The Ultimate Guide to Digital Work Instructions

By replacing static paperwork with digital work instructions, operators obtain effective guidance throughout manufacturing processes. The result? Faster production times and increased quality. Learn more about how digital work instructions are changing the manufacturing industry.
A worker wearing a white hard hat, safety glasses, and work overalls stands in an industrial setting, looking intently at a tablet device. Industrial equipment is visible in the blurred background.
Published on:
30 September 2022
Updated on:
22 May 2024

As companies strive to become more efficient and productive, the use of digital work instructions (DWIs) is on the rise. By using digital work instructions, employees are able to complete their tasks more quickly and with fewer errors.

However, in order for digital work instructions to be effective, they must be well-designed and easy to follow. That means taking the time to create clear and concise instructions that are easy to understand. The last thing you want to deal with is confusion and frustration from your employees because they can’t figure out how to complete a task.

When it comes to building and implementing DWIs, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. In this guide, we’ll show you how to create excellent digital work instructions that will help your business run smoothly.

Digital work instructions (DWIs) are multimedia-rich documents that replace paper-based instructions with digital equivalents.

Depending on the task at hand, DWIs can include text, images, videos, audio recordings, and other interactive elements – making them a more effective way to communicate instructions than traditional paper-based documents.

While digital work instructions are often designed to complement the existing training process, they can be used as standalone documents. Digital work instructions quickly become the go-to choice for any manufacturing process engineer looking to improve their operational efficiency and execution.

Why Are Digital Work Instructions Important?

If you are going to effectively communicate how a task should be completed, digital work instructions are key. By providing employees with these clear and concise instructions, you can significantly improve efficiency and productivity in your workplace. With greater clarity, you can enjoy a higher quality of work and output as those involved face less complexity.

For years, work instructions were given via a paper document. These static documents, which were often difficult to read and update, are now being replaced by DWIs. There were several problems with traditional work instructions, including:

  • They could be difficult to read or understand without proper context
  • They were often outdated by the time they were distributed
  • They were difficult to update and change as quickly as roles changed
  • They could be lost or damaged easily, and took up space unnecessarily
  • limited visual support (only pictures were possible)

Paper-based documents for work instructions are becoming a thing of the past. In their place, digital work instructions are taking over. But the adoption of digital instructions goes beyond simply replacing paper – they have served help to redefine the work instruction process as a whole, and solve many of today’s biggest workforce issues:

A person holds a tablet displaying colorful designs and data while standing in an industrial workshop. The background includes machinery, including a large press brake labeled

1. The Rise of Industry 4.0 and Smart Factories

Industry 4.0 describes the current trend of high-efficiency and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing. Essentially, it’s the fourth industrial revolution – and it’s quickly changing the way work is done.

In order to stay competitive, businesses must adopt new technologies and processes. One way to do this is by using digital work instructions. By providing employees with mobile devices that have access to digital instructions, they can easily follow the steps required to complete a task. Additionally, if a process changes, the digital instructions can be updated quickly and easily – without having to reprint and redistribute paper documents.

2. The Need for Improved Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is essential for businesses to be successful. When employees are engaged, they are more productive and more likely to stick around.

DWIs can help improve employee engagement by providing employees with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Additionally, digital work instructions can help to eliminate mundane tasks, freeing up employees to do more interesting and engaging work.

3. Greater Demand in a Skilled Labor Shortage

The skilled labor shortage is a global issue that is only getting worse. As baby boomers retire, there are fewer people to fill the skilled labor positions that they leave behind. Yet many of today’s workers are arriving on the floor without the cultural knowledge that a manufacturing company may have developed over time.

To ensure that new hires are integrated smoothly into already-existing processes, digital work instructions can easily be updated and adapted with the input of experienced workers.  By providing clear and concise instructions, businesses can ensure that everyone – regardless of experience level – can complete tasks correctly. This can ensure that your company doesn’t face a “catching-up” period when new team members are rotated onto the floor.

4. Capturing Tribal Knowledge

Tribal knowledge refers to the skills, know-how, and experience that is passed down from one generation to the next. In many cases, this knowledge is not captured or documented – it simply lives in the heads of employees. This can be a problem when an employee leaves the company, taking their knowledge with them.

In a manufacturing or industrial setting, losing tribal knowledge can be detrimental to the business. With digital work instructions, businesses can capture this knowledge and ensure that it’s not lost when an employee leaves. By documenting processes and procedures, businesses can create a valuable resource that can be used to train new employees and onboard new operators.

6. Enhancing a High-Mix, Low-Volume Environment

Today’s companies are experiencing the need for shifting to mass customization. Greater options for consumers mean manufacturers must be ready to answer complex customization needs. Companies are now shifting to a high-mix, low-volume manufacturing style to keep up.

High-mix, low-volume manufacturing is a type of manufacturing that involves a wide variety of products being produced in small quantities. This can be a challenge for businesses, as it can be difficult to keep track of all the different processes and procedures.

With greater customization comes the need for detailed instructions. Yet it’s nearly impossible to ensure that paperwork instructions are accurate for the ever-growing number of combinations. This is where variants come into play. With the help of variants, digital work instructions can tackle this challenge by allowing for updating specific instructions faster.

DWIs can help businesses to overcome this challenge by providing a centralized location for all the information related to a certain process or procedure. By having all the information in one place, businesses can ensure that everyone is on the same page and that tasks are completed correctly.

Digitalize Work Instructions

Create digital work instructions for your shop floor operations

Get a Demo

The Characteristics of Quality Digital Work Instructions

Now that we’ve looked at the benefits of digital work instructions let’s take a closer look at what makes for quality digital work instructions.

Some of the characteristics of quality digital work instructions include:

1. A Clear Development and Implementation Plan

Before creating digital work instructions, businesses should develop a clear plan outlining the objectives and goals of the project. Additionally, businesses should have a clear understanding of who will be using the DWIs and how they will be used.

For example, if floor teams are going to be using the DWIs to complete tasks, businesses should consider how best to integrate the DWIs into their current workflows.

2. Detailed and Concise Instructions

Digital work instructions should be detailed and concise, providing employees with all the information they need to complete a task correctly. Additionally, DWIs should be easy to follow, with a step-by-step approach that is simple and straightforward.

Not only can this help to improve the quality of work, but it can also help to increase efficiency as employees will be able to complete tasks quickly and without errors.

3. Visual Aids and Images

Digital work instructions should make use of visual aids and images to help employees understand the tasks they need to complete. Additionally, by using visuals, businesses can ensure that the DWIs are accessible for employees with different learning styles.

4. Regular Updates

Digital work instructions should be regularly updated to reflect changes in processes and procedures. Additionally, businesses should consider adding new features and functionality to the DWIs on a regular basis to keep employees engaged.

An example of this could be adding gamification elements to the digital work instructions, such as leaderboards and badges, to encourage employees to complete tasks quickly and accurately.

5. Ease of Use

Digital work instructions should be easy to use, with a user-friendly interface that is intuitive and straightforward. Additionally, businesses should consider how employees will be accessing the DWIs, such as on a mobile device or desktop computer.

It’s also important to ensure that the digital work instructions can be easily updated and edited as required, without the need for complex coding or technical knowledge.

6. Accessible from Anywhere

Digital work instructions should be accessible from anywhere, at any time. This is especially important for businesses with employees who work remotely or in different time zones.

Additionally, businesses should consider how the DWIs will be stored, such as in the cloud or on a local server.

7. Secure and Reliable

Digital work instructions should be secure and reliable, with robust security features to protect sensitive information. Additionally, businesses should consider how they will ensure that the digital work instructions are always available, even in the event of a power outage or internet connection issue.

8. Flexible and Scalable

Digital work instructions should be flexible and scalable, able to be used by businesses of all sizes. Additionally, businesses should consider how the DWIs can be adapted to meet their specific needs, such as by adding custom fields or integrating with other software applications.

9. Support and Training

Digital work instructions should come with support and training, to help businesses get the most out of the software. Additionally, businesses should consider how they will ensure that employees are properly trained on how to use digital work instructions.

10. Cost-Effective

Digital work instructions should be cost-effective, with a pricing structure that is flexible and affordable. Additionally, businesses should consider how the DWIs can save them money in the long run, including building a more efficient method of creation.

For instance, some digital work instructions software applications offer free trials, so businesses can try out the software before committing to a subscription. Other DWI software applications offer discounts for businesses that sign up for an annual or monthly subscription.

Digitalize Work Instructions

Create digital work instructions for your shop floor operations

Get a Demo

How to Create The Perfect Digital Work Instructions for Your Teams

One of the best ways to understand the development of digital work instructions is to walk through building one. For this example, we will consider the strategy and design of a DWI for a manufacturing floor team. Each step will explain how to account for the needs of your team while you create or revamp a digital work instructions system.

1. Define the scope of work instructions.

To get started, you need first to understand what tasks will be carried out on the manufacturing floor. What processes will workers need instructions for? What is the sequence of steps for each task? What tools and materials will be required?

2. Draft a high-level overview of each task.

Once you have identified all of the tasks that will need to be carried out on the manufacturing floor, you need to draft a high-level overview of each one. This overview should include a list of all of the steps involved in the task, as well as any special considerations that need to be taken into account.

3. Create a detailed step-by-step guide for each task.

After you have created a high-level overview of each task, you need to create a more detailed step-by-step guide for each one. This guide should include:

  • A description of each step
  • The tools and materials required for each step
  • Any safety concerns that need to be considered
  • Information on where to access help if needed

4. Incorporate visuals and illustrations into the work instructions.

In order to make the work instructions as clear and easy to understand as possible, you should incorporate visuals and illustrations into them wherever possible. This could include photos, diagrams, or even videos.

For this example, consider creating a video that walks through the steps of assembling a product. This could be especially helpful if the task is complex or if there are a lot of small details that need to be taken into account. For a digital work instructions system, videos can be hosted on a dedicated YouTube channel or on the company website.

5. Create a testing and quality assurance plan.

Before you roll out the digital work instructions to the manufacturing floor team, you need to create a testing and quality assurance plan. This plan should include:

  • A description of how the work instructions will be tested
  • Who will be responsible for testing the work instructions
  • What criteria will be used to determine whether the work instructions are effective
  • How often the work instructions will be reviewed and updated

By following these steps, you can create digital work instructions that are clear, easy to understand, and tailored to the needs of your manufacturing floor team. But the process doesn’t end here – make sure to review and update the work instructions on a regular basis to ensure that they remain accurate and up-to-date.

Slide titled

How are Digital Work Instructions Implemented on the Shop Floor?

Now that we’ve gone over how to create digital work instructions, let’s take a look at how they are implemented on the shop floor.

The first step is to make sure that all workers have access to the digital work instructions system. This system can be accessed through a computer, tablet, or smartphone. For workers who don’t have regular access to a computer, the work instructions can be printed out and made available in a central location.

Once workers have access to the digital work instructions system, they should be trained on how to use it. This training should cover:

  • How to navigate the system
  • How to find the work instructions for specific tasks
  • How to search for information within the work instructions
  • How to flag errors or inconsistencies in the work instructions

After workers have been trained on how to use the digital work instructions system, they can begin using it for their everyday tasks. The system should be used as a reference when workers are unsure of how to complete a task or if they need clarification on any of the steps.

If workers have any suggestions for how to improve the DWIs, they should be encouraged to submit their ideas to the team responsible for maintaining the system. By constantly reviewing and updating the work instructions, you can ensure that they remain accurate and helpful for the workers on the shop floor.

Digital work instructions can be an incredibly valuable tool for manufacturing floor teams if they are created and implemented correctly. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can create DWIs that are clear, easy to understand, and tailored to the needs of your team. But the process doesn’t end here – make sure to review and update the work instructions on a regular basis to ensure that they remain accurate and up-to-date.

Advantages of using Product Variants

Introducing product variants in digital work instructions offers numerous advantages that can greatly enhance efficiency and accuracy in complex manufacturing processes. By defining different product variants within the software, companies can streamline the work instruction creation process and cater to the increasing demand for customized products.

One key advantage of using product variants in work instructions is the ease of linking and maintaining specific steps for each variant. In traditional paper-based instructions, managing multiple product variations can be cumbersome and error-prone. However, with digital work instructions, updates and changes can be made centrally, ensuring that operators always have access to the latest and most accurate information for each product variant.

Moreover, as products become more customized and complex, the number of steps involved in assembly or production tends to increase. By tailoring the work instructions to each product variant, operators no longer have to sift through irrelevant steps, reducing the chances of errors and improving overall productivity. This targeted approach ensures that the operator only sees the steps relevant to the particular product order they are working on, leading to faster and more efficient assembly processes.

Furthermore, the utilization of digital work instructions with product variants can lead to significant time and cost savings. With streamlined access to the right information, operators spend less time searching for instructions and more time focusing on the task at hand. This increased efficiency can result in reduced downtime, minimized production errors, and improved overall quality.

Top Digital Work Instructions Software

While the concept of digital work instructions for manufacturing can be enticing, they are nothing without a robust and reliable software system to back them up. Some manufacturing software allows you to create, store, and access work instructions whenever needed. Plus, you can easily customize, optimize, and update instructions as required.

Here are some of the top manufacturing software that include digital work instructions solutions:

1. Azumuta

Azumuta is a software solution designed for manufacturing companies that provide digital work instructions to guide operators, enhance their productivity, increase employee satisfaction, and improve the quality of the products.

Azumuta provides a work instructions editor that allows full customization. It offers an easy-to-use and paperless platform that comes with various features, such as photo and video imports, 3D file viewer, PDF attachment, connection to peripherals, quality control options, and much more. All these features, enable users to create effective digital work instructions.

Next to work instructions, Azumuta’s platform offers complementary modules focused on other aspects of the manufacturing process where work instructions can be leveraged, such as:

  • Skill Matrix & Training – Where HR can use work instructions as training material
  • Quality Management – Where operators can flag quality issues for Quality Managers while following work instructions.
  • Audits & Digital Checklists – For Safety Managers and Maintenance Managers to add preventive and compliance requirements on the instructions.

 2. Tulip

Tulip is a software solution that assists manufacturing companies in optimizing their frontline operations. It offers valuable insights into quality, process cycle times, and other relevant metrics.

Tulip uses cloud-based technology to support retail operations. With Tulip, manufacturers with IT skills can create step-by-step instructions. The platform also allows users to track performance in real time and make adjustments as needed.

3. Dozuki

Dozuki’s work instructions allow managers to create easy work instructions and translate them into over 100 languages. An instruction can have several authors and have photos and videos available.
They are mostly focused on workforce training and retraining and have the ability to gather shop floor feedback. They, however, don’t support a Skills Matrix to track employees’ profiles.


4. Poka

Poka supports visual work instructions with video, text, images, documents, links, and e-signatures. They also support checklists and forms.

Their mission is to standardize operations and improve management on the shop floor. Their product development is mostly focused on knowledge management, so quality management and preventive maintenance are not yet part of their offer.

5. SwipeGuide

SwipeGuide’s focus is to build knowledge documentation to instruct on how to build. They support work instructions across different industries to help businesses coordinate instructions, checklists, and training.

The tool can work online or on-site, making it very customizable. A downside of SwipeGuide is the need for technical support while setting things up or when updates are required. Unlike other products, you need a lot of technical knowledge to go about this tool

Examples of Successful Work Instructions

So what do robust work instructions look like? Here are a few examples to consider:

Addax Motors: Using Digital Work Instructions Move From Excel Docs to Interactive Processes

Before using Azumuta, Addax Motors relied on paperwork instructions and Excel spreadsheets in their manufacturing processes – making processes labor-intensive and time-consuming. When they moved their production line, they switched to digital work instructions with Azumuta.

The platform has centralized the orders and made the onboarding process more streamlined. It has also simplified the production process monitoring and provided user-friendly interfaces for administrators and operators. Plus, a focus on lean manufacturing principles, digitalization, and automation has helped Addax Motors move from a manual process to an interactive one.

Provan: Enhancing Operator Efficiency with Digital Work Instructions for Manufacturing

Provan, a metalwork company, has shifted from paper and PDF work instructions to completely digital ones using Azumuta. The interactive digital work instructions help operators assemble products correctly and efficiently.

Azumuta also offers features like scheduling audits, reporting production issues, and tracking operators’ time spent on tasks. By integrating with their ERP system, Provan has created a seamless interaction between software and production processes, resulting in a paperless factory floor and improved efficiency.

Implement Strong Digital Work Instructions Today

If you want to take your digital work instructions to the next level, consider investing in a dedicated software solution. These solutions offer features like task scheduling, performance tracking, and real-time analytics that can help you further optimize your manufacturing process.

No matter what route you decide to take, remember that DWIs are only as good as the team using them. Make sure to invest in training and feedback mechanisms to ensure that your team is using the work instructions correctly and effectively. With the right digital work instructions in place, you can take your manufacturing operation to the next level.

Join The Digital Shop Floor Revolution!

A profile of an assembly operator is displayed on the left side, showing categories such as Pre-Assembly, Assembly, and Testing. Adjacent charts detail tasks like Cleaning, Assembly, Packaging, Pre-Assembly, and Testing, each with numerical values.
© Azumuta 2024