“We should probably document that…” “ISO says we need work instructions for that too…” When it comes to documentation, it often boils down to necessity. Nevertheless, we regularly notice that the need for documentation is an opportunity. Documentation projects evolve into a new driving force within a company, an impulse to seize unique opportunities and illuminate new ideas. Case in point: 3DSystems.
You may have read about our work at 3DSystems in one of our previous articles. 3DSystems is a company that produces 3D printers at different sites throughout the world. Its continuously expanding production goes hand in hand with a growing need for documentation. 3DSystems’ necessity? Clear and uniform work instructions.
And, that is exactly what we provided. We gathered information, molded it into a coherent whole and recorded everything in clear procedures. This main project caused a ripple effect, allowing for new opportunities to be discovered and, perhaps best of all, 3DSystems to get involved in the process.
Receive feedback on work instructions, optimize the product
In order to create instructions for 3DSystems, we set out to observe every procedure in the workplace from up close (after putting on the required safety shoes and safety cap, of course). Not only did we note down every step of every process, but we also paid attention to the feedback of the mechanics. “That part doesn’t fit well; we always end up filing the corner down.” “This is hard to assemble; I had to make a tool for it.” “Those bolts are incorrect on the plan; you actually have to use longer bolts.”
“How intriguing!” was our first thought, so we passed these insights on to the designers who also agreed on the importance of this information. As a result, they ended up introducing something called the ‘issue list’. The list works as follows:
- If someone wants to report something in the workplace, all they have to do is grab a tablet, scan the QR-code and enter a comment
- That comment is then automatically sent to the ‘issue list’, a list that can be consulted by all parties involved (R&D, Production, Quality etc.).
- Every week, these parties discuss the logged issues and address the relevant and feasible issues as soon as possible.
And, just like that; observing procedures led to the introduction of a system that captures feedback. A system that not only allows the mechanics a chance to give their input, but also allows the designers to optimize their product. Documentation is an opportunity…
Provoke discussions, kindle alignment
On other occasions, we traded in our safety shoes for wellies to wade through the already existing documentation at 3DSystems. Over the years, various departments had already jotted down quite a lot of information themselves. However, it soon turned out that everyone had their own way of working. We decided to compare those variants of working and invited everyone involved for a discussion; we captivated the outcome into one single source of truth.
There was singing, there was dancing – in fact, documentation is quite entrancing!
“We should approach that better in the future!” thought the employees at 3DSystems, and so, the ‘change list’ was born. If someone wants to change a certain process in the future, then they simply log their suggestion in the ‘change list’ and fill in all parties involved. The suggestion is only implemented after thorough discussion with all of these parties. This allows every 3DSystems site to remain aligned. All’s well that ends… better!
What once started out as a documentation project born from necessity, eventually led to something much bigger at 3DSystems. New processes were implemented and more involvement was created. New products were optimized and partnerships were made… There was singing, there was dancing – in fact, documentation is quite entrancing!