A Better kind of Job Instruction

Job sheets are the staple of any production system, they tell the “factory floor” what to manufacture, how many to manufacture and how to do it.

Most of the metrics on a job order are calculated using a bill of materials which is a recipe sheet for what ingredients/components are required to make x number of finished widgets, in some systems this is very precise like car manufacturing, others it is not so, such as wine making where there is still a “feel factor” involved in the final blending. As x number of widgets are produced the balance of the ingredient stock is reduced by the stuff used and the stuff wasted.

Another part of the job sheet is the “How to do it”. Some processes are so easy (especially in a production line) that this is simply not written down, the operator receives an hour or two’s training and from that point on just make X widgets from the sheet. When it is a bit more involved, some sort of instruction text is required. Managers Spend years perfecting Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) which dictate exactly how to do this the most efficient and safely way possible ¬†for every conceivable variation of the widget, source material, production equipment etc.

Current job instructions in all systems I have been involved with (many of which are big names) have always been simple text, either based on templates or in some cases just a blank canvas for the person writing the job to explain how to do it (mainly involving copy and paste from the SOP’s)


There are several problem though with written instructions as in the example job order above, especially when they involve complicated instructions and multiple operators.

  • There is no way to automatically check off all parts of the text have been actioned.
  • Metrics required for productivity calculations generally only take the whole job into consideration not each part of the job.
  • We assume the operator has all the skills to do the job, where as in reality an operator may be more skilled in one part of the job than another and possibly if a mistake occurs not skilled enough!
  • The text is very open to mistakes by the writer of the job
  • The Progress state of a complicated set of text instructions cannot be determined
  • etc

Most of the above tends to rely on the supervisors correctly checking the job and being confident of the operators abilities, check-sheets can help both the operator and supervisor but they are generally quite generic and parts may not be relevant or detailed enough. Likewise capture of metrics for the job to help in both training records and determining production efficiencies fall down to the supervisor to enter manually into the system.

A solution which I am developing with the Indevin winery involves updating the above template based job instruction system and separate check-list into a dynamically generated check-list based system in which each job-step can be checked off and metrics obtained at each sign-off stage. This lends very well to integrating the mobile device into the system as the traditional method can capture specific metrics but does not intuitively integrate with text instructions. It also allows key points to stop the job by not issuing the correct padlock codes to open the tanks and proceed with the job.

And to think, I assumed that building the mobile terminal would be the end of the process, its just the start!


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