This is the first post in our series about Standard Operating Procedures. These posts will explain what SOPs are and how they function. We will also cover the benefits of SOPs, the range of industries that use SOPs, and how to write, implement and automate SOPs.
To get started:
Everyone in a company is responsible for the quality of its products and services. Most organizations have routine practices in place to ensure the consistent execution of day-to-day operations and business processes.
However, the most effective leadership teams take things a step further.
They take the time to document preferred processes, procedures, and standards so there is never any confusion about what to do or how to do it.
These protocols are often referred to as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These step-by-step instructions increase performance and improve efficiency.
In this 4-part guide, we’ll discuss how you can better use SOPs to reduce redundancies, streamline repetitive tasks, and achieve desired outcomes.
You will learn:
- The definition and purpose of Standard Operating Procedures
- The 2 types of SOPs
- The benefits of SOPs
- How SOPs increase efficiency
- The role of SOPs in Regulatory Compliance
- The role of SOPs in Quality Control
- The industries that have the most to gain from SOPs
- How to write Standard Operating Procedures
- How to implement and automate written Standard Operating Procedures
- How to scale your business with Standard Operating Procedures
Remember: Standard Operating Procedures that are not easily accessible serve little purpose! For this reason, the most important part of this guide is the final section on SOP automation. Pivoting to digital Standard Operating Procedures creates the flexibility and quality control today’s busy organizations need to ensure safety, efficiency, productivity, and uniformity across your teams.
These days, following Industry 4.0 goals allows companies across the board increased automation, improved communication, and the ability for self-monitoring. Writing and automating Standard Operating Procedures to connect your workforce is a great place to start.
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are written guidelines, detailed steps, or instructions intended to document how to perform a routine activity.
Standard operating procedures are documented processes designed to increase performance, improve efficiency, and ensure quality.
They lay out who is responsible for performing and completing a task and ensure that the organization’s operations comply with industry regulatory requirements. SOPs help employees follow the correct methods for new and existing processes and for all of the organization’s most essential tasks – everything from using equipment to filing reports.
Standard Operating Procedures come in all sizes: a single document or multiple forms, including table of contents, videos, checklists, steps, procedures, and flowcharts. Document management with paper forms creates unnecessary bottlenecks.
Standard Operating Procedures are specific to industry, company, facility, and work unit. They communicate across all levels and team members of an organization. They involve business owners and employees by department, manager, function, and/or asset.
They are crucial to successfully onboarding and training new employees and for those tasked with taking on new or different jobs.
The International Conference on Harmonisation Good Clinical Practice (ICH GCP) guideline defines SOPs as “detailed, written instructions to achieve uniformity of the performance of a specific function.”
Simply put, SOPs specify in writing who does what, when, and how to carry out a specific activity or a process.
- the purpose of the operation, the equipment, and materials required,
- how to perform the set-up and operations required for the process,
- how to perform the maintenance and shutdown operations
- a description of safety issues, troubleshooting, a list of spare parts and where to find them, illustrations, and checklists.
The purpose of developing written SOPs is to improve the quality, efficiency, and consistency of repeated operations. Standard Operating Procedures improve processes AND maintain high standards by removing redundancies.
Six Sigma and Lean processes, both popular in building large-scale company efficiency.
Lean (also known as Kaizen) is commonly associated with Toyota Production Services (TPS).
According to Lean (also known as Kaizen), there are 8 types of waste to get rid of when writing SOPs to maximize efficiency. Get rid of the eight primary types of waste—that form the word, DOWNTIME:
- Defects: avoid errors and poor-quality output.
- Overproduction –don’t produce any more than the required amount.
- Waiting – prevent all unplanned downtime or wait time.
- Non-utilized talent – reduce overstaffing or unused workforce.
- Transportation – cut unnecessary distance traveled from one location to another.
- Inventory – get rid of inefficient storage management systems.
- Motion – avoid excess movement by workers and machines that don’t add value.
- Excess Processing – remove any processes that don’t add value.
Types of SOP
One way to think about developing SOP is to think of them as either technical SOP or management SOP.
Technical SOPs detail how to perform and complete a task. They are often in the form of a repeating work order, a preventative maintenance work order, or an inspection.
This may sound silly but companies often need SOPs to manage their SOP. Management SOPs outline how all other SOPs are created, updated, and distributed. Standard Operating Procedures are always useful for anyone who is performing a task more than once.
In addition to providing guidelines about how to write Standard Operating Procedures, management SOPs should include information about:
- Who reviews and approves the SOP
- When the SOP is revised and how often
- Who implements and manages the SOP
- Who checks to make sure the SOP works
Management SOPs outline the processes and procedures to define, document, and implement Standard Operating Procedures. They also outline the process to review and revise the SOPs as needed.
Any SOP will fail if management doesn’t create the process for them to succeed. Whenever procedures, employees, assets, functions change, SOPs need to be updated and re-approved.
A management SOP can simply be about updating technical SOP.
And even when procedures don’t change, SOPs should be reviewed regularly.
Quality SOP reviews ensure that policies and procedures are current and cost-effective and follow new or changing regulations, standards, and quality assurance plans.
The SOP management process is important Quality Assurance because even the best SOPs fail when not followed. It may be best to create an SOP template to ensure that all the necessary information is always in the right place.
The second post in this 4-part series will outline the benefits of written SOPs across industries. Benefits include creating efficiencies, meeting regulatory requirements and compliance guidelines, and ensuring quality assurance.