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SOPs in Manufacturing - Has anyone got a management process that works?

R

Rob H

#1
SOPs are the answer to everything.

They are the wedge that holds the wheel of progress steady on it's uphill journey. They are the magic bullet in Toyota's global dominance and process leadership. They are the Holy Grail of manufacturing.

However. They are an onerous task to write, they are owned, badly, always by management or support functions. Even if "the Team" write them, they forget about them after a day or too. The forms gather dust on the shop floor in their lovely plastic display folders, or live hidden in the bottom of a menu hierarchy that had logic at one time in a computer system.

Occasionaly an ISO auditor checks on them, and if they have been signed and appear updated and look like official forms, then everyone is happy.

But they are not updated, checked, used, remembered or believed in. They are a tick box exercise that gets ticked and then allowed to gether dust. They are a compromised snpshot in time. They are a waste of time, and a waste of money that is used to try to drive in Lean Production. The shop floor aren't stupid. They see the mixed messages, and make their own conclusions.

I have jaunted around the world of manufacturing, geographically and segmentally and have never seen an SOP fulfill it's potential.

In my factory I have Safety Risk assessments owned by Safety. Quality Process documentation owned by Quality. Industrial Engineering Process documentation owned by Industrial Engineers. And training documentation owned by Training. I know deep down a good SOP can combine these, make then usefull, and used, and genuinely add value to my organistaion. But I don't know how to do this.

Truthfully now, does anyone work in a manufacturing organisation where SOPs work? And if so what do they look like, and how are they managed?

Robin in Essex, England
 
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somashekar

Staff member
Super Moderator
#2
Welcome here Rob H ~~~
Hmmm...SOP's do not work, people work. So if the SOP's are not made with the involvement of people who have finally got to use it, it begins to gather dust just like your description.
SOP's are made by the people for the people. If only people were to be programmable devices, there would have been no SOP's necessary.
There are good SOP's, bad SOP's and even ugly SOP's. That is because it is either overdone or underdone. Another aspect is that the SOP's at most times never are considered dynamic and live. This is because the need for an SOP is not felt but thrust upon. As maturity happens in a system and same people continue to do the tasks, SOP takes a backseat. However business dynamics, technology change and people change are natural and so the SOP must be. A soiled, stained and dirty SOP is more better that one neatly kept in a file or hung out within a sheet protector, for it shows that the SOP is referred to. Any SOP must be able to double up as a training material if it is really to be an useful document.
Without prejudice. I sense that you are seeking for perfection in SOP, while the SOP and its purpose must be evolved and its type and style will have to slowly show the maturity over time.
what do they look like, and how are they managed?
They must look simple, readable, understandable, pictorial where necessary, available, valid and current for the intended people.
 
Last edited:

Peter Fraser

Trusted Information Resource
#3
Rob

If it describes a process, use a deployment flowchart and do away with excess narrative. If it describes a detailed task, stick with a concise work instruction - with pictures if necessary.
 
M

Markaich

#4
I think that saying "SOPs are the answer to everything" is taking things a little too far, and is probably incorrect anyway. What is important is that staff are both technically competent in a general sense and competent in your organisation's way of doing things.

Technical competence comes from years of experience, training, education, learning from mistakes etc etc etc. The local competence, knowing how a specific organisation does things, comes from various sources, one of which is SOPs...they can be called all sorts of things, but essentially, they are there to translate all the technical, safety, quality, environmental into a single set of instruction to produce goods (or services) that meet the needs of all interested parties (customers, regulators, management, society, etc etc etc).

In my dim and distant past, I worked with a number of companies supplying the Nissan factory in Sunderland, UK. Their approach to SOPs was fairly simple:

1) SOPs were used as the base training materials for opeators on the production line. Competence was measured using their I,L,U process to establish an operators ability to perform the task, to time, quality and safety parameters without reference to the document.

2) SOPs where 'owned' by the production team leader, who ensured that all people were trained to and assessed against the SOP.

3) SOPs were temporary...that is, it was expected that improvements were made to productivity, time, quality, safety etc. To this end, they were written, by the production team members, in pencil. Changes were only made if it could be demonstrated that the change would improve any one of the parameters that made the process effective and that it would not adversely affect the other paramenters...this decision was taken by the team leader, not some other remote 'expert' (e.g. quality, safety, etc).

4) SOPs described the way production operators acheived (total) quality not the way that technical experts thought they should, hence the authorship by the production team. technical experts were consulted and even tasked with producing tooling etc to implement the production team's requirements...they were a service to production rather than a regulator of production.

This approach may not be evrybody's cup of tea, but it certainly made the Sunderland factory one of the most efficient in europe, so they must have been doing something right.

Hope this helps
M
 

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#5
SOPs are the answer to everything.

They are the wedge that holds the wheel of progress steady on it's uphill journey. They are the magic bullet in Toyota's global dominance and process leadership. They are the Holy Grail of manufacturing.

However. They are an onerous task to write, they are owned, badly, always by management or support functions. Even if "the Team" write them, they forget about them after a day or too. The forms gather dust on the shop floor in their lovely plastic display folders, or live hidden in the bottom of a menu hierarchy that had logic at one time in a computer system.

Occasionaly an ISO auditor checks on them, and if they have been signed and appear updated and look like official forms, then everyone is happy.

But they are not updated, checked, used, remembered or believed in. They are a tick box exercise that gets ticked and then allowed to gether dust. They are a compromised snpshot in time. They are a waste of time, and a waste of money that is used to try to drive in Lean Production. The shop floor aren't stupid. They see the mixed messages, and make their own conclusions.

I have jaunted around the world of manufacturing, geographically and segmentally and have never seen an SOP fulfill it's potential.

In my factory I have Safety Risk assessments owned by Safety. Quality Process documentation owned by Quality. Industrial Engineering Process documentation owned by Industrial Engineers. And training documentation owned by Training. I know deep down a good SOP can combine these, make then usefull, and used, and genuinely add value to my organistaion. But I don't know how to do this.

Truthfully now, does anyone work in a manufacturing organisation where SOPs work? And if so what do they look like, and how are they managed?

Robin in Essex, England
Welcome to the Cove. :bigwave:

I think you're making the familiar error of confusing the container for the thing contained. There are processes, and there are process documents. Processes can exist without process documents, but not the other way around.

Having good process documentation won't, by itself, make processes better. Better processes are created by people who, if they're prudent, will document what they've created. The documentation serves two primary purposes: it describes the manner in which a process must operate, and serves as a record of process design. If a process isn't working as expected, it's due to poor process design or other factors mostly unrelated to the quality of the documentation.
 
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