SOPs in Manufacturing: The Road to Efficiency

Mehedi Hasan Shoab
January 1, 2023
min read
September 19, 2023
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SOPs in manufacturing are a key component in running an efficient business. Don’t know how to write them? Our guide has all the details you need.
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Having a documented process in any organization is essential — and SOPs for manufacturing are no different.

Their efficiency can significantly impact your factory's OEE, safety and operator productivity. What’s more, research shows that effective SOPs can inspire operators to do their jobs better.

Of course, not every manufacturing firm will have a similar SOP. This can vary according to the needs and structure of an organization. The manufacturing SOP covers all the do’s and dont’s of processes so that employees are trained to do their particular tasks.

But what’s the exact purpose of these SOPs and how are they useful?

What do SOPs mean in manufacturing? — A brief overview

SOPs are crucial to the efficient operation of any company. Specifically, when it comes to manufacturing, it defines the roles and responsibilities of operators and how to ensure work is completed consistently.

They’re a set of written instructions that can be applied to both manual and automated jobs. It’s also used to prevent quality loss and improve brand reputation. Often, along with text, these documents can contain flowcharts, diagrams and illustrations to aid employees.

You can even ensure the safety of your workers by following the SOP. Plus, there are many other advantages to having these guidelines in any manufacturing organization.

📌 Recommended reading: Do You Need SOPs or Work Instructions?

Benefits of SOPs in manufacturing — Why do you need them?

Essentially, a manufacturing SOP keeps your workers in check, so repeated tasks have the same outcome. No matter the size or nature of the organization, every operational manager should implement SOPS for some key benefits:

  • Ensures standardization across processes: The main purpose of an SOP is in its name. It aims to ensure all processes are being done the same way by all operations. Depending on their role and task, each worker performs as stated in the approved documentation. This helps create routine reliability and maintains quality control throughout the line. 
  • Guarantees efficiency through and through: As mentioned before, SOPs make your manufacturing workforce and processes more efficient as management tracks how well the documentation performs. 

They look at what steps are unnecessary and provide no value. In some cases, common errors are identified and worked on so they don’t occur again. It can also be used to check how effective training is when workers follow SOPs.

  • Promotes communication among teams: SOPs for manufacturing connect all levels of teams. They provide employees and supervisors with real-time information about how the processes are being handled and if there are any bottlenecks. 

Once managers have proper data regarding these outcomes, they can also share them with their team. This further encourages collaboration among everyone in the organization.

SOPs make the team's communication more consistent, increasing effectiveness and simplifying project administration.

  • Helps follow regulatory & compliance standards: In the event of litigation, the SOP serves as a defensive document for procedures following industry guidelines. They’re essential in enforcing security and compliance standards.

In that way, these documentations improve a company's credibility and legal defenses. Without an SOP as a checklist, audit procedures can become quite lengthy. 

  • Improves accountability and tracking: A SOP clearly defines who performs work orders, preventive maintenance checks, or inspections. When tasks are not completed or followed correctly, management can take appropriate action to prevent such failures in the future.

Moreover, it makes tracking changes easier, especially when conducting critical inspections on the factory floor. This also helps measure process improvement goals to improve operational performance across your organization.

Apart from these benefits, there are some potential pitfalls of not following the manufacturing SOPs properly.

  • Increase in overall costs: If you cannot follow your SOP, your processes are of no use. According to market research firm IDC Market Research, companies lose 20-30 percent of revenue annually due to inefficiencies. Moreover, it’ll take more time and resources to produce and procure products, which will cause a price rise.
  • Rise in manufacturing errors: Defects are bound to be found if there’s no SOP. As a result, customers are more likely to refrain from using a lower-quality product. This can cause you to lose a lot of business.
  • Issues with communication: As the SOP serves as a method of communication, any misinformation can cause workers to make more mistakes. In that case, it creates inefficiencies in the workflow.
  • Prevalent accident risks: The safety guidelines highlighted in an SOP are meant to keep employees safe in a dangerous work environment. Not following those properly can lead to unnecessary mishaps that could’ve been easily avoided.

To avoid being a victim of not having a proper SOP, ensure you know how yours should look. What factors make your SOP stand out and get the job done?

🎓 Related reading: How to Build and Use Laboratory Procedures

How to build manufacturing SOPs (with a few examples)

Keep a few questions in mind while creating your SOP. As yourself: 

What do we need to streamline? What process can become permanent and what should be obsolete? Which employees are qualified or trained to perform specific tasks? In that case, we can identify a few simple steps to follow:

#1. Identify the purpose:

When outlining a manufacturing SOP, start by thinking about what you want to achieve. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting a new process or improving an existing one. Determining the end goal can help create your SOP document.

#2. Determine the scope:

The scope of a manufacturing SOP takes into account who’s impacted by it and the limit to which the processes extend.

Where will the SOP be used? Ans: Within the company production system

Who is the SOP for? Ans: Non-end users with access to internal applications

Are there any specific exceptions to the SOP? Ans: No access beyond the permissions required for individual tasks

#3. Pick a format:

You can follow many SOP templates when mapping out the document. The most simple way to do so is the step-by-step checklist, which lists all processes in a straightforward manner.

A more detailed version is the hierarchical format, where each step takes into account multiple decisions and their outcomes. Then comes the process map or flowchart, where the steps are represented in a graphical form.

Here’s an example of a step-by-step process of creating a joined report with Scribe:

Given your process needs, choose the format that best suits it.

#4. Write down procedures:

When putting it all down, the 5 C's are a good principle: clear, concise, up-to-date, consistent and complete.

Your SOP must be easily understood by those who read it. So use simple language. But keep the current manufacturing best practices in mind, along with SOP terminology.

Be consistent throughout the document. Finally, include all possible steps related to the focus of the SOP. Otherwise, you might miss out on something important.

Step 1: Edit configuration files

Step 2: Delete or modify production data

Step 3: Modify batch processes etc.

🎓 Related reading: Process Improvement Questions to Ask in Your Next Interview

#5. Re-evaluate & update the SOP:

After you finish writing the document, look through it again. You can even ask the users to review the document to check for discrepancies. For the final check, involve the stakeholders who can approve the SOP for you.

Of course, without implementation, there’s little chance you can find out which processes need improvement. In that case, review the effectiveness of the SOP every 6 months or annually. This allows you to improve your business procedures constantly.

In a manufacturing environment, defining the practices expected in any organization to ensure its success becomes essential. You can document the processes using tools like Scribe to aid the process.

Build better SOPs using Scribe & Pages 

A well-documented SOP can make a huge difference in the efficiency and effectiveness of your manufacturing operations. For a better and more streamlined way of documentation, involve Scribe in your process.

Scribe helps generate a step-by-step guide along with text, screenshots and clicks within seconds. It even has a Pages feature that lets you organize all your manufacturing SOPs in one place. It lets you add several Scribes or SOPs in a single document.

See what our users have to say:

So what’s the hold-up? Download your Scribe for all your documentation needs.

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