Work Instructions - Where and what departments should have them?



I have a question about work instuctions. I know that they are a required part of ISO but no where that I can find states where and what departments should have them. I read that there are usually more work instuctions than procedures which is not the case at my place of employment. I have recently taken over the M.R. position. Two departments currently have work instuctions. Are all department required to have them? I know if they are not required there is a likely chance that they won't be written.


Necessity of work instructions

I hear two things about work instructions:

1. Every job needs them. This is mostly true.
2. Work instructions need to be simple enough for anyone off the street to follow. This is absolutely true ....... if your intent is to have anyone off the street follow them. Let me explain.

7.5.1 b) states:

"the availability of work instructions, as necessary,"

There are essentially two types of work instructions. One is the work instruction that says things like "push the red button at the end of the process". The second type give specifics related to the product.

I have to go in for knee surgery (not really). I really hope the Surgeon doesn’t need work instruction to tell him/her HOW to perform surgery on a knee. I do expect a work instruction to tell the Dr. WHICH knee on WHICH patient. See the difference?

What work instruction do you need? Only YOU can tell!


Never responsible for spelling erros

good job db. better than i would have said it and saved me from typing !

welcome tracey- you will find some very useful goodies here on the cove. i'll give you my 2 sense worth on work instructions

1) only put them in place where you absolutely need 'em. your process will tell you where there are gaps. you get no extra points for having a ream of them in place
2) nix extravagant lexis ! i.e. none of them big words. choose words that you would understand if you were the operator for that process--always try to keep them to one page and maximize font size for easy reading in poor light.
3) visual, visual, visual---pictures, flow charts, more pictures, arrows, highlights, ---whatever you can use to see it--not just read about it.
4) have someone unfamiliar with the process use a draft work instruction to prove or disprove it's effectiveness and modify accordingly
5) good luck and let us know how you made out

:agree: :D :smokin:


db -

So a work instruction for knee surgury wouldn't include HOW it's done? This seems a little odd to me - I have tasks here that I'm very familiar with, and yet I like to have my notes (which I'm currently turning into Work Instructions) nearby while I do the work so I can ensure I don't forget anything. Even surgeons can forget and leave a sponge in the wrong place or something. Remember the old joke about the doctor who tries to write a prescription for a patient and discovers he is holding a thermometer; he says "oh no, some a-hole has my pen!"

David Mullins

Re: Necessity of work instructions

db said:
Work instructions need to be simple enough for anyone off the street to follow.

Not true in all cases (by a long stretch).
(And onther topic where there have been numerous threads)

If you hire someone to perform knee surgery, I'd be hoping it wasn't a person off the street!

THE QUESTION IS, when do you need a work instruction?
THE ANSWER IS, when the expected qualifications and experience of a new incumbent in the position don't provide them with the knowledge to perform the task with the desired outcome on a consistent basis AND you're not going to provide them with the training required to achieve competency before they start.


Quite Involved in Discussions
Good ole WIs, to have or not to have, is that the question??? There will be several points for and not. The 00 standard in 7.5.1 says as applicable and as necessary, so it is up to the organization!!! I believe that one of the keys to this standard as in the past is training,training, training. WIs should not be designed for some one to walk in off the street and start working. WIs should be based in part on the skills and knowledge of the workforce (training). If it is not being done properly a WI will not make a difference. WIs if created should be created with the person using them in mind., in understandable language, as brief as possible(skills and knowledge in mind)(training)and with flexability in mind. We use WIs for complicated processes with multi tasks. One good point for is that when trainers train, they have notes that they use so why not turn them into WIs. Why create more paper or use up more computer space? WIs should not be department based, but manufacturing process based.
An interesting story, a company I worked for in 95 Work Instructed everything. We were trained to say and the records showed that we were trained to WIs. During the registration audit a woker was asked how he knew how to operate the mqachine, " I was trained to WI 258.". The auditor just laughed and said now tell me how you really learned how to run that machine. TRAINING OJT. WIs will always be a sticking point. Use only as applicable and as necessary.


As I am implementing a QMS here, the idea of work instructions has reared its ugly head. I am currently using the following guidelines, which have pointed out enough requirements for work instructions to keep everybody busy here.

1. If there have been indications of quality problems in the past which could have been prevented through the use of a work instruction. Old way, yell at the operator until he does it right.

2. Interviews of operators indicate confusion on their part. Old way, yell at them until they do it right.

3. When interviews of two or more operators result in two or more ways of doing the same thing.

I have recieved an amazing amount of buy in from the operators regarding WI's. Initial experience has already shown them that the old way can be replaced by working on the system. Alas, some Managers find it less satisfactory to yell at a procedure. :biglaugh:


I thank everyone for their help. In our quality system there are few work intructions. Each department has the own folder with their related documentation which includes W.I. Only the engineer department and EDM department have W.I. . I was considering creating work instuction for the shop floor but have decided, with everyones help, that I shall wait until we feel they are needed. An example maybe if we see a trend after reviewing nonconformaning product that W.I. will eliminate.

We are currently ISO 9001-1994 ceritfied and I will be responsible for switching us over to 9001-2000. I look forward to having everyones help.


Mike S.

Happy to be Alive
Trusted Information Resource
I agree WI's are an as needed thing, not mandatory. And, as others have pointed out, should consider the needs of the user, education, experience, complexity if the operation, all that important stuff. The "KISS principle" should apply.

But, another reason for WI's may be to preserve a record of the correct/baseline way of doing something. Even if operators are trained in the baseline method by OJT and they don't need a WI for daily operation, a simple WI documenting this baseline method can be valuable in some cases to record this baseline method as sometimes people drift from the baseline method into doing things a different way. And, if the only operator with the knowledge leaves quickly that could be trouble, too. Over time, the baseline method may be lost if not documented.

Letting the operators write, or at the very least review and comment on or approve, the WI's is important in my experience.
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