Streamlining Manufacturing Operations with Effective SOP Management
Consistent and standard operating procedures are critical to improving quality, operational efficiency, and safety. The key is to ensure different operators or workers perform the same tasks in a uniform manner - adhering to clearly documented Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
SOPs are needed in all industries for all repetitive tasks and refer to step-by-step guidelines for carrying out different tasks. In the manufacturing industry, too, they play an important role in standardizing the various operations.
For some processes, SOP documents come along with a checklist - to ensure certain steps are definitely followed.
Other steps are mentioned as a “best practice” or “guideline” but the discretion of the trained worker is also encouraged. But certain steps (say safety procedures or input raw material quality metric checks or equipment status checks) cannot be left out at any cost.
Managing the SOPs becomes important for two reasons:
- To ensure that all tasks are indeed performed as per the SOPs
- For continuous improvement by revising the SOPs based on feedback and impact
The Need for SOP Management
Creating SOPs and implementing them correctly can help businesses in the following ways:
- Improve Productivity: When workers do not have guidelines on how to carry out a task, they will do what they consider best. This is a hit-or-miss situation where an approach may succeed while another may not. This will affect productivity, lead to quality issues, and be difficult to address when there is suboptimal performance. Establishing clear-cut guidelines that everybody follows will help to implement only the best practices for that task uniformly and consistently. This will improve the overall quality and be easy to track and correct in case something is not working or if someone failed to follow the instructions.
- Enhance Quality: As mentioned earlier, standard operations enable maintaining quality standards. SOPs are an amalgamation of best practices that meet the organization’s needs best. They ensure that the quality is also consistent and any improvement can be implemented across the particular operation. This will help meet customers and be compliant.
- Make Workplace Safe: Inconsistent approaches to tasks can also lead to some following unsafe behavior, which can make the workplace unsafe for all. For instance, if there is an SOP for the maintenance of equipment and it is consistently followed, then the risk of accidents will come down. In the absence of an SOP, the date for machine downtime may be missed and result in a machine breakdown or accident. Keeping the shopfloor clean, good housekeeping practices, and lockout/tagout SOPs, are all examples of how the workplace can be made safe by following standardized practices.
- Better Performance: A robust operational framework is critical to maintaining good levels of performance. Roles and responsibilities must be defined properly so that people know what is expected of them and perform based on standards. The SOPs must also define the metrics to measure performance to be able to monitor and track it and improve the outcome of training. The roles and responsibilities must be planned, defined, and mapped to appropriate procedures so that employees can deliver based on expectations and objectives.
- Facilitate Effective Communication: Communication between the different stakeholders forms a critical part of operations. In the absence of standardized communication protocols, much can be lost in transit, costing the business severely in quality, safety, and even reputation In business and revenues. The gaps in communication can also lead to decisions being made with insufficient data, leading to further losses. With the standardization of communication processes, such gaps can be avoided and the right information provided to the right people for the right decisions to be made.
Be it procurement of raw materials, design processes, changes, shopfloor operations, or asset management, standardization of operations can improve with SOPs being put in place. It can keep costs low and enhance compliance. This will reduce the chances of deviations thereby lowering nonconformance. A clear definition of roles and responsibilities will also help streamline processes, remove conflicts or dereliction of duty, and ensure that tasks are performed on time, as expected.
Creating Manufacturing SOPs
A comprehensive manufacturing SOP that will be effective, efficient, and serve its purpose requires much thought, planning, and deliberation. Here are a few steps that can help create the SOP right for your business:
Step #1: Define Your Objectives - Clearly define the end goal of any task - be it a new one or an improvement of an existing one.
Step #2: Scope It Out - Flesh out the details such as who it affects, where it will be applied, and what are the exceptions or limitations.
Step #3: Choose a Format - The format contributes to clarity. The step-by-step format is popular as it is straightforward and easy to follow. For process flow, the hierarchical format is used often while another option is the narrative format. There can also be a combination of the formats based on need.
Step #4: Explain the Procedures - This is the crux of the SOP as it spells out the tasks and how to do them. The roles and responsibilities are assigned and communication protocols are explained. Keep updating the SOPs with every change and share them with the stakeholders so that everybody is aware. Some of the factors to keep in mind are the voice used and the terminologies that should be consistent across the document.
Step #5: Periodically Review and Update the SOP - Once the SOP is ready, it must be reviewed to ensure language, consistency, and clarity. The SOPs must also be periodically reviewed and updated to keep pace with the changes in the operations to meet new needs.
ComplianceQuest for SOP Management
Having a manual SOP document can make it difficult to review and share it with others. Especially as businesses go global, ensuring that all employees at all locations are up to date with the latest SOP will become difficult.
ComplianceQuest is a cloud-based solution that simplifies document management. SOPs can be created, managed, shared, reviewed, approved, and removed as needed from anywhere based on rights to access. It facilitates communication between different departments from within the system, making collaboration and communication easier. It helps with providing role-based authorizations aligned with the SOPs and facilitates monitoring and tracking of activities to assess outcomes.
Most importantly, it also provides data that can help with assessing the effectiveness of the SOP, its implementation, and the need for revision.
To know more about CQ’s Document Management software, visit: https://www.compliancequest.com/lp/document-management-software-solutions/