IATF 16949:2016 Clause Standardised work — operator instructions and visual standards

The standard requires controlled conditions to include standardized work document such as operator instructions and visual standards for all employees having responsibilities for the operation of processes and for these job instructions to be accessible for use at the work station without disruption to the job.In the automotive industry, standardized work refers to the process of creating and implementing consistent, well-defined, and documented work procedures that aim to optimize efficiency, quality, and safety in manufacturing processes. This includes various elements such as operator instructions and visual standards. Let’s explore each of these components:

  1. Operator Instructions: Operator instructions are detailed step-by-step guidelines provided to workers (operators) to perform specific tasks in the manufacturing process. These instructions are designed to be clear, concise, and easy to follow, allowing operators to carry out their tasks accurately and consistently. They may include information on:
  • Sequence of operations: The exact order in which tasks should be performed.
  • Workstation setup: How the workstation should be organized and prepared for the task.
  • Tooling and equipment: Specifications and guidelines for using tools and equipment.
  • Quality checkpoints: Where and how to check for quality during the process.
  • Safety precautions: Instructions to ensure the safety of operators and others in the area.
  • Takt time: The pace at which operators should work to match the production rate.

By providing standardized operator instructions, automotive manufacturers can reduce errors, improve productivity, and facilitate training of new employees.

  1. Visual Standards: Visual standards are graphical representations or visual aids that supplement operator instructions and help convey critical information in a more intuitive and accessible way. Visual standards may include:
  • Standardized work charts: Visual diagrams that illustrate the sequence of tasks and the time allotted for each step. These charts can provide a quick overview of the entire process.
  • Color-coded instructions: Using colors to differentiate between different steps or components can make it easier for operators to identify and follow instructions quickly.
  • Pictograms and icons: Visual representations that communicate actions or information without the need for written language. They are especially useful for multinational workforces.
  • Safety signage: Visual cues that highlight potential hazards and safety measures in the work area.
  • Andon systems: Visual displays that signal abnormal situations or production issues, prompting immediate attention and action.

The use of visual standards enhances communication, reduces the risk of misunderstandings, and contributes to a more efficient and error-free manufacturing process.

Clause Standardised work — operator instructions and visual standards

The organization shall ensure that standardized work documents are communicated to and understood by the employees who are responsible for performing the work, legible, presented in the language understood by the personnel responsible to follow them,accessible for use at the designated work area.  The standardized work documents shall also include rules for operator safety.

Standardized work and visual standards play a crucial role in the automotive industry by promoting consistency, efficiency, and quality, while also ensuring the safety of workers and the products they produce. Control documents may include assembly procedures, plating procedures, painting procedures, maintenance procedures, etc. and differ from process specifications in that the process specification defines the results to be achieved in operating a process rather than how to run the process. The documentation should define:

  • The qualifications required for the person carrying out the procedure (if any special qualifications are required)
  • The preparatory steps to be taken to prepare the product for processing
  • The preparatory steps to be taken to set up any equipment
  • he steps to be taken to process the product
  • The precautions to observe
  • The settings to record

There are instructions for specific activities and instructions for specific individuals. Whether they are contractors or employees is not important — the same requirements apply. As each employee may perform different jobs, they may each have a different set of instructions that direct them to specific documents. Therefore it is unnecessary to combine all instructions into one document, although they could all be placed in the same binder for easy access. Any operation that relies on skills doesn’t need a procedure. However, the operator will not be clairvoyant — you may need to provide procedures for straightforward tasks to convey special safety, handling, packaging, and recording requirements. You need to ensure that you don’t make your processes so complex that bottlenecks arise when the slightest variation to plan occurs. The setting up of equipment, other than equipment typical of the industry, should be specified to ensure consistent results . In fact any operation that requires tasks to be carried out in a certain sequence to obtain consistent results should be specified in a procedure. By imposing formal controls you safeguard against informality which may prevent you from operating consistent, reliable, and predictable processes. The operators and their supervisors may know the tricks and tips for getting the equipment or the process to operate smoothly. You should discourage informal instructions as you cannot rely on them being used when those who know them are absent. If the tip or trick is important, encourage those who know them to bring them to the process owner’s attention so that permanent changes can be made to make the process run smoothly all the time. The standard also requires that the instructions be derived from appropriate sources, such as the quality plan, the control plan, and the product realization process, which means that all instructions should be traceable to one or more of these documents. They should form a set, so that there are no instructions used outside those that have been approved by the planning team. This is to ensure that no unauthorized practices are employed. Another important aspect to consider is the use of informal practices – practices known only to the particular operator. Process capability should be based on formal routines, otherwise repeatability cannot be assured when operators change.

Communicating the Standardized work documents

Ensuring that standardized work documents are effectively communicated to and understood by the employees responsible for performing the work is crucial for maintaining consistency, quality, and efficiency within an organization. Here are some key steps to achieve this:

  1. Clear Documentation: Create well-structured and easy-to-understand standardized work documents. Use clear language, concise instructions, and visual aids if necessary. The documents should be easily accessible to all relevant employees.
  2. Training and Onboarding: Provide thorough training and onboarding sessions for new employees to introduce them to the standardized work processes and familiarize them with the related documents. This can include written materials, presentations, demonstrations, and hands-on practice.
  3. Regular Reviews: Conduct regular reviews of the standardized work documents to ensure they are up-to-date and accurately reflect the current processes. Employee feedback and input can be valuable in improving the documents over time.
  4. Use Multiple Communication Channels: Utilize various communication channels to disseminate the standardized work documents, such as emails, intranet portals, printed materials, or digital platforms. Different employees may prefer different communication methods, so providing options increases the likelihood of understanding.
  5. Visual Aids and Examples: Incorporate visual aids like flowcharts, diagrams, and images to supplement written instructions. Real-life examples can also help employees understand how to apply the standardized processes.
  6. Clarification Sessions: Offer regular clarification sessions or open forums where employees can ask questions and seek clarifications regarding the standardized work documents and processes.
  7. Assign Responsibility: Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of employees in relation to the standardized work. Ensure that each employee knows their specific tasks and duties within the documented processes.
  8. Monitor Performance: Regularly monitor employee performance to ensure they are adhering to the standardized work processes. Provide feedback and coaching when necessary to reinforce compliance.
  9. Continuous Improvement: Encourage a culture of continuous improvement. Employees should feel comfortable suggesting changes or updates to the standardized work documents if they identify areas for improvement.
  10. Rewards and Recognition: Recognize and reward employees who consistently follow the standardized work processes and contribute to improving them. Positive reinforcement can motivate employees to comply with the documented procedures.
  11. Multilingual Support: If your organization has a diverse workforce with employees speaking different languages, consider translating the standardized work documents into the relevant languages to ensure everyone understands the content.

By following these steps, an organization can enhance the communication and understanding of standardized work documents among its employees, leading to increased efficiency and higher quality in the work performed.

Legible standardized work documents

Legible standardized work documents are essential for effective communication and understanding among employees. A document is considered legible when its content is clear, easily readable, and comprehensible. Here are some key factors to ensure the legibility of standardized work documents:

  1. Font and Font Size: Use a legible font style that is easy to read. Commonly used fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri are good choices. Additionally, select an appropriate font size that is neither too small nor too large. A font size between 10 to 12 points is generally recommended for body text.
  2. Spacing and Line Length: Use proper line spacing (line height) to avoid overcrowding the text. Adequate spacing between lines helps improve readability. Similarly, avoid extremely long lines of text as they can be challenging to read.
  3. Consistent Formatting: Maintain consistency in the document’s formatting, including headings, subheadings, bullet points, and indentation. Consistent formatting makes it easier for readers to navigate the content.
  4. Use of White Space: Allow sufficient white space (empty space) around text and between sections. White space helps reduce visual clutter and improves readability.
  5. Clear Headings and Subheadings: Use clear and descriptive headings and subheadings to organize the content. Well-structured headings guide readers through the document and help them quickly locate specific information.
  6. Bullet Points and Numbered Lists: When presenting lists or steps, use bullet points or numbered lists to break down information into digestible chunks. This format enhances readability and facilitates understanding.
  7. Avoid Jargon and Complex Language: Write in plain language that is easily understood by the target audience. Avoid technical jargon or complex terminology that may confuse readers.
  8. Visual Aids: Incorporate visual aids like diagrams, flowcharts, tables, and illustrations to supplement written instructions. Visuals can simplify complex processes and enhance comprehension.
  9. Proofreading and Editing: Ensure the document is thoroughly proofread and edited before finalizing it. Correct any typos, grammar errors, or inconsistencies.
  10. User-Focused Design: Design the document with the end-users in mind. Consider the preferences and needs of the employees who will be reading and using the standardized work documents.
  11. Print Quality: If the documents are printed, ensure that the print quality is clear and legible. Use high-quality printing equipment and paper to avoid any readability issues.
  12. Accessibility Considerations: If applicable, make sure the documents are accessible to employees with visual impairments. Consider providing alternative formats, such as large print or screen reader-compatible versions.

By following these guidelines, organizations can create standardized work documents that are legible, user-friendly, and facilitate clear communication and understanding among employees.

Accessibility of Standardized work documents

The standard also requires Standardized work documents to be accessible for use at the work station without disruption to the job. If you have a manufacturing process that relies on skill and training then instructions at the work station are unnecessary. For example, if fixing a tool in a tool holder on a lathe is a skill, learnt during basic training, you don’t need to provide instructions at each work station where normal tool changes take place. However, if the alignment of the tool is critical and requires knowledge of a setting—up procedure, then obviously documented instructions are necessary. In interpreting this requirement you need to define what constitutes a “work area”. Is it a manufacturing cell where operations of the same type are performed or is it an individual machine? Next you need to define the meaning of “accessible”. Does it mean visible by the operator of the machine, in a cupboard near the machine, or on a shelf in the area? If a group of people work in an area equipped with several small machines of the same type, set up to the same specification, then one set of instructions would probably suffice. Instructions for each machine may be necessary in areas where there are
several machines of different types and set-up configuration. If the machines are huge and to access each requires a walk of some distance from your work station, instructions may be needed at each machine, regardless of set-up configuration. Use your common sense. Too many copies of the same document creates the chance that one may get missed when revisions occur. Single-page instructions, encapsulated in plastic to prolong their life, can be fixed on or close to the machine as a source of reference.

Language of the the Standardized work documents

Presenting standardized work documents in the language(s) understood by the personnel responsible for following them is essential for effective communication and successful implementation. Language barriers can lead to misunderstandings, mistakes, and decreased productivity. Here are some considerations to ensure that standardized work documents are presented in the appropriate languages:

  1. Language Proficiency Assessment: Identify the languages spoken and understood by the employees who will be using the standardized work documents. This can be done through surveys, interviews, or language proficiency assessments.
  2. Translation and Localization: If the employees speak different languages, translate the standardized work documents into each relevant language. Ensure that the translations are accurate and culturally appropriate for the target audience. Localization may also be necessary to adapt the content to specific regional preferences and terminologies.
  3. Multilingual Formats: If possible, provide the standardized work documents in both written and oral formats. Some employees may have better comprehension through visual aids, while others might benefit from audio or video presentations.
  4. Training in Native Language: Conduct training sessions and onboarding in the native language of the employees. This will help reinforce the understanding of the standardized work processes and provide opportunities for employees to ask questions and seek clarifications in their preferred language.
  5. Bilingual Staff and Interpreters: If available, consider utilizing bilingual staff members or interpreters to facilitate communication and provide support during training and implementation.
  6. Multilingual Communication Channels: Use communication channels that support multiple languages. Intranet portals, digital platforms, and other communication tools can be set up to deliver content in various languages.
  7. Visual Aids and Symbols: Incorporate visual aids and symbols that transcend language barriers. This can aid in conveying important instructions and information, even if the written language differs.
  8. Cultural Sensitivity: Be mindful of cultural differences and nuances while presenting the standardized work documents. What might be acceptable in one culture may not be well-received in another, so sensitivity to these variations is crucial.
  9. Feedback Mechanism: Establish a feedback mechanism that allows employees to provide input on the clarity and effectiveness of the standardized work documents. This feedback can help identify any language-related issues and improve future communications.
  10. Regular Updates: As the workforce changes or evolves, ensure that the standardized work documents are regularly updated to reflect the languages spoken by new personnel.

By taking these steps, organizations can enhance the accessibility and understanding of standardized work documents for their diverse workforce, leading to improved work performance and overall operational efficiency.

Operator safety in standardized work documents

Including rules for operator safety in standardized work documents is essential to prioritize the well-being of employees and create a safe working environment. Safety rules and procedures are crucial to prevent accidents, injuries, and potential hazards. Here are some key points to consider when incorporating operator safety rules into standardized work documents:

  1. Clear and Specific Safety Guidelines: Ensure that the safety rules are clear, specific, and easy to understand. Use simple language and avoid ambiguity. Employees should have no doubts about how to implement the safety procedures.
  2. Compliance with Regulatory Standards: Ensure that the safety rules comply with all relevant local, regional, and national safety regulations and standards. This may include guidelines from government agencies, industry-specific bodies, and occupational health and safety authorities.
  3. Training on Safety Procedures: Provide comprehensive training to all employees on the safety procedures outlined in the standardized work documents. The training should cover potential hazards, the correct use of safety equipment, emergency procedures, and other relevant safety protocols.
  4. Visual Safety Aids: Use visual aids, such as pictograms, diagrams, and images, to supplement written safety instructions. Visual aids can reinforce the understanding of safety rules, especially for employees who may have language barriers.
  5. Safety Responsibilities: Clearly outline the responsibilities of both employees and management in maintaining a safe work environment. Emphasize the importance of reporting potential safety issues and incidents.
  6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Include information on the appropriate use of personal protective equipment required for specific tasks. Specify when and where PPE should be worn and how to properly use and maintain it.
  7. Emergency Procedures: Provide step-by-step instructions on what employees should do in case of emergencies, such as fires, spills, medical incidents, or natural disasters. Conduct regular emergency drills to ensure employees are familiar with the procedures.
  8. Continuous Safety Improvement: Encourage a culture of continuous safety improvement. Employees should be encouraged to suggest safety enhancements and report any safety concerns or near-miss incidents.
  9. Regular Safety Audits: Conduct regular safety audits and inspections to ensure that safety rules are being followed correctly. Address any non-compliance issues promptly and take corrective actions as necessary.
  10. Safety Communication Channels: Establish effective communication channels for reporting safety concerns and receiving safety-related updates. This can include safety suggestion boxes, safety committees, or regular safety meetings.
  11. Incident Reporting and Investigation: Clearly outline the process for reporting safety incidents and conducting thorough investigations to identify the root causes and prevent recurrence.

By integrating comprehensive operator safety rules into standardized work documents and ensuring that employees understand and adhere to them, organizations can create a safer working environment, reduce accidents and injuries, and foster a culture of safety and well-being.

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