What is a work instruction?
A work instruction document is used to describe one of the components of Standard Work (SW). SW is a simple written description to perform a task. SW is the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to execute a particular task. The three components of standard work are the following.
- Job sequence to complete the job
- The rate at which products must be produced to meet customer demand (takt time)
- The standard amount of work in process inventory
Let’s focus today on the first component. One way to document this component of standard work is by using work instructions. A work instruction describes in detail the step by step information to do the task. In general, they combine words, pictures, icons, or sketches, to define each step. They also contain important tips for things that can make or break the job, safety, and quality.
The first step to create standard work was to understand the process and break down the job. If you follow all the steps, then you already have the job sequence to perform the job safely and efficiently while achieving high quality. All you have to do now is to present the information in a simple and easy to understand format.
- This is an official document and should contain the company or business name, and address.
- Use a clear title that describes the task.
- Although is not critical, you should have a standard alphanumerical format to identify the work instructions. This is helpful if you plan to create instructions for key tasks in different departments. This number should go next to the work instruction title.
- Identify the department and position(s) that will perform this task.
- Include the document effective date.
- When the job has safety risks or required the use of personal protective equipment, you should identify both. This information can go either on the heading or the body of the instruction. You can use words but is better to use icons to represent risks and PPE.
Work Instruction body
- List the materials or equipment required to do the job, use bullet points to facilitate reading.
- Describe how to perform each step following the appropriate sequence.
- For each step, include risks, and tips to do the job easier and/or achieve the desired quality.
- If you are using the WI as a training tool, the footer should include space for the trainer and trainee names and signatures.
Guides to writing a work instruction document
Do the following while writing your work instructions.
- A number sequence for the steps.
- Limit the numbers of steps, if the task has more than 8-10 steps, subdivide the instruction in different subjects.
- Bullets or numbers each time you need to list something.
- Highlight important information using a different color, bold or italics.
- Use pictures, screen shots or icons every time you can.
Create a document template with the format you chose and a library with the icons to depict risks, actions, personal protective equipment, and others. Designate who will be responsible for creating the work instructions. Also, who will manage the documents library, including numbering, and filing. Consistency and clarity are critical to avoid confusion