Efficient creation of work instructions for different product variants

Efficient creation of work instructions for different product variants

"Digital work instructions improve productivity and quality of work, while also promoting the mental well-being of operators."

Yet during several workshops and demonstrations (which we gave as part of COOCK project DWI4Manufacturing), it became clear to us that many companies struggle with rolling out digital work instructions. The main reason for this is the cost of creating and maintaining work instructions. Especially when companies create many product(s). 

To address this, together with Picanol, SupportSquare, Proceedix and Rhinox, we started a project in which we developed a method that: 

  1. Promotes the reuse of digital work instructions, and;
  2. Significantly reduces the time for formatting digital work instructions.

In our approach, using Siemens TeamCenter PLM software and our own CAD2DWI software, we linked product information and work instructions via a Knowledge Graph. By doing so, we enabled efficient reuse of work instructions and made their management more transparent.

In practice

When creating work instructions for a well-defined product variant using CAD2DWI, we explicitly link them to the product options of this variant, as described in the PLM software and reflected in the Knowledge Graph. We then generate work instructions for another variant. The tool then suggests, via a pre-filled template, all common work instructions of the variant already described based on common product options and/or parts.

Thus, we store multiple work instruction sets as a 150% workflow with common work instructions where possible. This way, we do not store a separate work instruction set for each product variant, which ensures that there are no duplicates.

This approach is not only more efficient in creating digital work instructions, but also results in higher consistency. Previously, work instructions were copied in the case of common tasks at different product variants. This had the consequence that when such a work instruction was updated, existing copies might be overlooked. Our tool prevents this.

Validation at Picanol

We validated the complete tool on a Picanol industrial product family consisting of 54 product variants. Using the developed tool, we achieved a time reduction of 96% on the creation of work instructions for the entire product family. Of course, this time reduction is highly dependent on the total number of product options and the number of common product options between the product variants. Nevertheless, we are convinced that with this result we have further lowered the threshold for rolling out (digital) work instructions on the shop floor.

creatie werkinstructies Picanol


More information?

Would you like to know more about this project? Or are you yourself facing a problem around work instructions? Then don't hesitate to contact us.

Steven Hoedt, Postdoctoral researcher

Steven Hoedt obtained his PhD titled "Competence-Aware Support for Manual Assembly Operators" in 2023 and is attached to Ghent University. Within FlandersMake@Ugent, his role is mainly to follow up and define research projects on operator support.