03. Support error recognition and recovery.
Mistakes happen in manufacturing. Even with the most advanced measures in place (work instructions, monitoring, training, etc.) it's inevitable that something will go wrong on the shop floor.
When this does occur, it is absolutely critical to operating margins that these errors are corrected as quickly as possible.
Strategy 3.A - Prevent mistakes wherever possible.
The right information at the right time.
Employees engaging in manufacturing workflows need to have the right instructions at key moments in their daily work. The unfortunately truth is that often, when presented with a lack of information, machine operators will simply “do their best.” This kind of improvisation on the shop floor leads to more errors. More errors means lower-quality products, high costs, and wasted time.
Often, mistakes can be avoided by ensuring that the operators have access to simple information about the task at hand:
- Where to be
- What to do
- Which tools and materials are needed
Instructions that are delivered immediately to mobile devices and activated with QR codes are a perfect way to deliver this information at the optimum time in a workflow. Understanding that "The best place to prevent errors is ... in the program itself" is the first step to stopping errors before they happen.
Use clear language and quality images.
People have a hard time completing their tasks correctly if instructions are unclear, confusing, or poorly written. Misinformation leads to mistakes. It may seem simple or obvious, but clear instructions are an incredibly important part of preventing errors on the shop floor.
It's been proven that a combination of simple, descriptive text and high-quality visuals helps learners process instructions more quickly, and reduces ambiguity in digital work instructions.
Revise for continuous improvement.
We know that "some errors can be prevented by using the results from user tests to rewrite certain sections."
This principle still applies to most tasks in our lives - from riding a bicycle, studying for a calculus exam, or performing your work according to instructions on the shop floor. Analyzing mistakes and adjusting our approach is integral to the learning process.
That's why we've combined the first principle - giving the immediate opportunity to act - with the concept for revision. With the feedback button, operators on the shop have the immediate option to contribute learnings, improvements, and fixes directly into the instruction they are working through. This is crucial to enacting a truly efficient system or continuous improvement on the shop floor.
Strategy 3.B - Provide error information when actions are error-prone or when correction is difficult.
Sometimes, we already know where mistakes will happen. Despite our best efforts, there will always be certain tasks that are more complex, harder to teach, or simply present a larger margin or error on the shop floor.
How do we predict these error-prone tasks?
It is often interesting to read cutting edge research from 25 years ago. When Principles and Heuristics for Designing Minimalist Instruction was published, locating these moments of likely user error required hundreds of user tests over a significant amount of time. In manufacturing, time is incredibly valuable. The more time saved, the more money saved.
Modern instruction platforms provide data and analytics in real time. Supervisors can review data (time spent on a task, user effort score, specific feedback, etc.) to locate exactly where and when errors occur the most, and adjust learning strategies accordingly.
In most learning environments, immediate correction is non-critical. Yes, it's an important part of the learning process and is essential for growth and any mastery or any tool. But if you mess up a few lines in a drawing, correcting your error is a simple matter or grabbing an eraser.
But in the world of manufacturing, every error and subsequent correction represents a critical loss or expensive time and resources. Therefore, efficient troubleshooting and error correction should be a top priority.
Strategy 3.C - Provide on-the-spot information.
Principles and Heuristics for Designing Minimalist Instruction was written before the advent of the smartphone, tablet, practical laptop, or any other high-powered and efficient mobile technology. In 1995, providing on-the-spot information to a learner was a monument task. It meant a painstakingly precise structure for instructional design (impractical for busy and realistic people) or cumbersome and impractical electronic manuals. Usually a mixture or both.
But in our age of mobile tech, this principle becomes simple to execute anywhere, including the shop floor. As long as they are supported by an intelligent, well-designed, and scalable digital solution, instructions can be delivered anywhere directly into the hands of the worker.
Example: An operator needs to know how to operate a particular machine. She opens her smartphone and scans a QR code placed directly on the machine. Instantly, the up-to-date digital work instructions are displayed on the mobile device.