Standard Operating Procedure Templates & SOP Checklists

Track performance of standard operating procedures and improve workplace efficiency

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Published November 19th, 2020

What is a Standard Operating Procedure?

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a standardized process that outlines a set of detailed instructions to help workers perform complex tasks properly and safely. The main objective of standard operating procedures is to develop an effective quality system and comply with industry-specific regulations and standards. Failure to follow SOPs can cause significant errors in production and operations, increasing unwanted work variations.

This article covers:

What is an SOP Template?

An SOP template is a document format used to create an organization’s standard operating procedures and avoid common mistakes such as making them too long that no one will read them. SOP templates are also step-by-step in nature and used to prevent being too detailed that people could subjectively interpret standard operating procedures or too negative that people will not be encouraged to do them.

The Purpose of a Standard Operating Procedure Template

Using a well-designed standard operating procedure template, or standard operating procedure form, makes it easier for managers and employees to put the best practices for a specific job to be done or an established business process into a clearly-communicated, systematically-written document.

Use Cases of Standard Operating Procedures

SOPs are commonly used across different industries such as manufacturing, hospitality, construction, and pharmaceutical industries. These procedures are designed for:

  • quality and compliance;
  • routine or highly repetitive activities;
  • high-risk tasks;
  • new processes or line of business; and
  • training program initiatives.

Benefits of Implementing a Standard Operating Procedure

Businesses often do not invest enough resources into creating SOPs for their workforce. Often cited reasons include the significant time investment required, limited trained staff to create them and difficulties with tracking whether staff use and perform them.

However, there are significant benefits of incorporating an SOP into a workplace which should encourage trainers and managers to invest the relevant time into building SOPs. Here are just 4 benefits of using an SOP in your workplace:

  • SOP Benefit #1: Improves efficiency and quality

    Variations in work processes can compromise quality and work efficiency. Implementing SOPs help prevent this scenario by helping to standardizing all critical processes and reduce work variations. SOPs also assist with improving the Quality Management System (QMS) and can prepare the organization to pass relevant ISO certification and comply with regulatory requirements.

    SOP Example: Food Manufacturing Industry

    Common food manufacturing SOPs cover tasks such as handwashing, cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces, and proper packaging process. This applies to all the employees working in the facility to maintain food safety standards and prevent contamination of food, ingredients and packaging materials.

  • SOP Benefit #2:Facilitates employee training

    SOPs complement training materials to educate workers and serve as a guide for onboarding new hires. Senior staff with relevant job experience should also be involved in drafting the SOP procedures and steps. SOPs are an effective tool to supplement classroom and supervised training as workers can follow steps at their own pace when performing their duties.

    SOP Example: Pharmaceutical Industry

    Common pharmaceutical SOPs cover tasks such as dispensing, sourcing of medicines, and expiry date checking. SOPs help ensure that pharmacists assist in protecting the safety of the patients and reduce unintended omissions and errors in dispensing correct drugs to patients.

  • SOP Benefit #3:Increases profitability

    Following SOPs can help ensure consistent and high-quality delivery or products and services. It helps improve and maintain brand standards and customer satisfaction. This is important to ensure smooth business operations and overall profitability.

    SOP Example: Hospitality Industry

    Common hotel SOPs cover tasks such as general housekeeping, bed making, dining, and performing pest control treatments. This is essential to maintain the quality and consistency of service and standards in a hotel and provide good customer care and experience.

  • SOP Benefit #4: Ensures a healthy and safe environment

    SOPs describe in detail how to safely perform work involving hazardous processes, materials, equipment, and conditions. These procedures help reinforce strict compliance in safety protocols to prevent unforeseen accidents and fatalities.

    SOP Example: Construction Industry

    Common construction SOPs cover tasks such as toolbox talk or pre-work meetings, risk assessments, and job safety analysis. This is vital to discuss and evaluate high-risk tasks that workers will perform and develop ways on how to perform these tasks safely.

Sample SOP Outline and Format

  • Title Page – contains the complete SOP title, SOP number, date of approval or version number, the name and signature of the author, the name and signature of the person authorizing the SOP, and their dates of signing respectively.
  • Table of Contents – indicate page numbers and the total number of pages of the SOP
  • Purpose – establishes the objectives and scope of the standard operating procedure
  • Procedures – provides unambiguous and imperative descriptions of each process step
  • Quality Assurance – states the criteria for the control of the described product/service, system or process
  • References – any related SOPs of operations used in the present SOP

How to Write A Standard Operating Procedure Effectively

SOP templates come in various forms depending on the purpose, industry, and audience and can range from process manuals to checklists or flow diagrams. However, an effective general SOP template should focus on three key areas:

  1. Purpose – states a clear objective of what needs to be accomplished and why it is important. This should answer the essential questions such as “What is the target process?”, “Why write an SOP for this process?” and “What needs to be improved in this process?”. A clearly written purpose should help staff understand why they are following the relevant SOP procedures rather than simply performing process for the sake of process.

    SOP Purpose Example (office housekeeping):

    The purpose of this SOP is to outline housekeeping services and to ensure that workstations are free of debris and clutter. This is vital to maintaining a safe work environment and to prevent any minor or major incidents from occurring.

  2. Scope – outlines what specific tasks are covered for the intended audience is. This should cover who should be following the SOP and list the relevant duties and responsibilities that the SOP covers. It may also be helpful to outline what is out of scope for this particular SOP and reference other documents that the audience can refer to for other tasks.

    SOP Scope Example (office housekeeping):

    This standard operating procedure is intended to guide facility management staff in covering the following office housekeeping duties:

    – Window cleaning

    – Carpet care

    – Dusting

    – Waste disposal

    This document does not cover identifying equipment damage and repair work. Refer to the office incident report SOP for those tasks.

  3. Procedures – list of detailed steps to effectively perform the duties as stated in the scope. Procedure steps  should be written in an orderly, concise and easy-to-read structure. Keep all steps direct and avoid including irrelevant or unnecessary information for that process. Pictures or illustrations can be included for a more comprehensive and clearer presentation of SOP.

What is iAuditor and how can I use it for creating effective SOPs?

Paper based SOP documents make it challenging to track whether staff are following and completing the procedures in their daily duties. iAuditor by SafetyCulture is an effective digital SOP tool to make it easier for staff to use and provide visibility and record keeping to trainers and managers that tasks are being completed properly.

With the iAuditor mobile app and web platform you can:

  • Create paperless standard operating procedure checklists for every significant task
  • Read and perform SOP procedures on your handheld device
  • Capture photos for supportive evidence of SOP steps being completed
  • Capture electronic signatures
  • Submit your SOPs to your supervisor anytime, anywhere
  • Secure all SOPs in cloud storage for review purposes. View sample report of a standard operating procedure PDF here.

Author

Carlo Sheen Escano

SafetyCulture staff writer

Carlo Sheen Escano is a contributing writer for SafetyCulture based in Makati City, Philippines. Sheen has experience in digital marketing and has been writing for SafetyCulture since 2018. His articles mainly discuss risks in the workplace and well-known safety and quality processes used to mitigate them. Furthermore, Sheen is passionate about providing insights to global customers on how technology can help them to do the best work of their lives.