How to Write Standardized Work Instructions

woman working on tool


Do you need employees to perform specific processes in a consistent, measurable, and repeatable manner? Then you need to create Standardized Work Instructions (SWI) that employees can follow and team leads and managers can leverage to step in to assist if a step in the process needs help.

SWI can streamline efficiencies in your manufacturing business. But writing straightforward, easy to follow SWI can be difficult. By following our process for how to write Standardized Work Instructions, you’ll be able to streamline workflow and define accountability for each step of the process.


What are Standardized Work Instructions?


Standardized Work Instructions are designed to ensure that processes are completed in a safe and timely manner. Your step-by-step guide must be accessible to all employees who need to view them. This also includes team leaders because if the task completion time is compromised, they will be able to view the standardized instructions and potentially find a solution to the problem.


What is the Difference Between Standardized Work Instructions and Standard Operating Procedure?


A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) describes the actions or proper responses to various predetermined circumstances or everyday situations. These are high-level actions without specific detail on how to accomplish these actions.

SWI is the detailed steps of how to perform each action of a SOP. SWI is very specific and clearly explain how to accomplish each action of a SOP. When written well, employees and managers can efficiently perform the SWI task without needing help to complete the task. An SOP generally has several SWI within the SOP document.


Related Link: How to Streamline Manufacturing Operations Management


Benefits of SWI


When written clearly and concisely, SWI can:

  • Document all current processes for all shifts.
  • Reduce human errors that can diminish production, damage equipment, or cause injuries.
  • Create consistency and uniform production of processes and tasks.
  • Create a safer environment for employees.
  • Establish clear expectations and measurable results.
  • Offers greater flexibility for uniform output.
  • Allows others to assist with accomplishing tasks if the need arises.
  • Facilitates smoother, faster training of new employees.

Ultimately, Standardized Work Instructions can save the enterprise money and time while increasing productivity. If you want to know how to write a concise set of standardized work instructions for your colleagues, then keep reading.


The Essential Parts of Standardized Work Instructions


For most production processes, engineers and front-line supervisors use these forms to create SWI:


Process Capacity Sheet


The Process Capacity Sheet calculates each machine’s capacity in a linked set of processes. It determines the machine’s actual capacity and identifies and reduces bottlenecks. The Process Capacity Sheet specifies:

Tool setup and change intervals

Machine cycle times

Manual work times


Standardized Work Combination Table


The Standardized Work Combination Table form determines the combination of manual work time, machine processing time, and walk time for each operator in a process. It provides a complete table that illustrates the interaction between machines and operators within each process. It also recalculates as takt time fluctuates over time.


Standardized Work Chart


The Standardized work chart illustrates the material location and operator movement related to a machine and the overall process. It also shows:

  • Current takt time and cycle time for the task
  • The work sequence
  • The required standard in-process stock

These charts should be continuously updated to reflect improvements of the worksite. While commonly displayed at each workstation, these charts can be more easily updated by utilizing Prodsmart’s MES mobile application that enables dynamic standardized work charts.


Work Standards Sheet


The work standards sheet details the operational requirements and production tasks for each process to ensure product quality. This is the high-level document that covers the SOP.


Job Instruction Sheet


The job instruction sheet is the document used to train new employees. This sheet covers everything from specific job requirements to details on how to perform all tasks safely and efficiently.


Common Methods for SWI


Many manufacturers incorporate one or all of these methods for communicating SWI to their employees:

  • Visual Work Instructions: These are illustrated posters that provide a visual aid to the operators with clear instructions on that station’s task. These instructions can also be binders with step-by-step instructions.
  • Mobile applications: SWI mobile apps provide operators with real-time information, updates, technical details, and clear instructions on how to perform the task for their stations. Operators access the app for a current reference.

Are you ready to move your SWI to a digital format? Learn more about Prodsmart’s MES on Mobile production management application.


Related Link: How is MES Essential for Production Scheduling?


How to Write Standardized Work Instructions for consistent results


Tips for Creating Clear and Concise Standardized Work Instructions


Here are some excellent tips for creating clear and concise SWI:


1. Keep it Simple


Instructions should be written in a way so that they are understood. You should write the instructions in a way that is task-based from the user’s experience. This means writing step-by-step instructions from the user’s perspective on what they need to do next to accomplish the task.

You do not need to cover all the technical requirements unless the details are relevant to completing the task. And even if they are, keep it simple, or link to the technical details if they need more information.

Aim to keep the language simple and if you can say something in fewer words, do so. However, if jargon and acronyms are necessary, then be sure to explain precisely what is meant by these terms.

Here are some excellent tips for writing in an easy-to-read, simplified form:

  • Do not use more than three nouns together.
  • Keep sentences to twenty words or less.
  • Write paragraphs that are no longer than six sentences.
  • Be very specific and use details.
  • Use active verb tenses.
  • Avoid passive voice.

When you use a simplified writing style, it is easier to read and skim for specific details, actions, or tasks.


2. Keep it Visual


People tend to remember visual images much more easily than elaborate language. So aim to include at least a few images to convey your instructions well.

If, for instance, you are writing a set of instructions for production tracking or production management, you could include lots of visual images, so those in charge of these tasks have a detailed set of instructions to go by. Your visuals can be:

  • Illustrations
  • Photos
  • Animations
  • Videos

Incorporating visuals into your work instructions reduces misunderstanding or misinterpretation of what needs to be done. Visuals also make it easier for employees to complete each task quicker when it is easy to see how to do it rather than read how to do it.

Check credibility when writing Standardized Work Instructions 


3. Check Credibility


If you’ve gone to the effort of designing a set of instructions, you want to make sure that your colleagues find them helpful. So, check with your most experienced employees first to see what they think. Any feedback from them will be useful, and if a few amendments need to be made, then you can do that before creating the finalized draft.


4. Stay Consistent


Work instructions should follow a particular style. It doesn’t really matter what that style is, so long as the layout, language, and images are consistent for all sets of instructions.


5. Location


In an age of smart manufacturing, it makes sense to digitize your instructions. So, why not write your instructions and store them on our software, where they are easily accessible to all workers! Then your standardized work instructions will only be a few clicks away.

Prodsmart offers an easy-to-use mobile MES solution that can plan, assign, manage, track, and analyze SWI for fabricating and manufacturing production. Prodsmart’s software application allows you to:

  • Import spreadsheets and other production documentation.
  • Track and analyze every aspect of your operations in real-time.
  • Provides real-time communication with the Team Chat feature.
  • Sends notifications for tasks and activities when something is wrong.
  • Sends alerts when machines need maintenance or need troubleshooting.
  • Creates visual workflows.

Prodsmart can enable better management and communication for increased productivity and efficiency.


SWI are Effective Tools for Improving Productivity


A clear set of work instructions gives employees an easy-to-understand detailed guide of what their job fully entails. This should provide both you and them peace of mind because they will have a guide to refer back to, which should increase efficiency while reducing accidents in the workplace.

If you’re not quite sure how to get started, why not try our work instructions feature! Just sign up, and our help center will show you how to navigate your way around it. Prodsmart takes your work instructions to the shop floor, so they are accessible to everyone.


Do you need help creating effective SWI for your manufacturing processes? Prodsmart offers several professional services and training courses to help you overcome the complexity of everyday manufacturing challenges.


Related Link: Cost of Production: The Ultimate Guide


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