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Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Standards
Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques
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Procedures (SOPs) and Standards
Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques
Standards should represent
the current best way of doing something. Standard operating procedures (SOPs)
document this ‘best practice’ so it is clearly understood by all. Advantages
of standards include:
They clearly demonstrate
the best way to undertake a task.
Procedures help maintain
quality by minimizing the likelihood of defects and process variation.
consistency regardless of who is performing the activity.
As the best way, they ensure
resources and time are used as efficiently as possible and so minimise waste
They assist the training
and guidance of employees.
Procedures help retain
skills and expertise.
Standards capture and document
the experience of an expert, from which others can learn. In this way they
ensure knowledge isn’t lost when employees leave or retire.
Key Considerations for Manufacturing Process Documentation
Ideally standards and SOPs should be documented by the
individual(s) doing the job. In doing
this, they should receive support and help from managers and potentially
industrial engineers. Standard Operating Procedures produced by those using them are most likely to accurately
match what truly takes place. Also there is a vested interest and a sense of
responsibility, if you produce the set of rules to which have to work. Ideally
to get the best SOPs, individuals should be clear about the benefits they
deliver and why they are necessary. Business benefits are good, but personal
benefits are more likely to produce the most effective SOPs. Think about and
establish these before starting.
The advantages of personal
incentives should not be underestimated. Buy in and commitment from the
workforce is central to maintaining motivated employees. Responsibility for
drawing up and maintaining standards is part of this mix.
So what should Standard Operating Procedures look like?
Well there are a number of common considerations worth including:
Essential steps necessary to undertake a task or process. These should be clearly listed in sequence.
The steps may also show the expected time taken, together with other details such as any materials or inventory, quantities and helpful information.
Standards may take different forms, for example checklists or flow charts. Visible standards such as these are often better received and therefore more likely to be followed.
Photo images and diagrams, together with colour coding, add to the relevance and visual appeal of SOPs.
Standard Operating Procedures should clearly define what is expected with no ambiguity. They should be easily understandable.
SOPs should be quick and easy to update. In the spirit of continuous improvement, rapid updates should be both possible and encouraged when opportunities to improve processes are identified. Version control should manage changes.
Standards should pay particular attention to quality. Information
about specialist tasks, or those that are particularly tricky should be
highlighted with helpful tips.
Consider showing the correct way, positioned next to the wrong way, in
side-by-side images to highlight key points.
Related to this, standards should not only highlight what is expected
when things are normal, but also what to do if things go wrong. This may
include what the operator can do themselves to rectify the situation, as
well as contact numbers or email
addresses for more problematic issues.
As well as production staff, managers and design engineers should
also consider documenting standards for the processes they follow.
SOPs should be enforced by managers. All employees should be clear
about what is expected of them and what the implications are, both for the
product and the individual if standards are not followed.
Where as procedures may initially sound
bureaucratic, they need not be. Aim for light touch standards that list
the minimum required to obtain the desired level of quality. Again, use images and flow
charts to communicate what is expected. Short is better than long.
standards to employees. Mount copies of them where they should be used – at
the workstation, in the production cell or elsewhere on the shop floor. Use
them in training and refresher courses. Refer to them in meetings when
discussing quality. Ensure they are widely and easily available on the
company IT network.
Standard Operating Procedures form the basis for ISO and other quality
management system accreditation. Apart from demonstrating controlled
processes and professionalism, they are a prerequisite for tendering for
work in the supply chains of key industry sectors.
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