Building SOP Templates
What you need to know to build actionable and effective SOPs
SOP Templates That Improve Your Processes Over Time
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) make it easy for executives to identify the One Best Way to perform critical processes accurately, streamline their team’s workflow, and improve processes over time. Creating SOP templates ensures that all procedures are shared with team members clearly and consistently.
SOPs show organizational maturity and allow you to operate consistently to meet ISO standards, safety guidelines, and audit requirements. Perhaps most importantly, SOP templates help your teams operate more efficiently, assuming they are well-written, deployed properly to employees, and followed accurately. As a result, you can expect fewer errors, fewer safety incidents and improvements of key operational metrics.
But before any of that can happen, you need to make sure your SOPs reach your target audience: the employees who will follow the procedures.
This article will walk you through different types of SOP templates, tips for creating one that’s easy to follow, and a practical solution for ensuring they’re actually followed.
What Is a SOP?
SOPs are written instructions, policies, procedures, or standards. More often than not, a simple “standard operating procedure” acts as a framework and provides step-by-step instructions to perform a critical process. Its purpose is to maintain consistency within different parts of the organization, among employees, across shifts and between locations. It can also ensure that your organization complies with business and safety regulations.
Benefits of SOPs
- Decreases the Chances of Making a Mistake: Human error is responsible for 23% of unplanned downtime in manufacturing. A standard operating procedure can drastically reduce errors by guiding your employees through a task with tools that help them overcome obstacles.
- Regulates Quality of Product or Service: SOPs provide a systematic approach to manufacturing a product or delivering a service. They ensure all team members follow the same procedure, the same way, every time. This regulates quality, driving down waste by eliminating recalls and rework.
- Helps with Employee Onboarding and Training: Strong SOPs and job aids are critical for employee onboarding. Without these tools, employees can quickly lose confidence in their ability to do work and decide to leave the business. One of the main drivers of a high employee turnover rate is poor training. Strong SOPs not only help new team members get acclimated more quickly, but they also can alleviate some of the burden on peers providing shoulder-to-shoulder training.
- Documents Tribal Knowledge: SOP templates provide a structured way to document the knowledge of retiring employees for their yet-to-be-hired replacements. As the baby boomer generation rapidly departs the workforce over the next several years, how much of their know-how will leave your business with them?
How to Create a Standard Operating Procedure Template
There are many options for creating standard operating procedure templates. But the easier it is to access and use, the more likely your One Best Way processes will be adopted.
At a minimum, elements of an SOP template should include:
- Descriptive Title
- Summary of Purpose
- Step-by-step Procedure
- List of Required Resources
At Acadia, we invested millions of dollars in development and hundreds of hours of research to create our SOP templates. We interviewed professionals working across many industries and job roles to determine other critical components that make working with SOPs easier:
- A document that’s always up-to-date and easy to access at the time and place the work is being done
- Ability to incorporate images, videos, diagrams, etc. that help describe difficult aspects of the procedure
- Links to other resources, documents, and tools needed to complete the work
- Ability to convert the SOP to a checklist that team members can follow as they work
- A place for team members to provide feedback and make suggestions for improvement
- A template that is locked from edits, except by the people you want to edit it
- An automated workflow for all stakeholders to provide feedback and approval, ensuring alignment prior to distribution to a broader team
Why Use SOP Templates?
SOP Templates provide an easy way to follow a procedure, troubleshoot a problem, and even make complex decisions. To do all of this, it’s important for your template to be flexible enough to accommodate all the processes your company needs to document. But it shouldn’t be so flexible that those authoring the SOP can overcomplicate it or drastically alter the template itself. This is often the problem with using a spreadsheet or text document. When using a template, it’s easier to create a new SOP or customize an existing one for another location or purpose. Similarly, it’s easier for those following the SOP to switch from one procedure to another when the content is presented in the same format.
How to make sure your SOP gets distributed and actually gets used
Going through all the effort of creating a SOP is of little value if you can’t get it to your team and they don’t use it. If you want to get to the repeatable outcomes, you need your team members to follow the One Best Way every time. But that will only happen if you put the right SOP in their hands at the right time.
We’ve seen SOPs be distributed in many different ways. The most common are on a local file server and on paper. The most effective is distributing them digitally at the point of use.
It’s amazing that some of the most sophisticated manufacturing machinery is operated by people holding binders full of paper.
While it’s helpful for team members to have an SOP in their hand while they navigate complex procedures, there are a lot of drawbacks to giving it to them on paper.
If the SOP is posted in a work area, it’s up to each team member to remember to use it every time. If it’s hand-distributed, there’s a significant cost associated with passing them out and collecting them at the end of a shift. And that doesn’t guarantee they won’t be pencil-whipped, creating false compliance data.
With every new update to your procedures, you’ll have to distribute a new SOP and confirm that everyone understands and is using it.
File Servers and Shared Drives
Unfortunately, simply converting to digital doesn’t solve all the issues of paper SOPs. If your procedures live as text files or spreadsheets on a shared drive, you’ll have all the same issues as paper. You’ll also have a few more. Without extensive, customized development work from your IT team, it can be nearly impossible to maintain clean, consistent folder organization, keep track of which version is the most current, and ensure updates are made regularly. This can make it nearly impossible for team members to find what they need, when they need it.
Distribution doesn’t get any easier with this method either. There’s often still a missing step or two disconnecting a team member who needs the SOP from the file server that holds them. Sending SOPs to your team by email, doesn’t guarantee they’ll be seen or used. And providing access to shared drives can be challenging in industrial settings.
How Acadia Helps You Generate and Manage SOPs
The main reason to deploy SOPs is to ensure quick and efficient execution of standard processes. If the tools you use to build and share SOPs with your team add even more complexity to your procedures, you’ll lose most of the efficiencies you were working toward.
Acadia provides a flexible SOP template that has been proven to work on the factory floor as well as in the back office. We make sure all your SOPs are:
- Accessible at the time and place they’re needed
- Trackable to verify who’s using them correctly and who isn’t
- Actionable with job aids and work instructions
When everyone can access your SOPs and are held accountable for following them, you’ll see the benefits across your key performance metrics. We can help you with that too, by integrating SOP compliance data with operational performance data.
If leadership is looking to you to improve efficiency and reliability in your facility or business unit, we can show you how to get there quickly.
Get in touch with us today or schedule a demo.
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