Standard Operating Procedures and Standard Work

Standard Operating Procedures and Standard Work

Organisations are increasingly using Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) or Work Instruction formats based on Lean ideas and concepts – a tabular format with lots of pictures and diagrams. However, they are frequently misunderstood and so fail to provide the value and benefit they should.

We have a great deal of experience and capability to implement best practice Standard Operating Procedures to capture current knowledge to disseminate around all personnel and to prevent loss of knowledge over time. We may even legitimately claim to be the UK's leading proponent of SOPs in the process industries, and work with some major pharmaceutical companies providing advice and training in drafting best practice SOPs.

Well written SOPs should capture current knowledge and experience that would otherwise perhaps only be held in individual's heads. By harvesting this knowledge and placing it in a well structure SOP layout it can be disseminated quickly and accurately around all of the workforce. This shortens learning curves, speeding up the process of becoming competent, and reduces errors as past learning and mistakes as passed on to all.

The structure of the SOP is important. Specific types of information are placed in defined columns, making reading the SOP quick and locating specific items of information easier. This increases both the usefulness of the SOP and the ease of reading it, which encourages more frequent referring back to the SOP instead of relying on memory, further reducing errors. Experienced and inexperienced personnel will read the SOP in different ways, appropriate to their knowledge and skill, and the layout and structure is designed to support this.

SOPs are part of Standard Work (or Standardised Work). To really get the most benefit out of improved SOPs they need to be placed in the context of Standard Work. Standard Work typically have three document types, one of which is the SOP, also known as the Job Element or Job Detail. This is the base document on which the other two documents are built. Standard Work analyses tasks and durations, which leads to tasks both being carried out in repeatable consistent ways, making errors and issues easier to spot, and to improve the task by removing various forms of waste such that it takes less time to execute.

Standard Work originates in the automotive industry. Translating Standard Work across into other industries requires a good understanding of how Standard Work is implemented in its original environment, the principles the underpin the thinking behind Standard Work, and how it must be adapted to suit a different industry.

We come across number of issues with companies implementing Standard Work, primarily around how to write an SOP in the tabular format and the changes required to make Standard Work applicable without causing conflict and confusion. This is particularly important in pharmaceutical environments.

Call us to find out how we can help you improve your SOPs, the memory storage of your organisation.