Implementing an effective SOP maker that strengthens your standard operating procedures is imperative to achieve accurate and repeatable processes.
I bet most people could give a fairly accurate approximation of a meter length. But without a meter stick, anyone’s approximation will fluctuate and deviate over time. Even if a person was given a meter stick at one point in their life, without a meter stick in their hand, there is no precise way to gauge the correct length.
It is the same with a company process that doesn’t integrate standard operating procedures (SOPs). Without an effective SOP maker and a standard way of directing employees on how tasks need to be performed, product consistency and quality will be irregular and potentially non-existent. There are too many factors that contribute to process variations.
To modify an adage: Among 5 workers, there are 7 ways to perform the same task.
By implementing standard operating procedures, you are providing a standard that will bring employees under the best effective procedures and safest modes of operating. In essence, you are giving them a meter stick every time they need to measure a meter length. No longer do they need to guess or estimate how to perform the job correctly, the proper method is right in front of them. This facilitates employees to understand how a job should be performed and gives them the tools and confidence to deliver consistent work.
Why You Need an SOP Maker
The standard operating procedures of most companies are not easy to access or reference, making them less likely to be reviewed or followed by the workforce. This leads to product variations and process dissonance.
Having an effective SOP maker that allows users to have fast and easy access to standard operating procedures and work instructions is essential to a modern company's success.
By enhancing and improving work instructions and SOPs with an effective digital tool like VKS, companies will reduce employee training time, maintain consistency, and increase quality.
The Problem with Paper SOPs
Previously, companies had printed standard operating procedures in the form of a binder or a booklet. Depending on the industry, employees were expected to memorize these SOPs. But how realistic is this expectation? No matter how good your memory may be, workers need their SOPs to be accessible for fast and easy reference.
If the printed SOP documents are out of date, dirty, missing pages, or hard to navigate, employees will begin to distrust the efficacy of the printed SOPs. This leads to documentation that is rarely read.
Under these circumstances, how long will it take for employees to deviate from the standard?
The answer is: not very long. If SOP documents are inaccessible and difficult to navigate for your busy employees, there is a high likelihood that your documentation will only accumulate dust up the shelf.
Additionally, the best operating procedures tend to change over time as companies adopt better work and safety standards. Paper SOP documents are slow to improve and require constant work to be updated correctly. Plus, it makes it very difficult to implement a culture of continuous improvement if you need to reprint your document every time there’s a change for the better. Paper shouldn’t hold you back from updating your procedures.
Pro Tip: It is important to remember that standard operating procedures are primarily developed for the employees. If your staff is unable to easily reference the pertinent information, then what's the point in creating those SOPs? Digital SOP’s make it easy for employees to access the right information at the right time.
To better understand SOPs, processes, procedures, and their role within digital work instruction software, it can be useful to solidify a few terms.
In a previous article, we’ve explored the differences between a process and a procedure, but here are some helpful definitions to contextualize these terms together in the workplace:
Process: A systematic series of actions, from start to finish, directed to accomplish a specific goal. This will generally be a group of procedures or steps. A process can be simply defined as WHAT we do.
Procedure: Procedures are sub-sequences of a process. This is the established method of accomplishing a specific goal. A procedure can be simply defined as HOW we do it.
SOP (Standard Operating Procedures): The standard sequence of actions to be followed when solving a problem or accomplishing a task. This style of document tells employees which actions should be taken and/or the safest methods to use. An SOP can be defined as HOW we SHOULD do it.
Work Instructions: Set of step-by-step work instructions and procedures that guide operators through the required parameters of a process or procedure. This can be defined as the established guide on HOW, WHAT, and WHEN, to perform specific work.
How Do SOPs and Work Instructions Fit Together?
Now, some of the above definitions overlap to some degree but it is important to understand how each one plays off the other, specifically in the case of SOPs and work instructions. SOPs function at a higher level than work instructions as they are the authority on how work should be performed. One single SOP can be applied to a variety of situations while a work instruction is a specific way to perform a single task.
Example of an SOP
Imagine you manage a computer assembly business. Customers order batches of custom computer builds for their offices and your workers assemble them using an assemble-to-order methodology.
When assembling computers, you instruct your workers to always begin building in a specific sequence. First, the motherboard needs to be firmly secured to the unit, then the power supply, then the processor. These first three steps need to be adhered to every time and in this specific order. After these core components are connected, your workers can assemble the other components in an order that is most conducive to the custom computer build.
So in this case, your SOP would be:
Computer Assembly SOP
For every computer assembly, always begin assembly in this order:
This is a great step towards ensuring that the proper methods are being utilized for every single computer build. But how can this be applied to a wide variety of computer builds that require different parts and different procedures? The best option is to integrate your SOP within a work instruction.
Example of a Work Instruction
Taking the same scenario as above, you realize that your computer assembly orders have a wide variety of components and specifications. Despite your SOP still being relevant to every custom computer build, you want to give your employees a complete method for every product variation. To do this, you choose to implement work instruction software that guides workers with step-by-step instructions.
Your SOP, which still applies to all computer builds, is now seated in a precise step-by-step work instruction. This instruction guides your workers in great detail through all the necessary steps on how to build each custom computer and which parts to use.
From here we see that work instructions software is an effective SOP maker and facilitates easy and regular use of your important SOPs.
Instead of searching through a book or binder for reference, your SOPs can be easily stored and protected within our software. Every time your operators perform a task or procedure, VKS is guiding them on the specifics as well as the standard procedures. And unlike paper documents, your guidebooks are easy to back up. This means that your digital SOP documents and work instructions can always be recovered should you need them.
This greatly increases the knowledge distribution among experienced and inexperienced employees and ensures that the best procedure is always being performed, strengthening your company’s entire process.
Continuously Improve Your SOPs
Digital work instruction software’s widespread reach and accessibility also lay out the groundwork for implementing continuous improvement. By getting rid of the lengthy process of updating, printing, and distributing physical SOP documents, improvement is effectively administered with the click of a button.
As an SOP maker, our software has several features to streamline the creation, distribution, implementation, and improvement of standard operating procedures. Here is a brief list of useful features that help companies create and manage their SOP documents and instructions on the shop floor.
Pictures & Videos - Snap pictures, record videos, or add drawings and additional documents to clearly illustrate every step of the procedure.
Mass Update - Benefit by instantly updating all current standard operating procedures and work instructions with the click of a button. We’ve seen this feature be extremely useful for single-site companies and companies running more than one facility.
Certification Feature - Restrict access to certain guidebooks to ensure only certified personnel perform expert-level procedures.
Expert Mode - Certified and experienced employees can always switch to the ‘Expert’ mode to skip simple steps that have been laid out for newer employees. This allows greater flexibility among the workforce.
Quality Checklists - Create quality checklists into your processes by adding checkpoints for operators at critical steps in the procedure.
Smart Forms - Empower technicians performing maintenance and inspections with intelligent SOPs and forms that provide automatic guidance towards suitable actions.
Access Control - By creating user groups, control who has access to your classified information when sharing sensitive knowledge between various locations.
API Integration - Go a step further and configure SOPs and work instructions to automatically capture relevant data using our DataConnect module for ultimate traceability.
Here’s a quick video outlining some of the useful features behind creating SOP documents and work instructions with VKS.
The Power of an Effective SOP Maker
Visually intelligent work instructions and SOPs are an incredibly effective way to keep your shop floor up-to-date with the best practices and procedures. With a user-friendly and intuitive interface, our work instruction software displays digital SOPs that enable your employees to achieve high levels of productivity and efficiency while maintaining high standards of product consistency and quality.
By providing accessible and easy-to-use SOPs and work instructions, your process is properly maintained. More importantly, your employees stay safe and aware. All this makes our work software the smartest work instruction solution and the most effective SOP maker on the market!