descriptions with unnecessary words make instructions harder to follow. Making the worker overthink will only create mistakes.
One consistent theme in HowFactory’s visits to job sites, plants, factories, offices, and maker spaces is that work instructions must to be accessible. They need to be located quickly – within seconds – in a place that the worker knows and trusts. If the worker has to stumble through poorly organized paper binders, arcane computer file structures, hated intranets, or ask where to go, the chance of a worker using the instructions drops dramatically. to find the answer to a question they may look for a supervisor for help or simply guess. Creating problems and slowing the rate of production.
Try Something New – HowFactory
The HowFactory team works every day to make software that enables you to make great work instructions fast. Try us out today, and let us know what you think.