What is the purpose of a work instruction?
The primary aim of a work instruction is to describe actions that are to be carried out. A good work instruction comprises a number of well-defined building blocks. These would seem to be logical, but are by no means always properly used.
Appropriate to level
This definition starts with making the work instruction appropriate to the level of whoever needs to follow it: a maintenance fitter, for example. What are his capabilities, what is he allowed to do, what does he need to know and what does he not need to know to be able to do his work properly? In other words, what is relevant to his job and what is not?
Logical and clear
A work instruction generally consists of steps. These steps must follow each other logically and clearly, so that a task can be carried out step by step. These steps are described in short, simple language in the imperative. It is not sensible to describe multiple instructions in a single step. This is confusing and increases the risk of mistakes. No superfluous information that is irrelevant to the task should be present in a work instruction. This distracts from carrying out an instruction. Too many steps one after the other in an instruction is not a good idea either. It is better to split a work instruction up into logical parts, for example: ‘Remove the cylinder head’ and ‘Fit the cylinder head’.
The illustrations in a work instruction are just as important as the textual information. In a work instruction, an illustration should not be a puzzle, either in its graphical design or as regards its position in the layout. The illustration needs to be next to the text. It is also useful to pay proper attention to the use of highlighting in the illustrations. This gives extra emphasis in the image with respect to which part is concerned and where that part may be found.
Information about the tools and materials needed for the work must have a clear place in a work instruction. Here, too, close attention needs to be paid to the position of the information. The right tools and materials must be next to the relevant steps.
It is important that work instructions are consistent. Once a format is established that is effective and clear, it is recommended that it be used consistently. This saves time in the drafting of new instructions, increases comprehension by the users and reduces the risk of ambiguities and errors.
Work instructions create dedicated employees
The work involved in preparing clear work instructions yields rewards. Besides the advantages already mentioned, it is clear that employees enjoy their work more and are more motivated. From good work instructions, they gain insight into what needs to be done and feel more involved in the tasks they carry out.