High efficiency stands on the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution. Unfortunately, we see that many modern manufacturers still have to start from scratch when they want to create and implement standard operating procedures. Thanks to mass production, time is of the essence on the shop floor. Create easy SOP’s, work instructions and procedures with predetermined templates.
What are Standard Operating Procedures?
A SOP is a procedure unique to your organization that outlines the steps required to execute tasks and processes in compliance with industry norms, provincial legislation, or even your own set of corporate standards. Procedures include any document that explains how to perform anything. The most apparent example of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in a manufacturing context is the step-by-step production line procedures used to create products and train employees.
Why Are Standard Operating Procedures Important?
Standard operating procedures that are clearly documented are vital because they minimize doubt about how to execute assignments to the best of one’s ability. Simply said, everyone in your business should be able to follow the instructions and generate a standardized result by simply following the written instructions.
How to write effective Standard Operating Procedures
When you are in the possession of a well-crafted SOP template, it’s time to write clear directions and instructions. Don’t struggle with deviations anymore, instead deliver quality products that meet agreed-upon requirements.
To get you started, we’ve listed some five golden rules that will help you in writing effective SOPs.
1. Set up a clear structure
Keep in mind that SOPs should be created purely from the practical perspective of the people who will actually be using them. So it’s essential to create a clear SOP structure that’s successful on the shopfloor. So make sure your standard operating procedures are readily usable and scannable so that frontline workers can easily retrieve content.
Consistency is the key to successful standard operating procedures and work instructions. It’s easier to follow a style guide and a set of rules while writing SOP’s. When each step follows a similar format or structure to your previous instructions, reading your SOP takes less energy.
Below is a basic model with the fundamental elements that a standard operating procedure must contain.
- Header: This should contain the title, document type number and a unique code of SOP.
- Purpose: Define the purpose of the document in one or two sentences. It must be sufficiently detailed so readers can easily determine what the document covers even if no additional information is provided.
- Scopes and roles: This indicates to whom or what the particular set of procedures applies (i.e. departments, teams, or roles). Be specific so nothing is left for interpretation.
- Related documents: Offer extra information and references needed to understand and execute certain standard operating procedures.
- Procedure: Write procedures as understandable and clear as possible so it is comprehensible to everyone.
- Approval Signatures: Some SOPs need different signatures for approval. If you use procedures on paper, it is best to do it on the back page since it will be passed on to different people.
2. Write concisely
Long sentences take too much time to read and to comprehend. Instead use basic, common terminology and keep sentences as brief as possible. When you use technological or jargon terminology you risk that an SOP or work instruction will be misinterpreted. It’s simpler for the frontline workers if there is less information and time on each procedure will be minimized.
3. Make it visual
Knowledge sharing works best on the shopfloor when it’s based on images and videos. Use instruction cover photos that explain each procedure on a visual level. By thinking visually, we can turn difficult-to-understand instructions and procedures into visually interesting, usable papers. Don’t forget to also maintain a consistent and unified look in your images and videos.
4. Include one action in each phase
Make sure the reader does something in each step of the procedure, if you want your SOPs to be effective. Giving information or implying anything without offering a task or action will just slow down the reader, making your directions less effective. With each instruction that contains a specific task, your procedure can be executed quicker as the reader stays motivated with each win.
5. Test your procedures
After you’ve finished writing your SOP, there’s just one thing left to do: test your procedure to see how easy it is to follow. Read your instructions as if you were a first-time reader with no prior understanding of the procedure.
Is the information cohesive, sufficient and clear enough? Only until you’ve thoroughly read and experienced your instructions without prejudice will you be able to assess their effectiveness.
Create SOPs the right way
Standard operating procedure (SOP) and work instruction templates contribute to the standardization of procedures and the consistency of information. Over the years we’ve seen many examples of templates, and the only thing that remains constant is their flaws.
To accommodate manufacturing companies, we have created both a SOP and a work instruction template that we provide for free. Each standardized template is available in PDF and Excel.
Since we discourage the use of paper work instructions, SOPs or procedures, we also provide a digital version that fully supports operators. Now that you have all the basic information, it’s time to write the most effective and user-friendly SOPs.