Three Questions to Ask When Exploring Digital Workforce Instructions

Written By: Cam Dufty
  • 7/12/2019
  • Read Time : 2 mins
Three questions about digital workforce instructions

Digital work instructions are a hot topic across any discussion of digital transformation or industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) initiatives. It’s easy to see why—paper-based instructions are cumbersome and inefficient, and often seem like relics in today’s digital-oriented world. Any operator who has suffered through inconsistent and confusing paper-based work instructions—and any engineer who has authored those instructions, only to see them go out-of-date in hours—longs for a better way.

Work instructions are an easy place to start for a digital transformation win that provides immediate, tangible results. Giving operators better tools to do their jobs helps create buy-in for more digital-driven initiatives and demonstrates the immediate impact that today’s IIoT can have—not only on the bottom line, but also on worker morale as training gets easier and workdays become less frustrating.

As you explore what digital workforce instructions could do for your plant floor, keep these three baseline questions in mind. Asking and re-evaluating your answers across your digital transformation process will help ensure you’re meeting your immediate goals for a more efficient workforce—and creating a baseline for a successful enterprise-wide transformation.

Question 1: How Do Our Instructions Incorporate Context and Unify the Production Process?

The best manufacturing work instructions break each step down into its most basic elements to create concise and clear direction across the entire production process. Work instructions that integrate ERP, CAD drawings (including 2D and 3D, enabling the user to reposition the image and see connections between part geometry), PLM data, and machine data in one unified view gives workers all the information they need, in one place.


Beyond unification across instructions, look for a digital thread that coalesces the entire process with an in-context view for operators, from start to finish. 

Question 2: Are We Getting Smarter—or Just Getting a Screen?

While many digital work instructions start with a goal to “go paperless,” that in itself should not remain a primary objective. There are many ways to eliminate paper—if that’s your main goal, you can save your money and simply transfer your instructions to a PowerPoint view on a tablet and call it a day.

A screen isn’t a solution in itself. The best digital work instructions bring smart manufacturing to the process. This can be in the form of smart tool incorporation (including bi-directional interaction), streamlined change management via real-time data, compliance, and quality verification, and a digital thread that dynamically guides operators across the entire production process.

Question 3: Are These Digital Work Instructions an End-Goal—or a Jumping Off Point?

Digital work instructions are a vital part of any digital transformation. And as operators, engineers, IT, c-suite, and other stakeholders see how the instructions save scrap, increase quality, improve innovation, and provide other tangible benefits across the workforce, they’ll start looking for more ways that the IIoT can make their lives better. This is the blessing and curse of the IIoT: there are always more opportunities, be it across different departments, strategies, or products. With the right IIoT platform, that scalability is a breeze—but with the wrong one, you can end up with more silos and new struggles.

Approach your digital work instructions with a clear-eyed view of how they play into your greater digital transformation. Even if you’re not sure where you’ll go from here, having a trusty map and sturdy compass—in the form of an experienced, agile, and supportive IIoT provider—can help you course the right path for any future digital initiatives.

Learn More

Manufacturing instructions are the baseline for how work gets done in any plant. Clear, thorough, and timely digital instructions give your workforce what they need to do their job effectively and efficiently. Learn more about how digital work instructions can help you leave paper instructions in the past and focus on the digital transformation of the future.

  • CAD
  • Industrial Internet of Things
  • Digital Transformation

About the Author

Cam Dufty

Cam Dufty has been writing about software and emerging technology for more than ten years. At PTC, she works closely with IoT, AR and CAD experts to help tell the story of how smart, connected operations are revolutionizing manufacturing around the world.