I noticed something interesting when we posted visual work instructions all over our plant. The operators who helped write the content looked them over, made corrections and never looked at them again. The work instructions were posted above each work station yet nobody looked at them after the first week.
Almost every operator believed that they knew their jobs well enough not to rely on the work instructions. So if the visual work instructions are not for the operators, what is their true purpose?
The first purpose is to document (standardize) the current best way to perform a task or complete a process. Many of our processes in the past were considered tribal knowledge. Only a few people carried that specific knowledge in their heads and passed it on to others as required. Over time, some important information was lost which was either lost forever or forced us to re-learn it. Not a very productive use of resources.
The second purpose is for training or teaching new employees the correct method or process. Depending on word of mouth training from experienced operators leaves opportunities of missing information or compromises in quality. The visual work instruction should contain the proper information and improve the learning curve.
Finally, the visual work instructions provide the basis to audit the process. Using the visual work instruction as the standard work method, any person could check the actual operation against the documented method to ensure adherence to standard. In addition, the standard documented process becomes the baseline for improvement efforts.