Tips and Insights

Visual Work Instructions:
The Impact on Quality Metrics

The notion of giving an operator what she needs, when she needs it, in a way she can use it (visually), seems like a commonsense approach, but it's surprising how many text-heavy, confusing, unfriendly documents we see. I have to assume that's because companies haven't seen or can't imagine the impact effective work instructions can have on their metrics; therefore, I want to share statistics from two companies Explainers worked with where we definitively captured the results.

We created visual work instructions for an international company that develops medical devices—a highly regulated environment. The procedures were complex and the workers inexperienced. The devices were intricate and expensive, allowing for only minute deviations and making quality imperative. Though we were part of an overall Lean initiative, the company was able to determine the impact our instructions had on three metrics:

  • Yields increased 8%
  • Deviations per lot decreased 83%
  • Training development time decreased 50%
An example of visual work instructions that positively impact quality metrics

Another company, an automotive parts manufacturing plant, asked us to help define standard best practice and create work instructions for all their operations. We created documents—laminated, easy-to-see posters—that they displayed on the shop floor. These were used to reinforce the training that had been done with the same work instructions. Our documents impacted the company's results in two ways:

  • Reduced secondary inspections and eliminated tertiary inspections
  • Reduced scrap by 50%

While it can be a challenge to determine the impact visual work instructions may have on a process, especially when they are implemented along with other lean / quality initiaves, Explainers customers repeatedly find that the potential savings far exceed the cost of developing these instructions.

For many clients, the affirmation comes immediately. After speaking to a room of engineers and supervisors during a recent sales presentation where we showed before and after examples of work instructions, one of the engineers voiced what many thought: "Holy cow, if you can't see the benefits of visual by just looking at the differences . . ."

I'll let you finish the sentence.



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Renee Callies

Renee provides training and direction for Explainers clients regarding writing, editing and developing the standards for the development of work instructions. Renee's 12 years in education give her a strong background in teaching writing techniques and developing usable, consistent standards. She served as a Co-Director of the Third Coast Writing Project at Western Michigan University from 1997 to 2006.  View more of her writing at