Chirag Yadav

Chirag Yadav

June 23, 2023 9 minutes to read

Streamline Lean Manufacturing with Standardized Work Instructions

Streamline Lean Manufacturing with Standardized Work Instructions

What is the most efficient method for performing a task? Still searching for the perfect answer? Well, many manufacturing workers who lack proper training and struggle to decipher the handwritten instructions are left to navigate the complexities of their tasks. What’s the solution, how can this problem be addressed? It is through standardized work instructions.

Today, in order to have greater work efficiency, organizations often fail to recognize a crucial factor: incorporating standardized work instructions as an integral part of their processes.

Without standardization, achieving continuous growth and sustainable improvement becomes challenging as manufacturing employees perform the same tasks in various ways. This leads to unexpected results such as higher costs, unplanned downtime, wastage, human errors, and overall inefficiency.

In this blog post, I will explain the critical role of standardized work instructions in lean manufacturing. I will even share the benefits of adopting digital work instructions software and how it can transform redundant frontline operations.

What are Standardized Work Instructions (SWI)?

Standardized work instructions (SWI) is the combination of process, procedure, and visual work instructions, which includes the best practices to perform a specific task in the safest, easiest, and most effective way. This ensures that every employee has standard work instructions to follow for particular tasks with the goal of reducing the risk of errors, improving consistency, and promoting continuous growth in the workplace. Usually, standard work is used by organizations to show their employees or workers how a particular task is performed. This eliminates any possible waste that adds extra time or lowers the quality of your products.

Why Lean Manufacturers Need Standardized Work Instructions (SWI)?

Work instructions, when standardized, provide a consistent way to complete tasks, reducing the risk of errors and inconsistencies. This is especially important when it comes to industries that require precision, such as the manufacture of medical equipment or aircraft parts. By adopting a standardized method of completing projects, work instructions for the manufacturing process ensure the highest quality, with no changes to the finished product.

Standardized work may seem unnecessary for lean manufacturers in certain cases, such as during the prototyping stage or when existing operations effectively meet customer needs without it. However, various forcing events can emphasize the need for standardized work, including:

  • Loss of tribal knowledge transfer to new hires, as experts retire;
  • Difficulty in streamlining complex operations or Identifying problem areas that require detailed instructions;
  • Loss in workers’ productivity in manufacturing due to the heavy usage of pen and paper across different service areas;
  • Costly mistakes in manufacturing due to an increase in human error.

What are Some Benefits of Using Standardized Work Instructions?

Below are some of the ways standardized work instructions can benefit your business: 

Minimizes Operational Costs

High operational costs can have a significant impact on an organization’s profitability. Implementing standardized work instructions is one of the effective solutions to address this issue. By doing so, you can eliminate the need for trial & error, resulting in considerable production cost reductions. 

Efficient Employee Training

With standardized work instructions, employee training and onboarding become faster, simpler, and more effective. With each and every task clearly mentioned, onboarding new workers is no longer a costly and time-consuming procedure. It also implies that new staff becomes more productive as they have access to all the necessary information, which helps them to complete their tasks effectively. 

Promoting a Secure Work Environment

When your workers are properly trained and adhering to standardized work procedures, everyone is in their designated positions and fulfilling their assigned tasks. This diminishes the chances of risks and potential injuries.

Reduced Waste

When workers carry out their tasks without following any standards, it can lead to unavoidable human errors, unnecessary waste, and inconsistent outcomes. However, by implementing standardized work instructions, workers can follow specific steps, reducing the defects that result in product waste. It provides clear instructions and ensures important steps are not missed. 

Effective problem-solving

Although standard work does not eliminate problems, it simplifies and improves the process of resolving them. This reduces work-related stress as employees can allocate more time to productive tasks rather than rectifying errors. Furthermore, it enhances employees’ productivity, increases their efficiency, and fosters long-term profitability.

With fewer issues, disparities, and mistakes to address, organizations are able to concentrate on strategic objectives, meeting employee requirements, and contributing value to the business.

What are Key Elements to Creating Standardized Work Instructions?

1. Determine the Process that Needs Standardizing

Firstoff, start by selecting the process that requires standardized work instructions to be defined. This could be a specific task or operation within a larger workflow. Gather all the relevant materials and resources that are available for the process. This may include existing documents, procedures, and any other reference materials. Go to the actual place where the work is performed, also known as the “service sites” Being physically present at the work site provides valuable insights and firsthand observations. Assess the existing work instructions, if any, for the selected process. Some processes may already have well-defined instructions in place, while others may lack clear guidelines.

2. Prioritize What’s Important

While it is important to provide technical details in work instructions, many documents tend to include too much information. Not everyone needs to know every single detail, as our brains tend to ignore information that it considers unnecessary. Therefore, when creating operating procedures and work instructions, it’s best to take a selective approach and avoid including excessively technical details that may not be relevant to everyone. By doing so, you can make the instructions easier to read and understand for all employees.

3. Keep it Simple

In lean manufacturing or any other industry, simplicity and efficiency are often closely linked, which is one of the most important elements of effective work instructions This means that documents should be kept concise and free of unnecessary information that could potentially confuse or mislead the user. To achieve this, it is important to create a minimalist and uncluttered structure that includes only the essential instructions and references needed for the manufacturing, production, or operational stage. By doing so, you can reduce the risk of errors and ensure that the document is easy to understand and follow.

4. Consider Using Digital Work Instructions Software

Companies need to rely on practical and reliable support tools that are easy to update. The goal is to reduce or even eliminate errors and malfunctions that can occur when team members use outdated documents. It’s no secret that the old-fashioned paper format is no longer adequate for meeting these requirements.  Adopting a paperless or dematerialized approach to creating work instructions is in line with the same logic that characterizes the 4.0 industry. By embracing digital work instructions software, manufacturers can revolutionize their operations and empower frontline workers with the necessary tools for success. This approach offers several benefits, including reducing the risk of errors and inconsistencies, improving accessibility and ease of use, and enhancing security.

5. Consider the Reader’s Point of View

When crafting work instructions, it’s crucial to keep in mind who will be using them. By empathizing with the users and considering their experiences and feedback, you can create a document that truly reflects their needs and the realities of their work. It’s not just about putting yourself in their shoes but also collaborating with them throughout the development process to ensure the instructions are as helpful and accurate as possible.

6. Make the Experience Easier to Use

It’s important for employees to have access to the information they need when they need it. When creating work instructions, consider how best to distribute them to users early on. This might involve providing offline access, displaying instructions on a machine’s screen, using a QR code, or leveraging NFC technology. It’s also important to ensure that employees performing a task for the first time can access step-by-step instructions at the location where the task will be performed.

7. Embed your Instructions into your L & D Programs

Simply knowing what an operation entails may not be sufficient to comprehend the intricacies of the task, particularly in complex cases. To gain a complete understanding of the context, users need to begin with a comprehensive grasp of the situation. Well-designed instructions play a critical role in the training process, enabling employees to fully immerse themselves in their work environment. It is important to integrate your instructions into your organization’s internal L&D programs, including LMS, E-learning, MOOCs, and face-to-face training.

8. Set up a System for Ongoing Improvement

Establishing a continuous improvement process is essential. Encourage your employees to provide feedback, ask questions, and offer suggestions for improvement. Experienced users can contribute valuable insights regarding existing operating procedures. Regularly monitor the feedback you receive to ensure that your instructions are continuously updated and improved.

Plutomen Workflow: A User-friendly Digital Work Instructions Software

Work instructions play a critical role in ensuring the highest quality of products while reducing the risk of incidents and human error. Adopting a Digital Work Instructions Solution can take this a step further by creating highly engaging and interactive work instructions that can enhance frontline workers’ understanding of the task at hand.

Plutomen Workflow is a Digital Work Instructions solution that can help lean manufacturers standardize their work by creating, updating, and distributing effective work instructions. Here are the key features and benefits of this user-friendly work instructions software:

  1. Step-by-Step Creations: Plutomen Workflow allows manufacturers to create clear and concise step-by-step work instructions, ensuring consistent execution of tasks across the organization.
  2. SOPs and Checklists: With this software, companies can develop and maintain standard operating procedures (SOPs) and checklists, ensuring adherence to best practices and minimizing errors.
  3. Accessibility through Smartglass: Plutomen Workflow supports access to work instructions through smart glasses, such as RealWear, enabling hands-free and convenient access to instructions, enhancing worker productivity and safety.
  4. Instant Reports: By using our solution, manufacturers can determine exactly at what time, place, and site the task has been performed and how much time has been taken to perform it. This much information is useful, especially when you want to have transparency and control of your operations across several sites.

Experience the Transformative Benefits of Standardized Work Instructions with Plutomen

Streamline your operations, maximize productivity, and achieve new levels of excellence With Plutomen Workflow.

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Standardized work instructions are important for several reasons. They provide a consistent and repeatable process for performing tasks, reducing variability and errors. They also improve communication and collaboration among team members, ensuring that everyone is on the same page regarding how work is done. Additionally, It can help to ensure compliance with regulations and best practices.

Standardized work instructions improve quality control by establishing a consistent process for performing tasks. This reduces variability and makes it easier to identify and correct errors or defects. By following a standardized process, workers can also identify potential issues earlier in the process and prevent them from becoming larger problems down the line. It can also help to identify areas where improvements can be made to further improve quality control.

Standardized work instructions can help to maximize productivity by providing a consistent and efficient process for performing tasks. By reducing variability and eliminating unnecessary steps or activities, workers can complete tasks more quickly and with fewer errors. Standardized work instructions can also help to identify areas where improvements can be made to streamline processes and further increase productivity. Additionally, It can help to train new workers more quickly, allowing them to become productive members of the team faster.
Chirag Yadav

Chirag Yadav

VP of Sales and Partnerships at Plutomen

Chirag brings with him 15+ Years of experience in Digital Transformation, and IT Leadership. At Plutomen, he holds deep experience in business with a track record of customer-centric approaches helping them build business transformation.

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