<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://px.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=63941&amp;fmt=gif">
standard work

Processes + Procedures + Work Instructions = Standard Work


The way you talk matters on the shop floor. Learn more about process, procedure, and work instructions, and how these concepts impact standard work.

30 September 2019

The manufacturing industry puts a lot of weight on the way we talk about work - and for good reason. In the competitive world of manufacturing, success depends on creating standard work by clearly defining and structuring what we do on the shop floor. 

This clearly defined structure is important because:

  • It allows manufacturers to predictably meet the guidelines dictated by industry standards such as ISO 9000. Failure to meet these standards is not an option.

  • Successful lean manufacturing and continuous improvement depends on consistency. This impacts your bottom line ($) and the ultimate quality of your product.

  • Consistency in work. Consistency in defining processes in procedures. In order to achieve this consistency, it’s imperative to have a complete understanding of the concepts and how they’re different. 

However, the need for clarity extends beyond how we design and carry out our work - we need the same consistency in how we define and talk about it. Below are three very common terms in the manufacturing industry that are often mistakenly interchanged with one another. 

We’re betting you've talked about Process, Procedure, and Work Instructions often. But do you have a clear idea of what they mean? Understanding them can make a difference in how you plan and execute your work. 


Standard work.

Before we dig any deeper into these different concepts: what is standard work? Standard work is the combination of processes, procedures, and visual work instructions. It explains the best practices for performing a task according to standard in a consistent way - no matter who does it.

Standard work is the combination of processes, procedures, and work instructions. Process procedure work instructions = standard work



The ISO 9001 defines a manufacturing process as “A set of related or interacting activities, which transform inputs into outputs.”

But in the most basic terms possible -  processes outline the what of the shop floor. You can think of them as the rigid and thorough strategies that define the various moving parts of your manufacturing operations:

  • Activities - What is being done
  • Roles - Who is involved in the process
  • Events - What steps need to be completed 
  • End State - what will be accomplished when the process is completed

Processes are so important because they clearly define big-picture of your day-to-day operations. In fact, the other two terms in this post, procedures and work instructions, are systems put in place to ensure their success

In addition to providing a thorough structure and way of working, processes play a critical role in ensuring compliance with international manufacturing standards such as ISO 9000. 

digital user guide



“When you have a process that must happen in a specific way, and you specify how it happens, you have a procedure.” - Pedro Robledo


Procedures are the specific ways of working that allow manufacturers to effectively carry out processes. Think about it like this - if a process were a house, procedures would be the beams, walls, and bricks that hold it up. 

Procedures are not mandatory from a standards or certification perspective, but they are essential for effectively carrying out your larger processes on the shop floor. They break down any process  into a series of concrete steps that ensure the successful transition from input to output. 


Let's take a look at a common process within the food and beverage industry: bottling beer in a bottling line. In order to complete this successfully, several things need to happen in the correct order. A procedure will detail:

  • The way in which an employee fills a bottle or places a label on a finished bottle of beer
  • The materials involved in this process
  • Which tools and standards need to be involved and consistently checked during the completion of this activity.
  • How the finished product should look.
  • Any potential missteps or error-fixes that need to be addressed.


digital work instructions standard work


Work instructions.

Work instructions are step-by-step instructions delivered to teams on the shop floor to instruct the best way to complete a specific procedure. They translate procedure into a human-centered way of working that allows any employee on the shop floor to complete the task at hand. 

Good work instructions are critical because they ensure the successful performance of a procedure, and thus your processes. They also include all of the explicit information needed to carry out a task in a safe, efficient way that conforms to all relevant manufacturing standards.

What is the difference between a procedure and work instruction? If processes and procedures define the way of working, then work instructions are the critical link between standard work and the human element of manufacturing. 

Decades of innovation in Lean thinking tell us that nurturing the humans on the shop floor is absolutely critical to success and efficiency in manufacturing. Philosophies such as Total Productivity Management and Training Within Industry have demonstrated the power of creating user-centered programs to drive innovation and the continuous improvement of your processes and procedures.

In short, quality work instructions are the foundation upon which effective processes and procedures are built.


Digital work instructions for the future.

Manufacturing is only becoming faster and more complex. Work instructions that effectively supported your processes and procedures 20 years ago simply won’t cut it today. Digitized factories, a rapidly changing and dynamic workforce, and fierce global competition mean that work instructions need to keep pace with industry 4.0 and the factory floor of the future.

This means that you'll need a smart, efficient platform to deliver user-focused work instructions wherever they're needed. To read more about how great digital work instructions create standard work and make a difference on the shop floor, check out our blog post here. For a deeper dive into ROIs, enjoy our free white-paper.

Make sure to read our extensive guide on how to create excellent digital work instructions here.

Picture of Chris

Chris loves to share his expertise on future-proof work instruction software for frontline teams in manufacturing. Particularly, how digital, visual work instructions can make a lasting impact on motivation, productivity, and operational excellence culture.

30 September 2019