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A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Supplying operators with the proper tools to succeed is about creating a means of communication that translates from technical jargon into universal operator understanding.

By JOSEPH M. HETZER, Wall Colmonoy Aerobraze

Wall Colmonoy AerobrazeIn the manufacturing world, operation sheets or process instructions are the lifeline to success. Creating universal instructions for all to read, understand and perform a sequence of precise actions and adjustments, which repeatedly result in a known and consistent outcome, is not easy.

The constant struggle between operations and engineering has gone on for decades. How much verbiage is necessary to properly lead the operator to success without creating what may appear as a legal document prepared to hold the operator accountable in court?

Throw the caution flag on excess verbiage. Our instructions sheets or operations sheets are designed as a tool in support of the operator, along with documented training. Excessive verbiage in these documents can easily lead to inconsistencies from operator to operator, and even audit findings as the instructions are dissected and compared to requirements. All too often we outthink ourselves, and write a book in an attempt to cover every detail possible and expect our operators to translate these words into motion or action.

Surprising facts:

  1. 44 million adults in the U.S. can't read well enough to read a simple story to a child.
  2. U.S. adults ranked 12th among 20 high-income countries in composite (document, prose and quantitative) literacy. 
  3. More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level.
  4. Nearly half of America's adults are poor readers or "functionally illiterate." They can't carry out simple tasks like balancing check books, reading drug labels or writing essays for a job. 

A picture is worth a thousand words! Replacing words with photos in your operation instructions not only increases your chances of successfully translating the objective to the operator, but it also drastically reduces the misconnection between engineering and operations.

Photos have been a successful means of communicating since hieroglyphs in 2000 BC. And in the manufacturing industry, in which reading levels are rarely tested for production-type positions, using photos is an insurance policy many companies overlook.

In today’s manufacturing culture, the pressure to create a Lean production line that produces quality product with maximum first-time yields is critical. Supplying our operators with the proper tools to succeed is more than providing fixtures and machinery; it’s creating a means of communication that translates from technical jargon to universal operator control and understanding.

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