There are three types of work instructions used in the power industry today: paper, electronic and digital. The first, paper procedures, are printed and assembled into a package—usually a three-ring binder—and physically taken into the field. The second, electronic work packages, are paper-based instructions converted into PDFs for viewing on a mobile device. The idea is that, by eliminating paper, companies will see cost savings and efficiency gains in the field. However, this approach doesn't fully utilize the technology available on the device. Both of these approaches are static, unresponsive and prone to human error.
To address these problems, a third approach was created: digital work instructions. This approach contains a series of discrete tasks that are tightly coupled to the functionality of a mobile device. Need to verify you're at the right equipment? Scan a barcode. Need to check whether a measurement is within limits? Get data entry feedback instantly. Digital work instructions are dynamic, interactive, and error resistant.
To better understand how digital work instructions relate to traditional methods, let’s look at a few of the industry best practices or procedure use.
In paper-based work instructions, when references are used to aid the completion of work, they are typically included in the back of a binder. When performing work, you often need to jump between references to complete simple procedures. This activity can be frustrating, time consuming, and creates opportunities to miss entire steps.
Some work instructions may require branching off from a procedure entirely based on the conditions in the field. In this case, instructions for all possible conditions are typically included in the binder. This creates waste, extra weight, and leaves opportunities for misinterpretation of which section should be performed.
With digital work instructions, references are inline, on-demand, and take you exactly where you need to go. Branching is performed in real time as work is completed. You will only see exactly what you need to see to complete the task at hand.
Place keeping is a way to keep track of progress against a set of work instructions. A worker should be able to glance at their work instructions and quickly determine which steps are done, what step is in progress, and which steps are remaining. Paper and PDF approaches encourage the use of a circle-slash technique for place keeping. In this technique, a step is circled once it's started, and then slashed once it's finished. As a result, this technique is untraceable and error prone.
With digital work instructions, place keeping is seamlessly integrated into the working process. As tasks are completed, items are checked off automatically. The system captures who completed the work, when they started it, and how long it took them. They can't perform work out of order, unless specified, and the current step is clearly indicated so they don't lose their place.
Operating or performing maintenance on the wrong piece of equipment can cause serious personal injury, damage to the equipment, or even trip a plant. To ensure workers operate on the right equipment, they are required to perform a verification step. In paper and PDF solutions, a worker visually verifies they have identified the right equipment, and then signs their name next to the step. It's easy for a worker to incorrectly read the equipment or bypass this step entirely.
With digital work instructions, a mobile device is used to verify that the worker is working on the right equipment by scanning the equipment serial number. The number can be read by barcode, QR code, OCR, or manual entry. The step cannot be bypassed, and as a result, it significantly reduces plant and personnel risk.
Entering data helps you understand whether equipment is operating properly, provides early indication of potential problems, and informs corrective actions. Best practices state that workers specify the value, the units of measure, the device used, and understand whether any limits are exceeded. Paper and PDF approaches don't enforce any of these practices. Most alarmingly, workers don't always know whether the value they've entered is within limits.
With digital work instructions, workers receive immediate feedback on whether data is within limits. They can be taken directly to a specific step based on the value they entered, and notifications can be sent when values fall outside of limits. More importantly, data entries can be stored and tracked to identify trends and anomalies in equipment.
As plant maintenance and improvements are performed, procedures must be updated to align with these changes. Best practices state that work instruction revision checks are performed prior to each job to ensure they are up to date. Updating work instructions using paper and PDF approaches is time consuming, costly, and prone to human error.
With digital work instructions, updates made to work packages are immediate. Version controlling allows you to decide when to roll out updates, and whether in-progress work packages should inherit changes. You have complete control and flexibility.
These are just a few ways we're seamlessly integrating industry best practices into Lean Power. Paper and PDF work instructions simply cannot provide the risk reduction and cost savings that digital work instructions offer. If you're interested in learning more about what Lean Power can do for you, reach out to us and let's chat.
There are three types of work instructions used in the power industry today: paper, electronic and digital. In this post we explore how these approaches differ, and why there is a need to change the thinking in our industry.