The pace and complexity of today’s manufacturing processes make Henry Ford’s automobile factory floor looks like child’s play. While today’s production metrics are measured in milliseconds, his assembly workers lined up and waited on a crude system of ropes and winches to pull the next Model-T across the line. Ford’s operation certainly wouldn’t win any awards for efficiency compared to today’s standards, but the principle of saving time and money by improving process has become an inextricable element of every manufacturing success strategy after the advent of the assembly line.
Electronic work instruction is a process improvement strategy many manufacturers are adopting today to centralize, standardize and automate every instruction needed to complete manufacturing tasks. The introduction of Electronic Work Instruction software (EWIs) to manufacturing environments has led to a litany of efficiency improvements, spurring faster, leaner work floor processes and skyrocketing manufacturing ROI. Some common applications of electronic work instruction software include on-site learning capabilities using 3D visualization and electronic work order fulfillment.
To understand the efficiencies of electronic work instruction software, consider what a manufacturing floor might look like without it. You might see laminated paper instructions taped to a wall or have well-worn booklets cluttering the workspace. If a dreaded change in instruction is made, those signs and booklets will have to be manually updated. Consistency and clear communication would be hard to achieve, especially on a busy floor or across different geographies.
Trade out paper processes for electronic work instruction capabilities and you'll find that:
- Experience less downtime: With electronic routing and delivery, engineering change orders are made faster. Additionally, these processes improve other business impacting actions like the speed it takes to respond to a maintenance request.
- Communicate stronger: You can’t easily share a paper booklet in Michigan with an operation in Japan or even a few floors over. A centralized document management system facilitates not only the sharing of instructions, but real-time collaboration and adjustment across any room or continent.
- Recognize waste rapidly: Getting an instruction right the first time instead of by trial-and-error improves quality and reduces waste.
- Make better control of regulatory risk: Regulations can change quickly and often affect many operational touch points. Electronic work instruction not only get the word out quickly about pending regulations, they afford the ability to easily document that the right people have been made aware and new processes are being followed.
- Introduce new products faster: The process of developing, testing and building new products includes constant communication between manufacturing and engineering. Electronic work instruction ensures efficient collaboration between all parties.
- Improve closed-loop quality management processes: With a centralized platform, pertinent content and data can be more easily shared with partner processes like including corrective and preventive action management and audit management processes.
- Realize efficiencies in closed-loop manufacturing and engineering processes: With a centralized platform, pertinent content and data can be more easily shared with the failure more and effects analysis (FMEA) processes.
Henry Ford would be astounded at how his early ideas have evolved and how efficiencies are now driven by a concept he might never have even imagined. And as to the staying power of electronic work instructions—it may eventually seem to future generations as unassuming as that rope. But for today, it more than gets the job done!