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Writing Effective Work Instructions

Robert P. Jackson, P.E.

Course Outline

This course is written specifically for the purpose of providing a basic understanding of Work Instructions (WI) and their importance relative to: 1.) Assembly operations and 2.) Operations and processes involving multiple steps where accuracy is demanded.  We examine, in depth, how to write a work instruction and what elements are of greatest importance.  This two- hour course will provide the basics but will enable the student to construct meaningful documents that adequately define the work to be accomplished.

Course content will include detailed information for the following “blocks” of information:

We will also discuss, at length, three often- used formats and information considered “rules-of-thumb” by technical writers.

This course includes a multiple choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

We will strive to provide the student with basic information so he or she will be able to accomplish the following:

Intended Audience

This course is intended for individuals involved with the following professions:

Benefit to Attendees

Individuals taking this course will, upon completion, understand the basic elements relative to an effective work instruction and how to write a WI with positive results and maximum transfer of information.  The student will be given three templates that demonstrate desirable format when writing a WI.  There are also three complete work instructions included for examination. 

Course Introduction

With any assembly job or process involving multiple steps there must be a transfer of information relative to how the engineers, designers, etc wish to accomplish the task.   A work instruction is the mechanism used to successfully transfer that information.  There was a time when this was called “throwing the project over the wall”.  No longer can this be the case.  There are too many issues that demand addressing, such as: 1.) Employee safety, 2.) Lost production, 3.) Reduction in “off-quality”, 4.) Demand for reaching Six-Sigma targets, etc.  The potential safety issues alone should, in my opinion, carry the day.   A very complex operation calls for well- written work instructions and may affect a considerable number of people.   Imagine being assigned as a member of a team to assemble an MRI machine, an aircraft engine, an incubator for an infant; these tasks demand accuracy—lives are at stake thus, necessitating written instruction.  The writers must have a basic understanding of those elements in a work instruction critical to accomplishing difficult and complex tasks.  This course strives to impart those elements and give understanding as to why they are necessary.

Course Content

The course content is in a PDF file:

Writing Effective Work Instructions

Please click on the above underlined hypertext to view, download or print the document for your study. Because of the large file size, we recommend that you first save the file to your computer by right clicking the mouse and choosing "Save Target As ...", and then open the file in Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you still experience any difficulty in downloading or opening this file, you may need to close some applications or reboot your computer to free up some memory.

Course Summary

Work instructions have been used for many years to convey basic methodology needed to accomplish an assembly task or carry out a particular process.   Many companies will “publish” work instructions in the work cell or even post instructions at various locations along an assembly line.   The main purpose is always to eliminate confusion and ambiguity during specific operations.   Those instructions have been expanded over the years to include text relating to safety, standards, inspection, testing, etc.  They are generally used as a training tool to aid the efforts of employees to understand not only how but why.   There is  also a need to comply with various city, state, federal and even international requirements such as OSHA, ISO, UL etc, and work instructions can be the document that accomplishes that need.


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.