Best Practices For Digitizing Work Instructions

A factory worker in the smart manufacturing age using digital work instructions.

Imagine you have just been hired as the new Operations Excellence Manager for a company that has already been in business for a number of years. And you’ve been tasked with managing the development of tools and methodologies that improve the skills and knowledge of your employees.

As you’ve done successfully in your previous companies, you immediately begin distributing a new list of standard operating procedures to all workers. No sweat for you–you’ve done this many times before, and with great success. Unfortunately, this time the results aren’t quite what you expected.

Times have changed: A few of your new hires had difficulty understanding the language the material was presented in; some of them were absent the day it was distributed, and many don’t see the relevance for trying to improve anything they have done for the last 10 years. Regardless, it is still your job to ensure that everyone is following the process as you deem necessary to achieve operational excellence.

Fortunately, technology is changing the way work instructions are created, shared and consumed. By incorporating How-To video solution into your workflow, you can now easily capture critical work instructions for distribution across your entire company. The result? Continuous improvement, enhanced productivity, reduced downtime, and of course, operational excellence.

The challenge with work instructions

Standard operating procedures are nothing new. They can be as easy as ensuring all employees on the floor are wearing steel-toed boots or as complex as how to make certain all medical and hazardous waste is properly secured for transport to the waste disposal facility. Many organizations rely on standard operating procedures to ensure consistency, safety and of course, profitability.

Unfortunately, in many industries, this important information is still maintained and distributed in thick binders of physical documents. Many manufacturing organizations will even print out large booklets of instructions, and then reprint that same documentation every time processes change. Imagine the cost if your procedures are modified four to five times a year?

Digitizing work instructions

As organizations around the world have evolved to paperless environments, digital work instructions can now be shared with employees much more effectively on mobile screens. Digital work instructions make it easy for any worker to create guidelines and share them with colleagues quickly and efficiently.

By digitizing these documents, employees within a manufacturing organization can be connected to each other and therefore improve organizational efficiency, flexibility, and safety. Digitized work instructions also make it easier to track production levels. Having this information makes it easier to address challenges while aligning everyone to the same goals.

Digitizing work instructions further benefits organizations interested in demonstrating a more ecological approach to doing business and lowering their carbon footprint. And of course, going paperless has the potential to save thousands of dollars in paper and printing costs.

But before you venture down the road of digitizing your work instructions, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Understand your pain points: Do you know where your existing SOPs and processes are failing? Do you understand what you can do to change that? Perhaps your current system is too slow, the final product is not consistently of a high quality or you are losing too many person-hours to workplace injury.
  • Determine a purpose: What are you looking to achieve as you deliver these procedures? Are they new? What is the end goal? It goes without saying that work instructions of any kind require a clear purpose. However, you might be surprised to learn how often this is neglected.
  • Use simple language: No matter how complex your industry is, your instructions need to be easily understood. The most important idea to keep in mind when delivering work instructions is to do so as if the audience has no prior knowledge. Avoid using overly technical language, and if relying on How-To video, ensure that the camera is focused on the task itself, not on the person who is delivering the message. Speak in a clear and concise voice for all employees to understand, and leverage annotations for further comprehensibility.
  • Consult others: Just like the creation of any other important content in your organization, it’s critical to ensure at least one set of eyes has reviewed your new set of instructions. This feedback is valuable to help determine the overall usefulness of this documentation. By using a video knowledge sharing platform, organizations can easily send short video clips and receive feedback almost instantaneously.

Conclusion

Delivering and enforcing effective work instructions and SOPs is critical to an organization’s success both as a quality manufacturer as well as to regulatory compliance. But simply throwing paper-based procedures and policies at employees and expecting compliance is no longer reasonable. By utilizing video work instruction software, organizations can create an accessible online library of digital work instructions as well as teachable moments. After all, workplace learning should still be fun. The technology and tools definitely exist to make it possible.