In this last post in the SOP series, we explain how to write, implement, and automate SOPs to enable and connect workforces that optimize the benefits of standardization.
Standard Operating Procedures should be clear and concise and make sense to the person assigned to the SOP. If they don’t make sense or are hard to follow, no one is going to complete them.
Create Standard Operating Procedures through a continuous improvement process, often referred to as Planning, Doing, Checking, and Acting (PDCA). It’s a cycle that promotes efficiency, effectiveness, and flexibility.
The employees who regularly perform specific procedures should plan out, develop, and write the first draft of the Standard Operating Procedure. After all, they are the “subject-matter experts” (SMEs), most familiar with the procedures.
The same employee who writes the SOP should then work through (do) the procedure as written to make any necessary changes. The writer may need to clarify the text and add graphics to increase clarity and ensure compliance.
Once clear, the Standard Operating Procedure is bumped up to other employees and managers who are familiar with the procedures. They check the SOP to make sure it includes all the necessary steps and details and is easy to follow. A complicated step can always be broken into smaller steps. Adding useful graphics and photos always helps.
When the SOP is in final draft form, an equipment or process manager should follow the SOP. Again, as with the other steps, additional changes to the SOP should be made now.
After this quality-control review, finalize any necessary changes. Then, if necessary, run the SOP through the company’s approval process, identified in company policy. Also, check to make sure the SOP adheres to any industry and governmental guidelines and then is uploaded.
SOPs should be written in a step-by-step, easy-to-read format. The information presented should be clear and easy to understand.
First, SOPs should define the purpose of the work or process and include all applicable regulatory information or standards.
Second, they should outline the scope of what the SOP covers.
Third, SOPs need to be organized to guarantee ease and efficiency in use.
Fourth, they need to be tailored to the organization or company that develops it. There is no one-size-fits-all way to write an SOP across companies. Each company should consider creating its own SOP template for consistency across teams.
Write SOPs with enough detail so that someone with a basic understanding of the field can successfully reproduce the activity or procedure when unsupervised.
SOP Writing Tips
- Use common language to avoid confusion about terms.
- Consider creating an SOP template to standardize instructions.
- Use consistent language and terms throughout the manual.
- Consider including definitions in SOPs to be as clear as possible.
- Place warnings, cautions, and notes BEFORE the step they refer to
- Use flow charts and diagrams to illustrate the process being defined
- Use words that match the words on controls and panels.
- Match graphics–any symbols, colors, and shapes–to those used in industry standards
- Include specialized terms or definitions in a separate section.
- Use active voice and present tense verbs
Overall, SOPs should not be wordy, redundant, or overly lengthy. Instructions should be conveyed clearly and explicitly to avoid mistakes, inefficiencies, and downtime.
For Standard Operating Procedures to be effective, they need effective implementation processes.
In fact, failure to follow a company’s Standard Operating Procedures is a common observation during inspections. The FDA notes that employees cite poor content, lack of clarity, and little or poor training as the main reasons they do not follow SOPs.
An SOP doesn’t do any good if it sits in a hardcopy manual stored far away from where the work needs to be done. According to the FAO, an “SOP should be available at the place where the work is done.” Good document management means that managers need to be purposeful about where SOP are located
Through a digital solution, management can implement technical SOP by:
- Distributing the SOP to relevant employees
- Making sure employees are trained to complete SOP
- Monitoring employee performance of SOP
- Reviewing, updating, and revising SOP as necessary.
- Repeating this process any time an SOP, asset, regulation, or company standard changes.
Employees need to be aware of the correct procedures in order to follow them. Take a proactive approach by implementing regular training and retraining. This is especially important for high-liability areas and in areas where the standards and regulations change often.
To stay competitive, companies need to go digital.
Digital SOP on a handheld device means guidelines, work orders, and checklists go wherever you go. No one needs to go back to the office to retrieve the hardcopy SOP notebook on the shelf.
With online Standard Operating Procedures and dashboards, managers can track quality assurance plans, regulatory compliance, and preventive and reactive maintenance.
The benefits of digitized Standard Operating Procedures are that:
- Cloud-based checklists are available for auditors and inspectors
- Digital dashboards provide information about job performance and time-on-task
- Processes are uninterrupted and completed on schedule
- Operations are performed properly and consistently
- Procedures are in compliance with company quality standards and government regulations.
- Employees are kept up-to-date and trained on new procedures
- Trends and anomalies can be monitored and improved
Tracking information, internal controls, and business processes are easier when Standard Operating Procedures are digitized, especially when, for example, suppliers and new outsourcing are involved.
CMMS for SOP Automation
A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a software platform that organizes a company’s information about maintenance operations and helps manage asset history.
CMMS solutions make tracking compliance easy–from OSHA requirements to quality assurance and product standards to planned maintenance and manufacturing regulations. With digital audits and checklists, management can easily track a teams’ production processes and work orders.
Benefits of going online with Standard Operating Procedures include:
- Being prepared for audits at any time
- Adhering to regulations and quality controls
- Sharing data and documentation on the spot
- Reviewing and editing Standard Operating Procedures in real-time
Unfortunately, many CMMS solutions have too complex interfaces, wonky functionality, and high price tags. But the right CMMS can make SOP implementation and automation easy.
The right CMMS makes life easier for everyone on the team.
CMMS with SOP templates helps team members write standard operating procedures that get done on time and accurately.
Ask these questions before choosing a CMMS to automate Standard Operating Procedures, preventive maintenance schedules, work orders, audits, etc.::
1. What features do we really need?
At a minimum, a CMMS should provide a clear overview of upcoming work orders and in-progress jobs. Managers should be able to quickly assign priorities, evaluate progress, and maintain accountability across their team.
Maybe poor communication is a major cause of incomplete or badly executed work orders. Workers shouldn’t need to wait for a return phone call or need to write a complicated email explaining the set back.
In this case, look for a CMMS system with chat functionality.
With the chat feature, maintenance staff can text leadership, send equipment photographs, and troubleshoot setbacks in real-time. Communication is one of the most overlooked features by CMMS shoppers today.
In many ways, choosing a CMMS platform isn’t that different than choosing between a moped and a motorcycle. Both perform the same primary functions, but the user experience feels very different. Sometimes it comes down to personal preference, while other times certain features are inarguably better designed.
2. How user-friendly is the interface?
The best tech tools are the ones that get used—often.
CMMS that is confusing, inconvenient, and unattractive don’t get used. It’s that simple.
3. How good is the provider’s customer support?
Once you have narrowed down options, compare levels of customer support.
Look at consumer reviews. Pay attention to any mention of customer support: How difficult was it to contact the CMMS provider for troubleshooting? What was the average response time?
If you are thinking about automating SOPs, you are obviously looking for efficiencies. Slow and inefficient customer service defeats the purpose.
4. Does the software include chat functionality?
Maintaining communication across teams is important. If you run a small business, standard text messaging may meet your needs. But single-message threads quickly become confusing when several processes are going on at once.
5. Does the software include cost analysis?
Finally, determine if the CMMS includes cost analysis from both an equipment standpoint and a time standpoint. A robust reporting dashboard provides answers to questions like:
How much time did Mike spend on SOP safety audits and inspections last month? Should we continue maintaining that machine (and buying new parts) or should we buy a new one? Are we understaffed or overstaffed (and inefficient)?
There are many factors worth considering when purchasing a CMMS solution. At the end of the day, the best work order system for one company, might not work for another. Always practice due-diligence before making a decision.
However, the best way to evaluate a CMMS is to “try before you buy.” Find a platform that provides free access to premium feathers for at least a couple of weeks.
SOPs and MaintainX
CMMS is supposed to make life easier for everyone on the team. Maintenance program managers and workers can quickly determine how to care for assets. And operational managers can prioritize maintenance and work order management based on a bird’s eye view.
The best CMMS powerfully streamline maintenance processes, reduce costs, and provide real-time digital information about what is being done when and what is working.
Maintenance management and operations software, like MaintainX, provides in-depth analytics and reporting capabilities. Customizable dashboards, audit trails, and reports allow management to view in real-time completed regulatory SOP, preventive maintenance plans, and work requests.
MaintainX is the only CMMS platform that handles maintenance, operations, safety, and training. We’re also the world’s first provider to include live chat, comments, and photo-sharing within the same digital maintenance platform.
MaintainX is completely free to download from the app store, and all Premium Features are free for 30 days. Our platform includes everything you need to begin creating work orders, communicating with staff, and tracking assets today.
MaintainX brings it all together in one place, under one app.
Click here to download the app.
This is the final post in the 4-part blog series on SOP. Check out the previous posts at: