To start this story right, we need to start at the start. When industrial manufacturers realized there was real profit to be gained by doing things consistently (“you can have any color you want as long as it is black”), this industry came up with the concept of Standard Work Instructions. clipboard to digital checklistIn other spaces these are known as procedures. What is different about Standard Work Instructions is that they take on the flavor of “we must do this thing consistently or we will have an issue.” In many ways this sentiment should have been applied to procedures too, but procedures have often been viewed as a nice corporate suggestion or an artifact of training.

Given that Standard Work Instructions imply precision to ensure optimal productivity, quality, and safety such that they must be followed; it made a lot of sense to take these digital. Sadly, the term Digital Work Instructions was co-opted for a wide variety of solutions… everything from PDFs stored on a SharePoint drive to more programmatic checklists. It’s a great concept to bring these online, but the term has lost meaning with the wide variety of often static approaches to going digital. With many of these solutions, while helpful, do not take full advantage of what going digital provides.

A true digital system for worker instructions can take advantage of all that is available in a modern, always-on app meets platform world. These solutions are increasingly being called “Connected Worker Platforms.” What is expected in consumer applications is now available to industrial companies in these platforms. These “new” features include the ability to:

  • collect data in-line with the instructions, analyze data and measure output
  • time stamp every action in the work instruction as each step is completed
  • contact an expert while working via chat, audio, or video
  • use rich media to convey ideas within the work instruction to ensure execution accuracy
  • trigger the work of others when your work is completed
  • trigger work from machines when needed or programmatically from other software (e.g. ERP)
  • validate the correct work is being performed using barcodes or connected tools
  • compare any procedure or work area to any other using big data collected by the platform
  • manage exceptions live with issue tracking and user feedback
  • work in mixed signal environments with seamless online/offline capability where paper or PDFs were previously the only reliable option

The summary notion here is that it is time to think beyond the concept of even Digital Work Instructions. Sure, they are digital, but it is time to consider how agile you could make your instructions if you turned them into live applications that were constantly improving. The cautionary tale of Digital Work Instructions is that this early technology didn’t fully leverage this new medium and simply painted old paper with the digital brush.

As we enter the era of the small batch world where consumers of all stripes – individuals, businesses, and governments increasingly want choice in the products and services offered to them, companies are under constant pressure to deliver these goods in a cost-effective manner. This means having your whole team and what used to be relatively static factories and work environments change gears multiple times a day. We all intuitively know that if we tried to get people to do this intricate dance with paper binders and classroom training it would fail miserably. The same could be said of your detailed instructions that are locked in a PDF or a first gen Digital Work Instruction system.

IG001 Infographic pinned iconIf you are convinced that the dynamic work you now do that your customers have asked you for needs to be supported by an equally dynamic way of communicating instructions, then you owe it to your company to look into Connected Worker Platforms. At Parsable, we are powering companies that are digital native that would never have thought to produce a paper binder. We are also helping large companies rethink and re-implement their procedures for a dynamic, digital world. Some people say you can’t teach an elephant to dance. We are seeing this happen every day as big companies take up the challenge and begin to transform the work they ask their teams to do from a top down monologue to a well-crafted orchestra of people and machines.

This in turn is transforming the workers. Digitally connected workers are simply more accountable to each other and to their companies. Further, when you allow workers to improve the processes that they work in, they are simply more invested in the work itself.

If you headed down the Digital Work Instruction path, you weren’t wrong, in fact you were ahead of most. As the consumerization of applications accelerates though, the state of the art continues to advance. The next level of industrial productivity can now be unlocked through Connected Worker Platforms.

Learn more: The Strengths and Limitations of 5 Different Approaches to Digitizing Standard Work.