Lean Consulting and Training


Standard Operating Procedures

Development and documentation of standard operating procedures (SOP's) is critical in all organizations. In order to maintain consistency your organization should not simply look for "results". More important than results are the "methods". When an organization focuses strictly on results or bottom line they are overlooking a more important factor. How did we achieve these results? Predictability is established through fully understanding the methods. The ability to recreate or duplicate results is found through the development and implementation of standard operating procedures.

This becomes even more critical in organizations that seek to continuously improve. When opportunities for improvement are identified and implemented the new methods must be standardized. In organizations which are highly "change driven" developing SOP's can become a full-time effort.

These standard operating procedures ensure consistency and also serve as valuable tools for identifying problems and new opportunities for improvement. Another benefit is an improved learning curve.

In addition to maintaining current SOP's it is also recommended to update process maps and process flow diagrams in parallel with SOP modification (not to be confused with value stream mapping which is an important element of our lean strategy consulting and training). This should become common practice in your organization. The benefits are numerous.

The very best advice I can offer related to SOPs is a quote by Taiichi Ohno of Toyota. Standard operating procedures can not be written from the comfort of an office behind a desk. The must be tried and revised many times in the production plant or work area.

They also can not be written without the assistance of those that perform the work. They are the experts. Even an engineer that designed the work will not be able to provide the expertise of those that do the work day in and day out. When developing standard operating procedures it is best, as mentioned, to involve the workers (notice the plural) and to utilize a cross-functional team capable of providing numerous views of the work as it must be done. 

Standardization is also an important element of 5S.

If you need assistance with development of standard operating procedures or in training cross-functional teams please contact us. We will not only assist with SOP development; but during the process, typically identify improvement opportunities that were previously unseen.


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