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A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a written document composed of step-by-step instructions used to complete a routine operational task. Organizations of all types use SOPs to achieve efficiency, uniform performance, quality control, and regulatory compliance.
Put simply, standard operating procedures make business tasks easier for workers to complete. They indicate what a complex task entails, how it should be approached, and what to do in the event of unusual circumstances.
SOPs also come in handy when employees are out sick, taking personal days, or attending conferences. Available workers can fill in and complete unfamiliar tasks by simply following the documented processes.
In this article, we’ll review the two types of standard operating procedures: technical and management. We’ll also discuss how organizations can best streamline SOP execution with digitization.
Two Types of Standard Operating Procedures: Technical and Management
Standard operating procedures communicate across all levels and team members of an organization. They involve both business owners and employees. SOPs can be organized by department, manager, function, and/or asset. However, an easy way to think about SOPs is to categorize them as technical SOPs or management SOPs.
Technical SOPs detail how to perform and complete tasks. They are often in the form of a repeating work order, a preventative maintenance work order, or an inspection.
Management SOPs detail how all other SOPs are created, updated, distributed, and overseen. This may sound silly, but companies often need SOPs to manage their SOPs. Essentially, management SOPs outline the processes and procedures to define, document, and implement standard operating procedures.
This also means that management SOPs need to be checked and reviewed as often as technical SOPs. They can provide data on meeting safety and inspection standards and help manage the regular cycle of writing, approving, and revising the SOPs in use. Standard operating procedures’ documentation is solid proof of quality assurance plans in action.
Why Do SOPs Sometimes Fail?
One of the reasons technical SOPs sometimes fail is that management hasn’t created a process for them to succeed. Whenever procedures, employees, assets, and/or functions change, SOPs should be updated and re-approved. Quality SOP reviews ensure that policies and procedures are current and cost-effective and follow new or changing regulations, standards, and quality assurance plans.
Also, when employees change jobs, management must ensure new employees are trained according to quality and safety standards. The best SOPs are clear, concise, and easy to follow. In fact, failure to follow a company’s standard operating procedures is a common observation during inspections. The FDA notes that poor content, lack of clarity, and no training are reasons most cited by employees for not following an SOP.
How to Enhance SOP Compliance
One of the best ways to ensure SOPs are followed is to explain to employees why they are important. After employees know why an SOP is in place, success comes down to developing accessible, clear, and user-friendly documents.
According to the FAO, the purpose of a standard operating procedure is to “carry out the operations correctly and always in the same manner.” Most importantly, the FAO says that an “SOP should be available at the place where the work is done.”
This is why SOPs should be digitized—no one needs to return to the office to retrieve a hardcopy notebook on the shelf. Digital SOPs on a handheld device mean guidelines, work orders, and checklists go wherever you go.
The Benefits of Digitized Standard Operating Procedures
- Cloud-based checklists are available for auditors and inspectors
- Digital dashboards provide information about job performance and time-on-task
- Processes are uninterrupted and are 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
In fact, if and when lawyers get involved, having SOPs in place—and easily accessible through a digital platform with audit trails—makes a huge difference. Quality standard operating procedures show lawyers and the courts that a company adheres to standards and regulations. Quality management plans include strong technical and management SOP.
The American Society for Quality (ASQ) defines quality as both:
- the characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied need, and
- a product or service free of deficiencies.
Without proper implementation and at-your-fingertips access, new SOPs can be ineffective, unused, or unsafe. As part of any quality assurance plan, SOP implementation is key.
Streamline Both Types of Standard Operating Procedures with MaintainX
Implement technical and management SOPs through a digital solution such as MaintainX. Our cloud-based platform allows companies to operate with the assurance that all processes are available, consistent, and repeatable. With MaintainX, you can:
- Automate SOP assignments for relevant employees
- Ensure employees are trained to complete the SOPs
- Monitor employee performance of SOPs
- Review, update, and revise SOPs as necessary
- Adapt to changing safety, compliance, and quality-control regulations
MaintainX puts everything you need in one place.