Author: Paul Van Metre
Work instructions are the heart of running a shop, but they can also be a two-edged sword. A client once told me his team pulled printed work instructions from a toolbox. They proceeded to create an entire batch of parts with the wrong specifications. This honest mistake cost them thousands of dollars in scrap parts, plus getting behind schedule. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon.
Striving for efficiency, shop owners have tried different approaches but employees get frustrated when they feel their inputs don’t change the processes. They are the ones who know the operations from the day-to-day experience. One of the most important characteristics of lean manufacturing is the employees’ engagement in efforts leading to continuous improvement. With visual digital work instructions, they’re involved in the process. They can give feedback and add media-rich content to enhance the work instructions. A recent client reported increasing their employee retention after implementing visual digital work instructions because they were no longer frustrated that their input wasn't being utilized to improve the process. By being able to upload photos and details to the work instructions, they were able to significantly improve the job for the next run and feel ownership of that process.
Shops have an amazing opportunity to reduce their team’s learning curve and reaction time with visual work instructions. Digital transformation has taken old school visual work instructions (VWI) in the form of printed diagrams to the next level with the rise of digital work instructions (DWI) which are cloud-based and can be accessed from any device.
Communication is a crucial part of every process. It can become a bottleneck with the presence of tribal knowledge. Visual digital work instructions teach employees everything they need to perform their job. With careful documentation, you get instructions from every department in the shop. VDWI help with skill-building but also in gathering shop intelligence.
Not all knowledge resides in the work instructions. The retiring workforce has countless years of experience you can't afford to lose. Transferring your best practices to new employees reduces the likelihood of your shop suffering a brain drain.
Communication between each area of production must be clear. By reducing tribal knowledge, everyone speaks the same language. It also applies to people who aren't native English speakers. The visuals and media-rich instructions enhance their learning process so they perform their job properly.
Physical work instructions were useful before the digital era. But paper documents were often lost. The advance in technology and increased demand for perfection make paper-based training more obsolete than ever. Becoming paperless will allow you to better classify information. You can find it quickly, instead of searching through all the archives. This also makes it accessible and backed up in case of disaster. If the facilities suffer from a catastrophic event, you can build it back up in less time. For the same reason, you can open other facilities quicker and easier.
Everything you add to the system stays there. The work instructions are always updated. So there's less risk of working with old information. All employees are on the same page. Whenever they perform new jobs, they have the resources to carry them out. If you have more than one facility, the same work instructions are available in each shop. That's how you maintain quality between shops and get the same results. It's about controlling the process and the product regardless of the team you build for each shop.
You have remote control over the digital work instructions. Creating, editing and approving organizing information is possible from anywhere in the shop(or the world).
Centralizing data makes it scalable. Expansion doesn't have to be such a burden anymore. The best practices from one part number can be quickly transferred to similar ones.
Training gets easier and faster with visual work instructions. The goal is to help everyone in the shop execute their high-skilled jobs more effectively. New employees and temps can slow down production and delivery. They need to have the knowledge, visuals and best practices in order to absorb and comprehend the information. There's nothing better than media-rich learning materials to help them master their job roles in less time.
It's even more efficient when standardization is the core principle of your shop. The digital work instructions contain what every employee should know to work in any department including setup/training modules, blueprints, specs, and other job-related documents. By using paperless manufacturing as a primary tool to run the shop floor, everything gets standardized. You can track the performance to act immediately if anomalies are present in the process. This characteristic lets you scale your business much more easily.
According to Edgar Dale's Cone of Experience, we remember:
10% of what we read. No wonder why so many human mistakes are present.
20% of the things we hear. Trying to remember oral instructions may lead to wrong interpretations and underperformance.
30% of what we see. Space and location support new neural pathways created in the brain. Monotonous designs and text documents are more difficult to remember.
70% of what we say. Explaining to others requires understanding the concepts and procedures. Memory and logic combine to retain the information in the brain for longer.
90% of what we say and do. That's why people say "we learn by doing." Dedicated continuous improvement and mastery.
Visual digital work instructions nail all 5 of these points. It's effective for training employees in a shorter period of time, and the LMS (Learning Management System) allows employees to perform the job as they learn.
Trying to explain how each operation works using only text is a difficult task. Especially when the reader needs creativity to imagine every moving piece. It's a real challenge for manufacturers, because every detail missed, ends up costing you more. Imagine setting up a machine, or putting together a complex assembly without any diagram to follow. It's a nightmare.
Its advantage over written documents is its resourcefulness. Videos, audio, images, drawings, you name it. Use all the tools that are available to ensure the information is fully grasped. People memorize concepts and algorithms by using all of their senses to capture every detail. Don't waste your time describing long work instructions. Create videos, images, and text to break it down. Smaller chunks of information are easier to digest. The faster your employees learn, the cheaper the training costs.
What employees learn determines how they operate. The effectiveness and efficiency of each procedure produce specific results that feed data back into the system, generating new insights. It influences your team’s decisions to improve based on reports. In other words, the quality of the output depends on the quality of the input.
Lack of communication, organization, and coordination delay decision-making. Instructions have to be clear. Knowing exactly what to do and how to do it reduces friction and increases the productive hours of employees so there's less risk of missing a deadline or producing below the quality standard.
The demand for making a high number of complex decisions can, unfortunately, slow the shop down. Between the process of analyzing and taking action, there is potential for saving time and money. Standardizing helps you run the business in a predictable way. It tackles possible problems before they even come up. Whenever they happen, your team is ready to solve them.
On-the-job training plays a significant role in the skills new employees develop. The environment and the shop's resources are useful tools to carry out mission-critical activities. The main disadvantage of this method is the opportunity cost. The time and skills of seniors shift onto teaching rather than producing. Their effectiveness decreases so temps and trainees can follow their pace. Visual digital work instructions allow employees to practice what they learn and reduce dependency on co-workers.
This leads to smooth job rotation within the shop floor. Employees develop the skills required to perform different jobs effectively. The personnel adapts to the needs of the shop. With VDWI, increasing or decreasing the workforce will reduce its impact on productivity. If employees lack the skills, they can learn as needed. Digital work instructions also empower you with the ability to track the skill set of each employee and their performance in each department.
By becoming paperless, nothing gets lost and data collection helps you analyze results faster. Visual work instructions make continuous improvement easier, which makes the job more efficient. The work instructions are at your fingertips, whenever you need them. Facilitating access digitally reduces the response time toward problems in the shop.
Location doesn't limit access to the work instructions. You can seamlessly move from one department to another. As long as you have a computer or tablet, you can continue right where you left off. Remote access gives you the flexibility to tackle any challenge you encounter.
Employees have a greater commitment when they influence their own experience. As they are users of the system, they can share their observations. By taking employees into consideration, their purpose and commitment align with the business.
360º Feedback means that everyone can share viewpoints. Employees rate the quality of the content, images, and video. The software tracks its progress and helps you identify bottlenecks. This is internal crowdsourcing. The information contained in the VDWI depend on feedback from the workforce.
Opening the doors to listen to employees' opinions leads to continuous improvement. Processes can become more efficient if team members focus on doing their job the best they can. By improving the content of the instructions, skill-building will be faster and easier.
The quality of training affects the quality of the output. Precision is key in manufacturing. Every process has its own standard. Every product goes through a rigorous inspection before sending it to customers and it highly depends on people's ability to adhere to strict standards such as ISO, and AS. Following the maintenance and operational procedures keep the shop running at peak levels.
Precision is difficult to achieve when training resources rely on text only. Digital work instructions give trainees access to visual demos on how to perform the jobs. They need to rely less on assumptions because they know exactly what it looks like to do the job. This reduces mistakes before they happen.
Preventing mistakes saves time and money. Providing appropriate and timely training tackles inefficiencies at their roots. Shops cannot rely on remedies to fix problems. If there's a bottleneck in the production line, it affects every department. Detecting and solving them quickly helps on-time performance.
With digital work instructions, you can communicate project details and approve work instructions made by others from anywhere in the shop. You can also give access to your employees at any time, without stopping production. This leads to on and off-the-job training. Trainees learn visually how to carry out the activities around the floor. They show up and practice what they learned. This shortens the learning curve and makes training easier to remember. Shifting from learning to doing helps build skills faster and more accurately.
Migrating to digital work instructions seems difficult. It takes time to digitize your shop's intelligence, management, and training. Lucky for you, ProShop is the go-to software when it comes to visual digital work instructions. We get you up and running quickly. Schedule a demo and we’ll show you exactly how ProShop boosts your performance.
Shops typically replace 3 to 5 software systems with ProShop for its media-rich system. Our modules are the most complete in the market. Instead of relying on multiple platforms that don’t integrate with each other, you can centralize it with ProShop’s all in one digital manufacturing ecosystem (DME) which combines ERP, MES, QMS, CMMS, TMS, and LMS into a single system.
The detailed instructions and learning resources take your shop’s performance to the next level. From estimating, quoting and job costing to set up production and quality control. Improve standardization, achieve higher precision, and become 100% paperless with ProShop.
It was designed over the course of 20+ years of building and running our own CNC machine shop. We built the software to solve the problems our own machine shop struggled with. The software is developed by shop owners for shop owners. The heart of our previous CNC machine shop became the brain of our digital manufacturing ecosystem. In our passion to improve manufacturing, ProShop helps manage your work instructions for a machine shop, fab shop, or assembly department better than any other shop management software.