SOPs for Manufacturing Industry
There is no better way to realize the importance of the manufacturing industry than to recognize that it fulfils the tangible needs of the world. From needles to aeroplanes, it is the manufacturing industry that brings products to existence. Apparels, chemicals, food, electronics, industrial machinery and equipment, petroleum, metal, tobacco, automobile, etc. are all output of the manufacturing industry. Any disruption or deficiency in manufacturing is capable of slowing down an economy. There is a big responsibility on manufacturing enterprises, both in the private and public sector, to ensure that they have robust processes so that their functioning is not compromised and they continue to meet the output obligations. But problems emerge for these enterprises when their operations begin to go astray from the minute levels to become big concerns later on. And that happens more frequently than we imagine because of poor processes and management systems that falter along the way. When we talk of processes and operations, the focus is not on the external influences but on how enterprises in the manufacturing industry can have strong internal functions.
Challenges faced due to poor Processes and Management Systems
Low Production. A manufacturer may have to face low production levels because of mechanical or engineering failure, inaccurate procurement of raw materials, low employee productivity, slow internal decision-making and communications, etc. For example, periodical check-up of machines and equipment can help identify problems and keep them in good working conditions. But someone has to be assigned that responsibility along with the operational procedure and reporting formats. The reporting authority must be further made accountable for receiving these reports and taking corrective actions to conclusions. When monitoring and reporting activities are not defined and mapped, there will be shirking of responsibilities which will eventually hurt productivity.
Poor Quality Control. A manufacturer needs to maintain the standards of quality on two scales – the first one to meet customers/clients requirements and expectations and the second one to meet applicable regulatory parameters. From the sourcing of raw materials to the final output, adequate QC filters (with parameters and procedures) must be placed so that only the right output passes through to the next stage of the manufacturing process. If proper quality checkpoints are not present in the system, faulty inputs will be processed that may lead to the manufacturing of defective products. Or worse, faulty inputs may cause damage to machinery and equipment leading to an operation halt.
Compromise with Safety Standards. Safety is a big priority in any manufacturing plant or process and not having stringent operating procedures could be an invitation to disasters. Nothing should be left to chance when it comes to maintaining the standards of safety. But if the processes and operations are not planned and defined considering the safety requirements and prescribed/required protocols to be followed, it shall amount to increased exposure to operational risks and attracting regulatory penalties as well.
Low Performance and Productivity. If good levels of performance and productivity are to be ensured from employees, businesses must also create a robust operational framework. All the efforts put into recruitment and training would be rendered ineffective if duties and responsibilities are not defined properly. To measure performance and productivity, certain benchmarks have to be created and communicated. Employees must also know and comprehend what they are supposed to be doing to accomplish their role in the organization. But if the business processes and operations, that are carried out by employees or with their involvement, are not planned, defined, and mapped in terms of procedures, resource requirements, standards of performance and output, authority-responsibility, and reporting and feedback, what employees will deliver is unlikely to be in tandem with the process and operational objectives.
Communication Gaps Leading to Disruption. In business and business processes, communication between positions, teams and departments is vital to continue the chain of operations through decision-making and action. If the business processes and systems are not designed to ensure affirmative flow of formal communication, it is certain to create gaps in sharing of data and information that will further lead to operational activities being carried out or business decisions being made with insufficient information. Correct and timely information-sharing is vital to ensure smooth flow of business activities and achieving the intended process outputs. For example, if the production team has no reporting format to share with the engineering department, the problem details received by the latter could be insufficient to find the right solution.
Inaccuracy in Procurement. Given the importance of timely availability of input materials for a manufacturing enterprise, strong inventory management and procurement process become a necessity. To ensure consistent and successful procurement, the operational activities involved in it have to be planned and defined taking into consideration every minute detail. It has to consider aspects like when to initiate a reorder request, who is authorized to raise a purchase request, how the requirements have to be specified, who will authorize the purchase, who will check the quality, etc. Everyone’s duties and responsibilities from initiating to completing the procurement process must be established in clear and unambiguous terms.
Poor Maintenance of Assets. As machinery and equipment are subject to wear and tear and depreciation, adequate measures must be institutionalized to ensure that these assets remain in working condition and long-term funds are being created for their replacement. The better the handling and care of an asset is the longer shall be its life span. Therefore, assigning duties and responsibilities for asset maintenance and guidelines for their proper utilization is a must. If the working systems do not have such provisions, assets will be more prone to malfunctioning and if it goes on unchecked for too long, such assets will not last as long as they are supposed to.
Benefits of SOPs to Manufacturing Industry
Standardization. When people buy a product successively, they expect a similar or better product experience every time. We can take the example of the beverage brands available in the market. These brands ensure that the taste of the product remains the same irrespective of the volume of production, the time of consumption (within the expiry period), the format of packaging, etc. They are able to achieve this objective with standardization of the manufacturing process. What is standardization? The sameness in how a process is being carried out with respect to a set of established standards is standardization. SOPs or Standard Operating Procedures (SOP manufacturing) is critical to achieving standardization of manufacturing processes. It is important that employees follow the same set of procedures every time to execute the operational activities. When this happens, consistency is gained in the output generated irrespective of who carried it out or when as the focus shifts to the ‘how’ of the process.
Quality Assurance. SOPs establish the operational provision for the necessary quality control activities. With quality control (QC) SOPs in place or the quality control duties incorporated into the operational responsibilities of the concerned teams/employees, an organization creates for itself the operational provision for quality control. The QC SOPs further defines how the quality checks have to be done and who will do it, at what time, whom should be reported to, etc. Having such a system helps to ensure that the right input materials make it to the manufacturing plant and the next stage of processing (if quality check is necessary) and only the products that conform to the required quality standards finds a passage to distribution and marketing.
Adherence to Safety and Security Standards. Just like quality can be better assured with the help of SOPs, the same idea holds for ensuring adherence to the laid-down safety and security standards. The required protocols need to be given a place in the operational routines through SOPs. For example, mock drills are common, especially in factories and manufacturing plants. The SOPs could define how the mock drills would be carried out, what safety and backup measures will have to be created first, the conditions for carrying out a mock drill, how the results will be measured, what improvements could be made, authority-responsibility, etc.
Guide map for Employees and Easier Supervision. Being human, we are always prone to forgetting minor details or end up making silly errors. The room for mistakes or deviations should be avoided. How? The answer is ensuring better operations by implementing SOPs. It is easier for employees if they have an operational guide map that they can refer to. It can be placed somewhere convenient where they can see it easily while on the job. More importantly, it will help them stick to the standards of performance and output. For supervising duties, SOPs help to ascertain the criteria for monitoring and supervision.
Reduced Downtime. Can SOP for manufacturing industry or SOP for manufacturing units help in reducing downtime? The answer is yes. SOPs help employees follow the right path of activities while maintaining the operational standards at every step. SOPs can be used for routine asset maintenance and repair. Procurement decisions can be streamlined using SOPs leading to steady flow of materials for production. We discussed earlier how SOPs can help in QMS (Quality Management System) by ensuring that only the right materials and final products flow in and flow out respectively. SOPs provide the foundation for process automation and better business process management (BPM). Achieving these objectives is critical to ensure that downtime is brought down to the minimum levels. Also, various lean manufacturing techniques can be applied using SOPs.