SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) : What are good ones

China Manufacturing Lean Optimization - Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

# SOP indicate the tools, jig and other accessories needed to perform the task.

Best SOP I have seen indicate what are the tools necessary for the worker to perform his work properly. Do they need a particular screw driver, gauge, caliper or anything else to make their work properly ? This should be indicated clearly and ideally those tools, jig and other accessories location should be indicated too with reference number to avoid workers to use wrong tools. Most of time production manager will be in charge of distribute and set those tools but yet it doesn’t cost much for the worker to verify it quickly when he receive it.

# SOP are easily readable

This is one of the fundamental principles of lean manufacturing and 5S methodology : make everything visual and keep it simple. If you want your worker perform well, they first need interested in what they do. I found out that many workers are actually happy to learn and not just executing like robots all day long. 

Make your documentation attractive and “read appealing » so your worker will have the drive to read them at least once, or better even every time before they restart working (rare case).

# SOP are in color

If like me you have audited a high number of factories and manufacturer you have probably noticed that many manufacturers indeed print SOP, but they print in black and white for saving money. Most of good SOP include pictures rather than just text, but have you noticed how often those SOP are with pictures which are unreadable ? This is no use to make SOP if workers can not read and understand them easily. By printing them in color, most of time pictures are more readable, hence your SOP more “read appealing ».

# SOP are really read before starting production 

There is no use to make SOP and put them on the line if they are not used. I don’t count how many time I have audited factory with SOP on the line on the top of the workers head while questioning the workers about what is written on the SOP and hearing an answer totally different from the truth of what is written on the SOP.

# SOP are in bilingual

Very very very few factories does it (because most of time their clients never ask it to do it) but still it is very useful to have SOP in bilingual: local language one side and english on the other. Indeed, having local language is best to have local workers and production managers to be able to read the documents. 

On the other side, if you are a careful and organized buyer you might want to be able to read those data sheet. Obviously, you may not be fluent in Chinese, Cambodia, thai or any other language where your production is taking place so having them in English is a great advantage to be able to verify and control that manufacturing process are according to what it should be.

# SOP are on one sheet of paper

Ideally, it is better to have everything on one single page. It is not always possible, but if you have the chance that your SOP can be on only one page then you should do it. There is nothing more troublesome and boring than having a very long. If more than one sheet of paper is needed (what is not recommended but sometime necessary) then make sure the page have page number such as 1/2 and 2/2 so that the reader will know another page is present on the SOP.

# SOP are placed in front of the workers and are easily available

There is no use to make some SOP or any other documentation if nobody read them. The best way to have your employees to read and use SOP really is to have this SOP in front of them all the time, so if they have a doubt they don’t even need to stand up to read a SOP placed above their head, they just need to turn their eyes to read about what is written on the SOP.

# BONUS about SOP (Standard Operating Procedure)

Below are a few more tricks I use to make good SOP and how to optimize manufacturing

If you need a template in Word format of Standard Operating Procedure in bilingual English/ Chinese for your workers, you can download one here.

About Christopher Oliva 77 Articles
Christopher Oliva is an Engineer based in Shenzhen since 2008 involved in Product Development, Supply Chain, Sourcing, Quality Management and Manufacturing activities. With a Msc Electrical Engineering and a Business Administration background, an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor Certification, a Six Sigma Certification and a Quality Engineering Certification, he works as a consultant on mission and contract oriented to Product Development, Manufacturing Management, Quality Assurance & Quality Management System setup. He works in the product development and engineering field, and as well as an advisor and quality consultant for several quality control and quality assurance companies.

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