Every organization relies on efficient, high-quality documentation to operate and move forward. For a company in the manufacturing industry, work instructions are one of the most valuable forms of data.
Why are Good Work Instructions so Important?
More than nine out of ten workplace accidents are due to human error. These result in serious injuries and cost the industry a lot of money. Yet many of these accidents could be prevented with better, clear work instructions. Are you also having trouble drafting good work instructions? Then you’ve come to the right place. By drawing up more effective work instructions, you improve your working methods, which in turn translates into higher productivity.
8 tips before you start:__
- Know exactly how to do the task
- Be clear and keep it short
- Visualize the work instructions
- Create realistic instructions
- Plan in what order you will write the steps
- Write instructions that begin with a verb
- Be consistent
- Read and edit instructions carefully
Step 1: Write a Clear Title and Introduction
Briefly explain the broad outline of the task. In the introduction, answer very briefly the questions who, what, and why. Make sure the title refers to the job. A good example would be: “how do you use the coffee maker?”.
Step 2: Describe the Purpose
What is the purpose of the work instruction? Why are you preparing it? By asking why, you can step back and think about what exactly you are trying to accomplish. The answer to the why is not simply the output you have already identified. Asking why is about deepening your understanding before going into the details. Put yourself in the shoes of the operator who will soon have to read and understand your work instruction before he can work with it.
Step 3: Describe How the Task is to be Done
First, list all the materials needed for the job. Arrange these in an orderly and logical manner using bullet points. After this, choose the most appropriate way to display the work instruction. Remember here that many people are visual learners, so video or images might be the best approach.
Step 4: Formatting the Instruction
Consider the work instruction document as a learning tool. Put yourself in the operator’s shoes and think about what might help him or her process the document.
- Choose how you will format the document and stick to it.
- Break down any steps into a numerical sequence. If there are more than 10 steps, subdivide the different topics. A step describes an action that takes no longer than 15 seconds.
- Use images, video or drawings. Make sure the image matches the text. Refer to the image in the text. Place images on the left side of the paper and keep text on the right.
- Emphasize important information by using capital letters, boldface, or italics.
- Turn each list into a bulleted or numbered list
Step 5: Rewrite and Simplify
As already mentioned, it is important to write short, simple and clear.
- Use short and simple sentences. Sentences should be no longer than 15 words.
- Use short and simple words. Words with multiple syllables sound clever, but slow down the reader. Avoid technical jargon. In short: keep it simple.
- Include a list of abbreviations the reader can refer to.
- Decide what word or term you are going to use to describe something and stick to it. Don’t use different words for the same thing.
Step 6: Test out and Review
Ask an appropriate colleague to test out the work instruction. Do not provide further explanation or help. After this, ask for feedback and take notes. Ask sufficiently for any improvements and adjustments that can still be made.