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Standard Operating Procedures

Write standard operating procedures (SOPs) to drive maximum efficiency on the manufacturing floor, in the restaurant, across the school campus, in the warehouse and in the fleet. Implement SOPs and regulatory checklists to ensure your operations are consistent across your company and to streamline business processes.

In writing about quality control as part of her latest research, Dr. Isin Akyar defines a standard operating procedure (SOP) as “a process document that describes in detail the way that an operator should perform a given operation.”

SOPs detail how to perform and complete a task. They are often in the form of a repeating work order, a preventive maintenance (PM) work order, or an inspection.

Perhaps a new centrifuge replaces the old rusty one and the PM work order is completely different. An online SOP clearly defines the process, including figures, photographs and maybe even a link to the new equipment’s maintenance manual.

The purpose of developing written SOPs, often considered procedural documents, is to improve the quality, efficiency and consistency of repeated operations. SOPs improve processes and maintain high standards by removing redundancies. SOPs establish a standard and consistent way of completing a task. Assigning an approved SOP means the task should be always performed the same way across, for example, manufacturing facilities and production lines.

SOPs are crucial to successfully onboarding and training new employees and for those tasked with taking on new or different jobs.

Remember: SOPs that are not easily accessible serve little purpose! 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 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 SOPs to connect the workforce is a great place to start.

SOPs lay out who is responsible for performing and completing a task and ensure the organization’s operations comply with industry regulatory requirements. SOPs help employees follow the correct methods for new and existing processes and all of the organization’s most essential tasks – everything from using equipment to filing reports.

SOPs come in all sizes: a single document or multiple forms, including table of contents, videos, checklists, detailed steps, procedures and flowcharts.

Document management that relies on hard copy paper forms creates unnecessary bottlenecks.

SOPs 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.

SOPs involve:

  • The purpose of the operation, the equipment and materials required;
  • How to perform the setup 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. Digital step-by-step instructions provide the information in one place, with images, product manual pdfs and cost tracking.

SOPs Eliminate Downtime

Writing and revising company SOPs eliminate downtime. SOPs also improve processes by removing redundancies. They should manage how a company performs repetitive tasks to achieve desired outcomes and financial goals.

SOPs avoid process shutdowns caused by equipment failure, missed PM schedules and lost work orders. Online SOPs reduce the time team members need to get the job done.

Six Sigma and lean processes, popular in building large-scale companies, create efficiency. According to lean (also known as Kaizen) principles, well-written and implemented SOPs can get rid of eight types of waste that will maximize efficiency and reduce downtime.

Write SOPs to avoid these unnecessary types of waste:

  • Defects;
  • Overproduction;
  • Waiting;
  • Non-utilized talent;
  • Transportation;
  • Inventory;
  • Motion;
  • Excess Processing.

In addition to reducing downtime, SOPs working via a mobile computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can:

  • Designate compliance with organizational and governmental requirements;
  • Reduce miscommunication and address safety concerns;
  • Diminish wasted work effort of machines and equipment;
  • Get rid of unproductive tasks and jobs;
  • Increase quality, credibility and legal defensibility;
  • Improve efficiencies and streamline work processes;
  • Reduce error;
  • Report and measure proficiency;
  • Promote standardized practices and train new staff according to these practices;
  • Improve productivity, consistency, quality and compliance.

Certain CMMS software can powerfully streamline maintenance processes, reduce costs and easily provide digital information about what is being done when and what is working. It eliminates wondering what needs to be done or who needs to do it.

Operations managers and teams will receive real-time updates for PM, reactive maintenance, standard scheduled maintenance and inspection.

A mobile CMMS helps organizations track their SOPs, work orders, PM and reactive maintenance plans, and controls the daily operations of their business. This includes managing safety inspections, site walk-throughs, quality inspections, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections and operating checklists.

SOPs for PM plans include integrating management systems for a piece of equipment, an expensive asset and inventory checklists.

Want to avoid downtime? Enjoy more uptime? It begins by writing a SOP that makes performing a task at a high level safe and routine.

Caroline Eisner

Caroline Eisner, content writer at MaintainX, is a writer and editor with experience across the profit and nonprofit sectors, government, education and financial organizations. She has held leadership positions in K-16 institutions and has led large-scale digital projects and interactive websites, as well as running her own business writing consultancy.

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