The ultimate guide to Digital Work Instructions

Manufacturing companies and floor managers face a challenge in our digital-first world. A world that requires greater customization as a result of growing complexity leads to the necessity to provide operators with dynamic and clear digital work instructions on the shop floor. Through replacing static paperwork with digital work instructions, operators can enjoy more specific guidance on processes which leads to faster lead times and increased quality. Learn more about how digital work instructions are changing the manufacturing industry and how you can start building better DWIs for your team.
Operator reading Digital Work Instruction

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.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

1. Why Are Digital Work Instructions Important?
2. The Benefits of Digital Work Instructions
3. The Characteristics of Quality Digital Work Instructions
4. How to Create The Perfect Digital Work Instructions for Your Teams
5. How Digital Work Instructions are Implemented on the Shop Floor

If you are ready to learn more about DWIs and how to create them effectively, let’s get started.

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:

digital workinstructions features azumuta

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.

The Benefits of Digital Work Instructions

As you can imagine, building and utilizing digital work instructions can be extremely beneficial for businesses – especially in the current climate. Some of the benefits of DWIs include:

1. Increased Efficiency

Digital work instructions can help to increase efficiency by providing employees with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. When less time is spent trying to navigate complicated or outdated information, they can learn and adapt faster on the manufacturing floor.

2. Improved Quality

Digital work instructions can help to improve quality by providing clear and concise instructions. By having all the information in one place, businesses can ensure that everyone is on the same page and that tasks are completed correctly.

3. Greater Output via Upskilled and Engaged Employees

Digital work instructions can help to eliminate mundane tasks, freeing up employees to do more interesting and engaging work. Additionally, by providing clear and concise instructions, businesses can ensure that everyone – regardless of experience level – can complete tasks correctly.

4. Reduced Paperwork and Administration

Digital work instructions can help to reduce paperwork and administration by offering an updateable and customizable guide for all information related to a particular process or procedure. With less paperwork to change, more time can be created for effective work.

5. Increased Flexibility

Digital work instructions can be accessed from anywhere at any time, which makes them extremely versatile and flexible. Additionally, businesses can easily update DWIs as processes and procedures change.

6. Up-To-Date Information

With DWIs, you never have to worry about outdated information. The ability to update digital instructions in real-time ensures that no process is at risk. This can bring greater clarity and certainty to an ever-complex workflow – and new updates can be sent out immediately as changes are made. 

7. Varying Levels of Instruction Step Complexity

Some operators need more guidance than others, depending on their experience and previous knowledge base. Paper instructions often left workers in a bind – try to use needlessly simple, lengthy instructions or try to parse out complex, industry-specific language? 

Digital work instructions can be adjusted based on the experience. More experienced operators can see fewer steps for processes they have mastered, while new employees can take advantage of deeper insights and clearer instructions that guide them to deeper knowledge. 

Benefits of Digital Work Instructions

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 the 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 DWIs software applications offer discounts for businesses that sign up for a annual or monthly subscription.

two cowokers working together on tablet

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 to first 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.

 

Tips to create Digital Work Instructions

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.

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.

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