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Improving Work Instructions

The initial kaizen team had established single piece flow, standard work, and 5S. I met with the manufacturing engineer assigned to the engine line and discussed the need for point-of-use work instructions. The current work instructions were in poor condition, and because we had made major changes to the work sequence, new work instructions were needed. The old templates were terrible—too many pages and too many words. These templates were stored in a notebook, which was kept on a shelf near the line. I explained that we needed a fresh approach. My goal was to reduce the size of the documents—to only two to three pages per workstation—by using signs and icons to illustrate processes rather than an excessive amount of words.

Making this drastic change to company work instructions required that I meet with upper management to discuss our intentions and get approval. The management team was thrilled and thought the idea was great. Everyone agreed that we needed new lean documentation, and the managers decided that when the engine line had been completed, new work instruction templates would be designed and would become standard.

The engineer and I worked every day, updating the work instructions. We held several meetings with the operators and line leads, and they appeared to be in favor of the modifications. The old work instructions were so poor that they were seldom used. The new format would be beneficial for everyday use by the operators as well as for training new employees.

The new work instructions were completed in about two weeks. After the appropriate approval process, the work instructions were installed in the workstations on the engine line. We felt that the improvements to 5S and documentation would help change the culture and get the supervisor to instill accountability in his people. Time would tell.

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