8.19.2013

Job Breakdown Sheets vs. Work Instructions Part III

See Part I of this blog post series here and Part II here...

A common question I get at the TWI Blog is if Job Breakdown Sheets can replace Work Instructions in an audit.

Caveat: I can only speak to ISO 9001:2008 audit standards, not TS or AS standards. However, I can't imagine how the following reasoning would not apply there as well.

Essentially, the ISO standard is still one where you are obligated to "do what you say and say what you do." There is nothing in the standard in which format or content is pre-determined or mandated. Your documents are simply subject to other elements of the standard such as Control of Documents and Control of Records.

It is interesting to me when people get wrapped around the axle with this question. The problem has nothing to do with the standard and is born from the anxiety that comes with the notion that your current documentation probably stinks, is burdensome and avoided by the masses.

First of all, I find that a Job Breakdown Sheet is far easier to audit and people are more likely to be following the important steps, key points and elaborate on reasons why then they are with a long winded, convoluted work instruction. Plus, despite an organization's best effort to update every document two weeks prior to an audit, the work instructions are usually not 100% accurate. That is not to say that a JBS is ALWAYS accurate. In both cases, the problem of accuracy, completeness and timeliness is a people problem that is management's to solve. One other thing, you may need multiple JBS to cover a twenty-eight page work instruction. That's o.k. to do. Don't try to squeeze twenty-eight pages into seven steps. Also, don't create twenty-eight pages into forty-seven steps on an eleven page JBS. That's what we like to call, "reformatting".

Because of this transition anxiety, I used to think that having both documents is o.k., since most organizations are usually in a state of partial implementation when it comes to adopting JBS and JI. Unfortunately, with this approach, inertia can set in and stalling will occur all too often. Nowadays, I'm inclined to say that all new "how-to's" are done on a JBS and work instructions are to be replaced by the supervisors and experts of their respective processes - as soon as time allows.

The reasons for this are pretty straightforward and it will help you and your teams be successful on both audits and continuous improvement efforts: ownership and probabilities.

Teams that own their documentation are far more likely to use them as roadmaps, training aids, guiding lights, problem solving aids, etc., then if they do not own the documents. And because work instructions are normally begotten from the nether regions of an office - they stand little chance of being utilized in any useful manner. Usually, work instructions find themselves basking in the glory of sunlight only days ahead of the audit.

Job Breakdown Sheets, on the other hand, tend to be posted in an area, are dragged out during genba observations, easily used during refresh training on repeat orders, etc. And since they tend to more accurately represent the actual work done on a product or service, can be used in an audit.

The matter really comes down to one of practical use and the probability of said use. Work instructions, due to their often low accuracy, unwieldy nature, foreign terminology and origin, tend to have a low probability of creating confidence in users, supervisors and auditors.

Job Breakdown Sheets in the hands of the expert who knows the work better than anybody else - and under the guidance of a coach, then to have a higher probability of being accurate, timely, simple in nature (i.e., easy to use) and due to the local ownership - can be front and center in how work is done.

My stance has changed: get rid of your work instructions! (but make sure you have JBS in place first!)

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