How do you share work instructions with operators on your production floor?

Many manufacturing engineers will print out a binder of instructions, and then reprint that binder every time that processes change.

For example, here is one set of instructions from a 65-page guide:

That can feel pretty overwhelming for an operator. They probably don’t want to stop what they are doing to flip through every page of their instructions. And, if they miss a step and create a defective part, you don’t get any feedback on how to improve your process to prevent that defect in the future.

Instead, you need a way to make instructions easily readable and actionable for the operator. This could include text, images, videos, diagrams or even CAD files. And, you should be able to track data for every set of work instructions in order to learn how long each operator spends on a given task.

You can create digitized work instructions that fit each individual operator’s tasks. Any operator with a computer or ruggedized tablet can access them and automatically share data as they complete their work.

But, once you have digitized your work instructions, you can also digitize your work orders and quality reporting and combine them all into one flow for the operator. I’ll show you what I mean in a minute.

You can build a manufacturing app in Tulip using a standardized template. Your app can just cover work instructions, or you can choose to also include work orders and inspection data. This guide will show you how to build a work instructions template that connects to these other documents that the operator uses on a daily basis.

If you have a 65-page manual that covers 9 separate processes, you can create a separate app for each process that captures all the relevant data.

All 9 of these apps can be created through one template. Here’s how to use one work instructions template to cover all the tasks that an operator must complete at their workstation.

Step 1- Track Data Flow On Your Floor

Here are three common types of documents that an operator must use:

  1. A sheet to enter data from a work order
  2. A binder of work instructions
  3. A quality report or inspection checklist

Then, all three pieces of paper might be tracked by separate employees:

  1. The work order is shared with other operators as a traveler
  2. A process engineer must write new instructions when processes change
  3. A quality manager tracks all inspection reports (or they are never tracked)

If you use a digitized work instructions template, you can merge all three functions into one flow.

First, an operator can enter work order data by scanning a barcode or entering a work order number:

scan-barcode-stepThen, you might use an initial inspection step to ensure the quality of the incoming component:

quality-inspection-stepAfter that, you can show a series of work instruction steps with a similar design:

work-instruction-stepYou can include a step that interrupts the workflow to ask for data from the operator as well:

work-instruction-stepNow, you have multiple types of data collected in one place:

  1. The work order number is tracked after step 1
  2. Any inspection data is tied to that work order number
  3. When the operator completes the app, you collect a data point on how long it took.

In each individual step, you can decide if a picture, video or CAD file is most appropriate. Also, since the app automatically tracks completion data, you will not need to ask the operator for a time and date with each work order.

You also may have noticed that there are maps of the component and relevant parts in each step. This standardized template presents that information to the operator at the appropriate time.

Step 2- Making It Easy To Enter Data

When an operator spends time manually writing a work order or searching for a separate document, time is being wasted, and the operator is getting distracted from their real job.

You can integrate devices with your Tulip app to reduce this waste. For example, you can use a connected barcode scanner to automatically add a work order number to the defect report.

Or, you can use a foot pedal to allow the operator to advance to the next step when their hands are in use.

Also, you will notice that the design is standardized across all work instructions and quality checks. This is meant to make it as easy as possible for the operator to find instructions. When instructions and images change their order, the operator spends their mental energy on searching for instructions, rather than doing the work.

Step 3 – Communicating the Value to the Operator

Operators may have become accustomed to skipping the work instructions entirely. Experienced operators may no longer need instructions, while new operators might believe that they have mastered a task since they do not get feedback when defects happen later in the process.

Also, operators may be wary when it feels like somebody is monitoring their actions via an app.

Ultimately, digital work instructions should make it easier for you to track data around your production floor. This will help you set more reasonable expectations for operators, and address problems more quickly when your team is not hitting their goals. It should help everyone align around the same goals, rather than enforce a punishing pace for operators.

Step 4 – Choosing Data To Analyze

Digitizing your work instructions will create a few obvious opportunities for analytics.

Total Work Orders Completed By Day- Each time an operator finishes a work instructions app, you collect a data point. This allows you to monitor the total number of work orders completed for the day in real-time.

Cycle Time by User- Rather than running isolated time trials, you constantly collect data with digital work instructions. You automatically learn how long each operator spends on a specific task, on average.

Distribution of Cycle Times Across Entire Process- Let’s say that there are 9 individual workstations that contribute to building a product. You might want to view the average cycle time for each station. Then, you might want to see the different average cycle times by operator at each individual station. Digital work instructions should provide that data.

Step 5 – Sharing Data Throughout Your Organization

Production data impacts multiple departments. Members of the finance team need production data so they can project expenses and revenue. Leaders of other facilities can use data from your facility to improve their own operations.

In order to share with them, you can choose:

  1. Emailed reports
  2. A real-time dashboard
  3. Printed charts
  4. Integration with an ERP system or database
  5. Real-time alerts

You can even choose different means of reporting for different members of your organization. An executive may want to view high-level data on their phone while they are travelling, while a plant manager may want a daily summary via email.

How To Get Started

You can build an automated work instructions app in Tulip for free. Here’s an example of the full pathway from the operator scanning a barcode to storing the data in the Tulip database.

work-order-stepYou can build the app yourself, and then share a read-only version with operators. Once operators start using the app, you can share data with executives and other engineers.