Lean Tools for process improvement


Work Instructions

 also known as Job Instructions, Operation Instructions, or Visual Work

A work instruction template makes it easy to train people better and faster

Often called Job Instructions,
this same tool is also known by the name Visual Work Instructions —
which more vividly describes what makes this so effective as a training tool:

People learn better and faster when they can see both written operation instructions and pictures.

Sample Work Instruction template


work instructions

Sample Work Instruction example

Easily understood operation instructions

A typical page displays 8 steps of work instructions — thereby saving paper and making it easier for users to see the big picture of how the steps fit together.

work instructions template Work Instructions template

Sample Work Instructions

A work instruction template is ideal for

  1. Training someone who is new to a job
  2. Training temporaries and/or cross-trained workers

    so that your people can take a vacation
    without the rest of the work team suffering costly downturns in both quality and efficiency

  3. A written supplement to TWI Training Within Industry Job Instructions training



for how to use your
Work Instructions template

Work Instruction Training Videos

Additional relevant training

The Sample and Help worksheets of every template
always contain training relevant to THAT template

Also see the rest of the Training Program Design templates that come with your Work Instructions template







Video Help

Work Instructions video work instructions video


Job Instructions — Shapes work instructions video


These training videos are for the older version, but still have many helpful insights for how to use the new version

Before you begin

Video: How to Find Help & Training for any Systems2win template

Complete the Quick Start Training

Users of this template are expected to have already completed
the Quick Start Initial Training
so that you know the fundamentals for how to use
and find help for ANY Systems2win template.

Familiarize yourself with the training for this template

  • on this training web page
  • on the Sample and Help sheets in your template

Organize your folders and file names

Decide where you will store all related documents,
because you won't want to change folder and file names
after you have started making hyperlinks between documents.

Open a Blank Sheet

Systems2win menu > Open a Blank Sheet

Version 13 and higher...

In the Systems2win menu in the Excel Ribbon bar,
select 'Open a Blank Sheet'

(which is where you will do most of your editing)

Version 12 and lower...

Click the button to 'Open a Blank Template Sheet'

This is the only Systems2win template that is not WYSIWYG

Work Instructions template

Only the final
generated report

(What You See Is What You Get)

You do your editing on the Master Data Entry Sheet

(the sheet that appears when you click the 'Open a blank Template sheet' button)

Near the end of these instructions,
you will eventually click the button to 'Generate Report',

which will generate the final report
that you will then distribute to your users
as either printed paper or as a PDF

(and that final report is WYSIWYG)

Bookmark = header

Enter your Header Data

at the top of the page

VC sheet tab

Header fields marked with an asterisk (*)
should usually be edited on the 'VC' sheet.

Tips for using a VC Sheet

If your leaders haven't yet personalized your master template

(as described in Advanced Training near the bottom of this page)

then you might want to hide all header rows that you don't need

(Hide unused header rows; don't delete them)

Time Study Templates

Observe the process

Observe the process,
using one of your 3 Time Study templates

Document your Work Instructions

Start with Major Steps and Key Points

To help to clarify your thinking about how to train someone for how to perform the process

perhaps start by using a concept borrowed from the TWI Job Instruction Method
to start fleshing out your Job Instructions with only:

  1. Major steps (in bold)
  2. Key points (in red)

with no other instructional details (yet)

Flesh out the details

After outlining the major steps and key points

add more details (using normal text)

For paragraphs within a cell:


Don't leave any cells blank in the 'Instructions' column

because Step numbering will stop when it reaches the first blank instruction.

(It is okay to leave a cell blank in the Steps/Images column, but not in the Instructions column)

Tip: If you want an Instructions cell to appear blank...

enter a single character (such as a period), and make the font color white to disappear.

Job Instructions example

ISO work instruction template

To make some instructions stand out

You can use fonts and colors and shapes to make some instructions stand out

perhaps to visually highlight different types of information,
such as safety tips, supplies and materials, personal protective equipment, etc.

Copy your Favorite Shapes

Work Instructions - Favorite Shapes

copy shapes

from the top of the Master Data Entry Sheet
(that you're working on)

or from Systems2win menu > Copy Shapes

For long work instructions

Although you should usually keep your instructions brief...

  1. You can MANUALLY resize row height to make room for more text.

    (by simply dragging the row separator line beneath the row number in the grey margin on the left)

    Do not use Row Autofit

    or your pictures will be distorted when you copy or move rows

    If you accidentally use row autofit, simply manually resize row height.

    Link Icons

    Use your Systems2win
    Link Icons
    to link to related documents

    Default Row Height = 127.5

  2. You might refer to one of the Comments text boxes
    at the top or bottom of the document.
  3. If this document will be used electronically...

    you can add hyperlinks to related documents

    and you can even make active hyperlinks in your ISO 9000 controlled PDF's

To add a row

Click the button to 'Add Rows'

This feature is new as of June 2015.

If using an older version, simply copy an existing similar row.

As of version 13,
all macro buttons have been replaced with menu items in the Systems2win menu in the Excel Ribbon bar.

Work Instructions buttons in the Systems2win menu

To add a Page Break Header Row

Work Instructions Page Break Header Row

This feature is new as of June 2015.

When and why to use a Page Break Header Row

When you click the button
to 'Generate Report',
there will be a page break wherever you inserted a Page Break Header Row,
and at the top of that new page, you will see whatever you entered in your Page Break Header Row.

How? Click the button to 'Add Row'

then select the radio button
for 'Page Break Header Row'

then edit the large merged cell

You can resize this row, enter multiple lines of text, use every formatting trick you know, include images...

You cannot, however leave a Page Break Header Row blank. It must contain at least one character of text.

Add Images

Work Instructions Add Image button

After selecting a cell in the wide column,
click the 'Add Image' button to insert a picture,

which might come from your camera,
or from a computer screen shot

Image Size — as it appears to the human eye

The image will be automatically sized to fit

with default width of 2.1 inches or a default height of 1.7 inches.

To re-size an image

Simply drag the bottom right corner of the image

If this is a regular image, the proportions will remain correct when you drag the bottom right corner.

If this is a text box, shape, or a grouped shape, then you will need to manually keep proportions correct.

If you made the image bigger than the current cell height...

Do not manually re-size row height to fit image height

Instead, click the 'Renumber Steps' button
which will automatically increase row height to fit the new image height.

If you made the image smaller than the current cell height...

then it is okay to manually re-size row height.

And if you need more or less room for Instructions, it is also okay to manually re-size row height.

Never use Row Autofit

or your pictures will be distorted when you copy or move rows

If you accidentally use row autofit, simply manually resize row height.

Default Row Height = 127.5

Image Size — as it affects the megabytes of your Excel file

When adding images to your Work Instructions template,
it is VERY important to follow our online training for how to reduce image file sizes

Learn how to use Excel as a Drawing Tool

You might want to schedule a few hours to study our online training and videos
to learn how to use Excel as a drawing tool

so that you know how to add arrows and shapes to make your illustrations more clear.

Optional — small shapes

To make your illustrations and instructions even more easily understood...

you can optionally add small drawing shapes, arrows, circles, text labels, safety icons, tool icons, etc.

using Systems2win's Shapes, Excel's standard Drawing Tools, and your own custom shapes.

Systems2win menu > Copy Shapes

Systems2win menu > Copy Shapes

Grouped shapes

job intructions grouped shape

Each cell can have unlimited small shapes, but only one big shape...

unless you Group multiple pictures and shapes together

so that they are treated as one big image.

(for example a picture within a picture, side-by-side pictures, a picture with a text box, arrows pointing to something within a picture, etc.)

Tips for Grouped Shapes

If you get the error: Permission denied (bFillArrayWithImageData())

then you probably forgot to Group some of your shapes.

Known Issue in Excel 2010 and higher (2007 works fine)...

If the last row contains grouped shapes,
Microsoft has a known bug that can sometimes make the height zero (invisible) for a grouped shape associated with the very last instruction. See online training for how to avoid and overcome.

Step Numbers

Renumber Steps button

Step numbers are auto-regenerated
every time that you click the button to 'Renumber Steps'.

Skip Steps

What if you want to skip step numbering?

(Perhaps you want to use an extra row to provide additional clarification or training for a complex sub-step)

Simply enter text in the Images column

Auto-numbering will skip any cell in the Steps/Images column that contains text that does NOT start with the same text as the Step Label field on the VC sheet.

The default Step Label text is "Step",
but you can change the word(s) for the Step Label that appears before the number,
(perhaps you prefer the word "Task", or perhaps some other language). Learn more.

You might use this feature to skip cells containing:

  • additional clarification
  • sub-steps
  • alternate ways to do something
  • conditional processing (in this situation do this, in another situation do that)

Bookmark = show

Hide/Show Rows

This feature is new as of June 2015.

work instructions Hide Show Rows

Do you have Product Families?

with products that are very similar, but slightly different?

Yes? Then you're going to LOVE the ability
to use your 'Hide/Show Rows' button
to quickly hide and unhide rows containing work instructions that are used by some (but not all) products within your product family

AND... instantly renumber steps based upon which rows are hidden and unhidden.

When you click the button to 'Hide/Show Rows',

you can either select the radio button to 'Show All Rows'

or to show only rows that contain the code that you select from the dropdown list

(the user-defined codes that you or your leaders defined on the DV sheet)

Which rows get hidden and unhidden

In the 'Show' column, if the cell for that row:

  1. is blank, then the row is shown
  2. contains a match for your currently-selected 'Show' code, then the row is shown
  3. starts with !NOT, then the row is shown only if your currently-selected 'Show' code is NOT one of the codes the follows !NOT

If you are using a keyboard that does not support English characters, then there is an undocumented feature that allows you to specify some other phrase other than '!NOT'. Contact Systems2win for assistance.

Step Renumbering

When you use the 'Hide/Show Rows' button, notice that it also automatically Renumbers Steps based upon which rows are now unhidden.

Generate the Report

work instructions - generate report

Click the 'Generate Report' button
to automatically create a work instructions sheet
in WYSIWYG format (what you see is what you get)
to be easily printed. (or distributed in PDF format)

Do NOT edit any generated report sheet,
because all of your changes will be lost
the next time you 'Generate Report'.

Page Setup

The auto-generated sheet will copy all of your Page Setup decisions from the source sheet

including your personalized page footer, Landscape vs. Portrait, etc.

If not using 8 1/2 x 11 paper, you can change your paper size

you can print on ANY size paper that Excel supports.

(perhaps use your plotter to print wall paper?)

If you are personalizing your master template,

be sure to configure Page Setup the way you want it to be for your default settings

The following features are new as of June 2015.

When you click the button to 'Generate Report',
you then choose one of four radio buttons:

Work Instructions - Generate Report radio buttons
  1. 'As Is' generates a single report worksheet
    with the rows that are currently unhidden

    The name of the generated Report sheet follows the conventions defined below.

  2. 'All Rows' generates a single report worksheet for All Rows

    (including rows that might currently be hidden)

    The name of the generated report sheet is the same as the name of the source sheet, but followed with '-R'.

    For example, if the name of your source sheet is "Inspection",
    the name of the generated report sheet is "Inspection-R"

  3. 'Rows that contain this code' generates a single report worksheet
    for the one code that you select from the dropdown list

    The name of the generated Report sheet is the same as your selected code
    (which might be your part number, or a shorter code that corresponds with your long part number)

  4. 'All Codes' generates multiple report worksheets —
    one for 'All Rows', and separate sheets for every part number
    that you defined in the 'Show' column on your DV sheet

    The name of the generated Report sheet for 'All Rows' is the same as the name of the source sheet, but followed with '-R'

    The name of each other generated Report sheet is identical to the codes that you defined on your DV sheet
    (which might be your part number, or a shorter code that corresponds with your long part number)

If you have Product Families

with products that are very similar, but slightly different

then you're going to LOVE the ability to use the 'All Codes' radio button
to quickly generate updated sheets for every product in your product family
with the click of a single button

Make these Work Instructions easily available

These Job Instructions need to be EASILY accessible to the workers that need them.

If short...

the entire report might be taped to the wall in front of the worker,
so that he or she can easily glance at it whenever needed.

Work Instructions

If longer...

the report pages might be put in clear plastic sleeves in a three-ring-binder mounted in a way that allows the worker to easily flip pages.

or be made available in PDF format — so pages can be displayed on a computer screen.

If even longer...

then it is often wise to consider breaking the process into shorter sub-processes.

If this is a controlled document

perhaps ISO 9000 or FDA or any other type of controlled document

Controlled documents (usually) need to be in a non-editable format
(such as printed paper or a PDF)

Use your Systems2win Excel template to create and edit the document,
and then either print it, or create a PDF to distribute to your users.

Bookmark = advanced

Advanced Training

Maintain Revision Control

Use the Revision Log ('RevLog' worksheet) to summarize changes over time

Whenever you make a change to a workbook that has a Revision Log:

  1. Make an entry in the 'RevLog' sheet.
  2. Save an archive copy of all old versions of your document

    following your company's Document Storage and Naming conventions.

And ALL related documents need to be kept in sync:

This Visual Work, as well as any other process documentation,
such as Standard Work, Layout Diagram, Standard Procedure, training videos, etc.


Your leaders might have already personalized the 'DV' and 'VC' sheets, and the (hidden) 'Template' sheet

in your master Work Instructions template

so that you are starting with dropdown lists and header fields personalized for YOUR company.

Bookmark = icons

Personalize your own palette of icons

because pictures are better than words

Your Systems2win templates come with features to make it easy to personalize your templates
to make it easy for your users to quickly find and open your personalized palette of icons. Learn how.

Systems2win Standard Shapes
Safety icons

Examples of icons that can be
purchased separately, and then
used with your Systems2win templates

Link to your own palette of icons

Studies have proven that our brains read and interpret the meaning of pictures and symbols much more quickly and accurately than words.

This is especially true when instructions are being communicated to people that speak different languages.

safety symbols

Examples of icons that can be
purchased separately, and then
used with your Systems2win templates

Systems2win provides a few safety icons to get you started, but many of our customers purchase or create their own set of symbols for things like safety icons, hazardous materials, equipment, tools, and anything else that is better communicated through symbols rather than words.

Once you have purchased or created your own set of icons that are appropriate for your unique industry and needs, then you can easily copy & paste them into any Systems2win template.

A quick Internet search for "safety icons" will lead you to several web sites
where you can choose from a wide variety of symbols to meet your unique icon needs for safety, tools, equipment, materials, supplies, and anything else
that is better communicated with pictures rather than words.

Noisy Areas

If the work site is very noisy—start the TWI process in a quiet area.

Then after the instructor has given a verbal description of the job, return to the actual work area where the instructor will demonstrate several times.

Then return to the quiet area to again review the major steps, key points, and reasons—and to encourage questions, and have the worker recite the major steps, key points, and reasons.

Then return to the work area for the worker to demonstrate their ability to do the work—going back
and forth if additional instruction is needed.

Then return to the quiet area for the final wrap up.

Long Operations

If possible — split them into smaller sub-processes — small enough for a worker to digest in a single training session.

Or perhaps have the worker learn a segment of the job, while the instructor completes some other aspects of the job for a while until the learner is ready to take on more.

Or perhaps the only option is a very long and attentive mentoring relationship—with close supervision for an extended time period.

Note: The licensed version supports a maximum of 500 Steps, and the Trial version is limited to 10 Steps.

Standard Work Analysis

Although the Systems2win Work Instruction template comes with unlimited user-defined fields, and it is possible to use all of the calculation powers of Excel...
why would you want to waste your valuable time re-inventing formulas when there is already a template that has all Standard Work Analysis formulas pre-programmed?

It is more common to use the Standard Work Combination Sheet for process analysis and improvement — (to analyze lead time, cycle time, value add time, etc.)
and to use these (far more detailed) Visual Instructions as a powerful training aid
for training temporaries, new-hires, and cross-training for people who need to fill in when the primary worker goes on vacation (or retires).

Standard Work sheet

Continuously Improve

Use the scientific method to continuously improve best practices

Establish a culture where workers and process engineers work together to continuously improve these methods to reflect the very best thinking and best practices that can be scientifically proven to minimize time and cost while maximizing quality and safety.

If ANYONE has an idea, there needs to be a quick, thorough, and fair evaluation of their idea using the scientific method: hypothesize, test, analyze, implement, and extend.

If the proposed method proves to be better,

then it should be taught to all other workers — so everyone can do it the better way.

Bookmark = New

New features for Work Instructions template

Work Instructions ribbon menu

July 2015

All macro buttons replaced
with menu items in the Systems2win menu in the Excel Ribbon bar.

June 2015

Major upgrade. New 'Hide / Show Rows' button allows you to maintain multiple items for a product family in a single workbook - instantly generating updates for all items with the click of a single button. New button to 'Add Rows' - including the ability to add a Header Row for a Page Break. Supports larger images, and more diverse ways to handle long work instructions.

Download your free trial to see what's new

June 2014

The old JobInstructions.xls template was replaced with the new WorkInst.xls template —
which has more header fields, and better handling of international paper sizes.

September 2013

Free update to fix the way Microsoft changed the way Excel handles numbered arrays.

March 2013

Major upgrade to support Excel 2013.

March 2012

Improved features for using symbols and icons to supplement words.

July 2011

All Systems2win Excel templates are now available in multiple languages

See more of What's New


"Amateurs work until they get it right. Professionals work until they can't get it wrong."


This Work Instructions template comes with
all of the other Training Program Design templates
and Lean tools




Call for fast answers to your questions


Your purchase price is usually justified with the 1 or 2 templates that you use most

The others are a really nice
"gift with purchase"

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Excel templates are available
in ANY language


Languages available for immediate delivery include:

  • French:
    Instructions de tâches
  • Spanish:
    Instrucciones de trabajo
  • Portuguese:
    Instruções de Trabalho
  • German:
  • Arabic:
    إرشادات العمل
  • Chinese: