Making the perfect work instruction

The composition of a work instruction is important. Clarity and consistency of an instruction improves the quality and performance of its execution. In this article we’ll discuss what pieces should be available on a one-page work instruction.

Note, this article is about the details of just one operation of an instruction. For the complete layout, check out our other blog posts.

The Header

A name for the page type

First of all, pick a good name for what you’re talking about. We like: “Operation Description Sheet” because it describes exactly what we are doing here. This page is a just one sheet, with the detailed, visual description of just one operation.

An Action description

A short and clear description of the action you’re describing. This should not be long or completely clear, we can use the rest of the page to describe the action in detail. It should be just enough to know what we are talking about if you would just see the title.

Detailed fields

We know, some fields are not that important for executing the instruction. And they are often skipped or forgotten to be filled in. But they are very important for the quality of your factory quality assurance.

It helps to have a system like Azumuta to auto fill these fields. Always filled in, always correct.

  • Unique id: Give each page a unique id for referencing. (Also use the revision number in this id, that way it’s always clear what we are talking about)
  • Model/Product type: Most companies have multiple product types. Specify this type on this sheet. It helps to color code the types for easys spotting.
  • Issue date: The initial date of this sheet. It gives some insight in the history of this sheet and is important for audits.
  • The revision number and date of the revision.
  • (References numbers to other programs): If other programs are being used, reference them in this field.
  • Signatures: Make sure every team responsible signs of on each instruction change. To enforce consistency there should always be consensus about the operation details.

Tools & Symbols

This is an important one! An instruction can require a specific tool or a symbol that represents an important action.
In a lot of the companies we visited images of these tools where present… but they had some problems:

  • The tools where different on each page. (Often they were copy-pasted from a google search, resulting in a different screwdriver each time)
  • They where manually cropped, and ‘photoshopped’, sometimes they even didn’t have the correct aspect ratio.

The result being: It wasn’t clear for an operator to see what tool was on the description sheet.
Our advice: Make a consistent database of available tools in your company.

The Core Visual description


The idea is quite simple: make a visual description of what needs to be done. But we do have a few important tips here:

  • Limit the amount of text in your visual description to the bare minimum.
  • Don’t overdo it.
  • If your medium allows it, try using a video description.
  • Annotations over ‘Photoshop’

Clarification: Annotations over ‘Photoshop’ During our research we all too often encountered uneditable images. It was simply impossible to make changes to the image, without starting from scratch.
The same counts as for equipment and symbols: use components that look exactly the same on all instructions. This improves consistency, and avoids mistakes being made. Make a limited library of symbols everyone in your company will understand.

Text-Form details

When it’s really necessary to resort to a Text-Form detail on your instruction sheet, do it in a systematic way. We highly recommend the ACTION/REASON methodology because of its simplicity. And reduces abundant information:

  • ACTION: How to execute an instruction, or what to be careful for.
  • REASON: Why is this important to do this action is the described way.
  • + visual ref: if useful you can point to the visual description
  • + key point: we recommend to make some simple classifications for an action. Typically this would be quite general. eg. Defect prevention — for possible errors being made, Security — for the customer of the end result, Ergonomy — to reduce physical strain for the operator.


  • Be consistent.
  • Organize your work instructions in such a way that you can easily iterate on them.
  • Don’t overload an instruction with information.
  • Annotate, don’t ‘photoshop’

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