[You can download your SOP Template checklist at the end of this article]
Here’s how to do SOPs the right way. Every time.
Creating standard operating procedures is easier with an SOP template, period.
In an industry that values efficiency, modern manufacturers shouldn't have to start from scratch every time they set out to create and define Standard Operating Procedures [SOPs].
We’ve created a series of instructional best practices and defined them below. Supervisors, operators, and anyone creating digital work instructions can use these best practices to help teams capture and share knowledge in the most effective way.
The combination of an action oriented instruction platform and a reference such as an SOP template takes the guesswork out of the instruction authoring process.
A clear structure is absolutely necessary when creating effective SOPs for the shop floor. Not only does an intelligent structure ensure that knowledge is immediately usable and scannable, but an effective design can actually help your users navigate through the content.
Below, we’ve gathered the best practices for you to create an effective structure.
Define the topic.
The topic of each work instruction is usually the most accessible and generally recognized portion of each task on the shop floor. It’s important to make work instructions immediately accessible in order to encourage action and streamline processes on the shop floor.
This SOP template provides a few tips to keep your topics immediately understandable, below.
Keep it visual.
Use instruction cover pictures to clearly illustrate each process on an immediately recognizable visual level. To learn more about what makes for an effective visual, check out our post on the subject.
Titles go a long way.
Our instructional design principles teach us that a clear visual paired with a small amount of text goes a long way in quickly conveying meaning to users.
This same principle applies to the way we structure our work instructions. The customized titles you apply to work instructions helps to give users an immediate idea of what work will be accomplished in each step.
Great titles do the following:
- Define and shape the overall structure of your work instructions, while still giving them a sense of flow. This sense of flow helps create understanding in digital work instructions.
- Communicate each step as a discrete task, separate from the others around it.
- Help to indicate where in the factory, and with which materials, the task will be completed.
Remember, designing effective SOPs is only productive if you keep the end user in mind while designing them. When in doubt, ask yourself: what would I like to see in a work instruction?
With work instructions and their individual steps, less is more. When designing and writing SOPs, make sure to break each procedure into its smallest step.
The best way to do this? Limit each step to a single action. A good rule is to limit each bit of text to only include a single verb.
For example: “Turn the wrench until you hear a click and remove the filler cap” can be separated into 2 individual steps:
- Turn the wrench until you hear a click
- Remove the filler cap
Simplifying the concepts within your SOP templates will help support the flow and understanding we discussed above, as well as limit opportunities for confusion on the shop floor. As you well know, unclear and overly complex SOPs can lead to expensive mistakes and downtime.
As we explored above, clear visuals help reduce ambiguity and clearly explain complex concepts, wherever they’re used in SOPs. In this case, a great digital work instruction platform will empower users to include a visual at each step.
Follow these simple guidelines when every time you use this SOP template and create great visuals for your digital work instructions:
- Clearly show the action. Visuals don’t do us much good if they obscure the most relevant part of the SOP.
- Use very simple animated GIFs if possible. It’s much easier to explain a simple action with a few frames of motion, rather than a still image.
- Use a model! Your SOPs will be used by humans, so demonstrate what each action looks like being performed by a person.
- Lighting and framing go a long way - include all clear and relevant details in the shot, but be sure not to include too much. Irrelevant details can cause distraction and confusion on the shop floor.
- Support with graphical pointers as much as possible. Your SOP software should include the tools you need to make these simple and effective mockups.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. It’s the combination of words and visuals that create effective SOPs for the shop floor. In addition to our pointers above about limiting each step to a single action you can follow these guidelines to crafting effective text.
- Simple - One action, one verb. If this isn’t the case, strongly consider creating an additional step.
- Limit jargon - We get it! The manufacturing industry is full of jargon and industry terminology. But this isn’t helpful to new learners, and jargon should be kept to an absolute minimum. Instead, describe each component in plain, literal language.
- Action oriented - Our goal is to promote action, so our language should follow suit. Consider starting your sentences with a verb wherever possible.
- Active Voice - Help support the action-oriented nature of your SOPs and keep things simple by always using the active voice.
In order to keep instructions and SOPs as simple as possible, we limit the amount of information presented in each step. However, we often need to include other essential information - without breaking the simplicity and flow of the work instruction.
Solutions like the SwipeGuide Step Notes feature allow us to add this information in a minimalistic and unobtrusive way. Make sure to click here to learn more about how Step Notes can help enhance the digital SOP experience.
There you have it, all the basic information you need to start creating the most effective and user-focused SOPs for any task that might need doing. This SOP template can help address frequent missteps and commonly asked questions.
But when in doubt, it helps to ask the advice of the experts. At SwipeGuide, we believe in working closely with our customers to perform in-depth instruction reviews and workshops to put these principles into practice.