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Don’t drop the ball.
It’s down to the wire.
Get on the same page.
What do these idioms have in common? Besides being frequently used in North American workplaces, each phrase is related to sports. Yes, even the latter one!
Though its origins remain unclear, this maxim first appeared in a 1974 newspaper article. Its writer suggested players and coaches needed to “get on the same page” to win the Super Bowl.
Similarly, your organization’s employees must agree on shared goals, priorities, and protocols to guarantee success. Whether you run an e-commerce bobblehead store or a large aluminum manufacturing facility, working from standard operating procedures (SOPs) is crucial.
Carefully constructed SOPs boost efficiency, safety, and quality control. Unsurprisingly, the larger the organization, and the more workers completing tasks simultaneously, the more challenging performance management becomes.
This article will discuss the importance of standard standard operating procedures for every stage and type of business. We’ll also provide some quick tips for documenting, assigning, and monitoring SOPs.
Why Are Standard Operating Procedures Important?
Clearly written standard operating procedures are essential because they eliminate uncertainty about how to best complete assignments. Put simply, anyone within your organization should be able to produce a standardized outcome for any routine task by simply following the instructions.
Before we move any further, let’s make sure we’re “on the same page.”
Merriam Webster defines our subject as follows:
Standard operating procedures also referred to as SOPs, are written instructions that detail how to complete routine tasks in simple steps. Common SOP formats include checklists, hierarchies, and flowcharts They can be documented via analog or digital methods
MaintainX is one such digital documentation system—it’s a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) that includes procedure forms with checkboxes, pass/fail, and photo-attachment features. The CMMS automates the process of developing effective SOPs from start to finish.
Types of Businesses Using SOPs
Industries that commonly use SOPs include:
- Manufacturing: SOPs help manufacturers comply with local, state, and federal regulations. Operational managers depend on organized processes to meet rigorous quality control, production, and safety standards. Performing tasks in a prescribed manner allows teams to reduce the likelihood of experiencing costly downtime.
- Warehousing: For proper inventory control and supply chain management, warehouse managers must maintain fast and accurate shipment lines. Reliable outcomes are only possible if every team member follows best practices via SOPs. Consistently followed procedures lead to speedy delivery times, customer satisfaction, and solid brand reputations.
- Restaurants: If you’ve ever watched someone prepare your hamburger or sandwich at a fast-food joint, you’ve witnessed a food safety SOP in action. Front- and back-of-house employees must take proper safety precautions when handling food items to prevent foodborne illnesses. Additionally, recurring restaurant procedures often address menu production, food preparation flow, worker communication, and equipment sanitization.
- Hotels: Hotels use written procedures to provide guests with dependable, comfortable, and high-quality overnight accommodations. Hotel maintenance technicians’ routine procedures include exercising preventive maintenance (PM) on HVAC systems, plumbing systems, lighting systems, lawns, and shared facilities. Guest services employees follow business processes for booking, check-in, and check-out.
- Educational Institutions: These organizations involve several moving pieces across dozens of departments. Facility managers rely on organized procedures to keep buildings and student accommodations in working order. Athletic facilities, parking garages, and numerous other buildings all require routine upkeep. Educational SOPs often include fleet management, sanitation, fire safety, and water systems, among others.
Other industries that use documented procedures include property management, utility companies, oil and gas, healthcare, municipalities, and fleet management. Every industry is responsible for complying with OSHA’s General Duty Clause that enforces SOPs for worker safety.
While the contents of SOPs may vary across industry and organizational lines, the process for developing them is similar. Today’s tech-savvy organizations are increasingly moving toward digital SOPs with platforms like MaintainX CMMS.
Benefits of Using Standard Operating Procedures
As previously mentioned, taking the time to write, assign, and manage standard operating procedures provides many benefits. Some of the most noteworthy outcomes include:
1. Improved Quality Control
Wouldn’t it be amazing for every employee to “get it right the first time?” As the name suggests, SOPs establish standard methods for completing tasks as part of a unified quality management system. Standardization ensures that neither production nor performance is compromised when new hires come on board. Established protocols provide a baseline that ensures quality will never be compromised in the event of unforeseen circumstances, competing priorities, or employee shift changes.
Once you have foundational SOPs in place, you can begin to identify opportunities for greater efficiency. Every world-class operation begins with consistent quality control.
2. Enhanced Accountability
Have you ever discovered an important task uncompleted upon arriving at work? Maybe your facility’s bathroom counters weren’t wiped down properly the night before. Sadly, when you ask who was responsible for the task, you see nothing but pointing fingers.
Digital SOP assignments provide an extra measure of accountability for business activities. SOP software allows you to see when employees open and close assigned work orders in real-time. SOP software automatically applies a digital time-stamp to task activity. Managers can even require uploaded photograph documentation and signatures for additional peace of mind.
3. Improved Efficiency
What organization doesn’t want to improve efficiency? The more work you can accomplish, with minimal amounts of effort, the more capital you have to spend in other areas. Additionally, inefficient workplace processes sometimes yield frustrated, unproductive employees.
Take the time to distill complex processes into streamlined steps and you will likely eliminate several forms of waste. It’s not uncommon for even the tightest ships to uncover unnecessary steps that waste precious energy, time, and resources.
4. Simplified Regulatory Requirements
SOP software provides organizations with digital audit trails that they can use to improve quality assurance and regulatory compliance. Besides reinforcing critical safety and compliance standards among employees, cloud-based records can serve as a crucial defense in the event of an OSHA audit.
Essentially, would you rather spend hours digging through hefty filing cabinets for paper records or spend seconds generating an automated compliance report? Even the most minor OSHA violations start at $5,851 for each incurred penalty.
5. Streamlined Communication
Another benefit particular to digital SOPs is streamlined team communication. MaintainX serves as a centralized communication platform with both individual and team messaging.
You can share important informational updates with your team in real-time via desktop, smartphone, or tablet. The app’s work order commenting feature allows users to virtually eliminate the types of miscommunications that lead to incomplete work assignments. Our customers say it’s the software’s most surprisingly useful feature—hands down.
6. Reduced Production Waste
As briefly mentioned before, most organizations waste significantly more resources on poorly mapped procedures than they realize. Lean Six Sigma is an operational methodology that identifies eight primary types of waste you can eliminate for maximum efficiency, including:
- Transportation waste
- Inventory waste
- Excess motion
- Manufacturing defects
- Wait time
- Under-utilized skills
SOPs can help identify types of waste so you can begin to eliminate or minimize them. Consistently monitor the implementation of your SOPs to get a handle on areas of improvement. Again, software makes the monitoring of O&M KPIs significantly easier.
With MaintainX, operational managers can instantly generate personalized reports on metrics such as Mean-Time-to-Repair (MTTR), Planned Maintenance Percentage (PMP), and more. Check out the video below for more information:
7. Improved Workplace Safety
Finally, why are standard operating procedures important? They help keep team members safe! Workplace safety is paramount. Regardless of the industry, you are responsible as an employer to always provide a safe work environment for team members.
Hazardous electrical, chemical, or fall protection oversights can lead to accidents. Not only do such incidents unjustly harm workers, but they cost big bucks when OSHA gets involved.
Written SOPs that distill work processes into step-by-step instructions can streamline new employee onboarding, reduce errors, and support safe working conditions. Use SOPs to ensure all employees complete tasks without compromising the safety of themselves and their staff members.
Why Are Standard Operating Procedures Important?
Now that you understand the importance of standard operating procedures, below are some quick tips for developing good ones. Take these measures to ensure anyone on your team can step in to fulfill an unfamiliar workflow if needed:
- Gather employee input when outlining SOP steps.
- Write steps briefly, concisely, and in active voice.
- Use standardized formatting for familiarity.
- Download, save, and customize free SOP templates.
- Click here for more tips on developing good SOPs.
We recommend developing standardized procedures with intuitive, mobile-friendly software. MaintainX allows business owners, managers, and workers to access assigned checklists from their smartphones. Translation: MaintainX makes managing and writing SOPs easier, faster, and foolproof.
Download MaintainX CMMS for digital SOPs—get unlimited checklists for 30 days.