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SOP in Manufacturing – Essential Guide

Everything you need to know about Standard Operating Procedure.

Table of Contents

Maruti Suzuki, an Indo-Japanese car manufacturer easily manages to achieved a Year-on-Year sales of 1,00,000+ units. Ever wondered how was that possible? Well, the ability to manufacture same units at different locations within specific lead times make it possible. Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in manufacturing is the magic ingredient that puts everything together to be able to meet the market demand and product value. This guide will delve you into understanding the facets of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in Manufacturing.

What is SOP?

SOP, the abbreviation of Standard Operating Procedure is an official document with elaborate instructions that govern the performing of a task. An SOP is specific to a given operation that describes the ways to perform activities required to complete a job / task in compliance with industry standards, federal laws and own vision-mission practices. Standing operating procedures addresses nuts and bolts of conducting a job with specifics and details, eliminating scope for errors.

What is SOP in Manufacturing?

A manufacturing SOP is a documented set of instructions that help workers perform routine manufacturing tasks repeated without any error. An SOP in manufacturing guides manufacturers and workers by providing step-by-step instructions that define how to conduct a job in industry operations or repetitive businesses to achieve desired results.

The SOP in manufacturing industry can be employed for manual as well as automated tasks. SOP in manufacturing also serves as a guide for safe work practices. Compliance with manufacturing SOPs boost production efficiency, promote operations stability, eliminate quality defects, and ensures brand development in the global market.

Process Vs Procedure

Process and procedure are different terms used to address different actions in manufacturing. Although, the two terms are often confused and used as synonyms, they mean different in operations and management of industries.

What is Process?

A process is a set or combination of events, activities, tasks or jobs that together turn inputs into desired outputs. It is high-level oriented.

Example: Take a fast-food outlet that makes fried chicken as an example. The process with is pretty simple. It starts with placing an order and billing. Following the order, the staff begin working on pulling out marinated chicken, frying the chicken, adding spices, tossing it into a box and finally serving it to the customer. Each step here, put together makes a whole process

What is Procedure?

A procedure is a prescribed and authorized way of undertaking a process or part of a process. It is detail-oriented.

Example: Taking the same example of the fast-food outlet. Previously, the process of getting a box of fried chicken was analysed. Similarly, each step in the process involves several procedures. Before taking an order, the staff might have been instructed to greet the customer with a smile. Greeting with smile is how a customer should be interacted with ahead of taking the order is a procedure. Using sterilized gloves while boxing your pack is also another procedure of how a packing is to be conducted.

Further exploring to understand the difference between process and procedures, it is in the best interest to chart the features. Here is a brief feature list of processes and procedures, respectively.

What is the benefits of Process?

The following are high level benefits driven by Process approach.


A process is typically measurable as it requires to meet a specific set of objectives. Processes being inherently measurable with its relation to objectives makes it possible to function as a series of activities. The fact that a process can be measured indicates if a process is being efficient or inefficient.

Value Vault :

Every process has the potential to either create or destroy value. The undertaking of each process is to be cautious for effective results in meeting determined objectives. Procedures in conducting each process determine its value generation.

Resource Utilization:

Each process utilizes resources in order to further convert resources / materials into desired finished outputs. As the output of one process become the resource for the next process, mindful consumption is encouraged. Resource consumption in processes determine production cycles, work efficiency and final output.

Specific Results:

In delivering a final output, there is possibility of having more than on process to ensure the effective quality of the final product. With many processes in place, each process will have specific results to be generated at its completion. As stated earlier, the output of one process become the input of the following process; therefore, the exact specific results are to be achieved.

Customers or Stakeholders :

Processes are not isolated. At the end of each process, either another process, stakeholder or customer is benefitted. It is impossible for processes to exist orphaned and ghosted. Processes exist to create value and benefit someone or something.

What is the benefits of Procedure?

The following are high level benefits driven by Procedure approach.

Guide to Action:

Procedures act as guide to actions of a process. Procedures often dictate the methods of conducting / executing tasks involved in a process. It varies from industry to industry and is curated to serve a company’s operations and repute.

Time-Sequence Oriented:

Procedures are time-sequence oriented as it specifies a way to execute a task within a timeframe following the sequence of activities in a process. By being time-sequenced, procedures channel organized flow of processes in manufacturing or any other industry in general.

Reflects Company Objectives, Policies :

 Procedures are crafted to not only dictate methods of doing a task but also to account for the policies and objectives of the company. Each company might adopt to follow a certain procedure to accomplish a certain task to suit the needs and repute of the company.

Control and Co-ordinate Activities :

As a technique or method of doings tasks / jobs, procedures innately possess the quality to control and co-ordinate activities in processes to achieve desired outputs. Procedures bring a sense of order in the operating of processes and accountability on the part of stakeholders.

Manages Regular Tasks:

With details that explicitly suggest the manner in which activities are to be conducted, procedures excel in managing regular and repetitive tasks in businesses. Procedures ease regular work at businesses by habituating methods through repetitive activities in completing processes.

Why SOP is required in Manufacturing?

SOP is required for any organization irrespective of the category it identifies itself. Particularly, a manufacturing enterprise is in the utmost need of an SOP to set the common code for conducting work. This section observes the need for SOP in manufacturing industry.


SOP in manufacturing serves as an effective communication tool. As it dictates correct methods of performing tasks, any newly introduced process improvements will be updated in the operating procedures, following training for each new update. In this manner, workers, managers and stakeholders remain informed with an official documented communication channel.

Consistency and Control :

 One of the primary reasons for an SOP in manufacturing is to imbibe the quality of consistency in individuals regarding the performing certain given set of tasks. When tasks from person to person become consistent, processes become more efficient, thereby reducing quality issues. SOPs in manufacturing enables to monitor and improve the team’s performance from time to time by paralleling their work in accordance with SOPs. 

Error Proof Work :

An established official document such as the Statement of Procedure, details instruction for performing a task / job. Teams are reinforced to perform tasks in compliance with SOP. When compliance with a manufacturing SOP is practiced, error proof work is an assured outcome.

Safety and Compliance:

 SOPs in manufacturing facilitate employees with critical guidelines to conduct their jobs in compliance with operational safety standards, health and environmental- friendly measures. Manufacturing SOP helps comply with company and government mandates. Prevents accidents and instructionally conduct assessments to fix faults and error.

Training and Onboarding :

On a relating note, SOP in manufacturing enables the easy training and onboarding of employees. Breaking SOP into brief instructions and checklists facilitates the delivery of valuable on-the-job training to new recruits and acquaint them to manufacturing processes at your business. SOP in manufacturing significantly helps re-training employees with every process change.

After analyzing why a standard operating procedure is required in manufacturing, it is ideal with moving to understand the components of SOP in manufacturing.

Components of SOP Manufacturing

Although the components in manufacturing SOP vary from company to company and process to process. The form of components that are essential in a manufacturing SOP are listed below.


Specific to a task / job, a manufacturing SOP must clearly define the purpose of work. It should also explicitly state the objectives of the work. Manufacturing SOP is required to established what challenges it aims to solve, whom it is addressed to along with how and where the SOP will be employed to conduct work.


The scope in a manufacturing SOP defines the area of applicability and its use in optimizing workflows. It is crucial that SOP state its scope in order to ensure that the right phases / domains in manufacturing are being addressed. 

Procedures :

This is the crux of an SOP. An ideal SOP is one that offers guidelines on how to complete tasks / jobs along with outlining the tasks. In a format that helps easy understanding, a manufacturing SOP explains all the necessary steps required for employees to conduct work.


A manufacturing SOP should indicate which teams are to perform a certain set of given tasks and who is to be contacted in case a problem arises. In addition to this, a manufacturing SOP recognizes the designate in-charge for process implementation, practice, reviews, updates and training for effective execution of SOP.

Measures Accountability :

With an intent to increase accountability among employees in manufacturing, a manufacturing SOP establishes responsibilities, thereby ensuring accountability for assigned projects. An informed SOP ensures accountable actions from employees that are measurable with status of outputs achieved.

Other components that accompany a manufacturing SOP are encapsulated in the herewith.

How to write SOP Manufacturing

Ensuring consistent work efficiency, complying with regulations, identifying value adds to reduce incompetency in processes need not necessarily be a daunting task. A well drafted manufacturing SOP is capable of thoroughly guiding employees with executing every step in completing tasks in the safest manner.

Although once drafted and established, a manufacturing SOP becomes an official operating document, the format is not officially universal, but is dynamic owing to meet the needs of company and work. The following steps are a brief outline on how an SOP for Manufacturing can be drafted. This section also compliments each step in drafting standard operating procedure with manufacturing SOPs example.

Step 1: Gather Data

The primary step is to gather information on the procedure, process, activity, event, task for which the SOP is being created. An expert or the employee responsible for conducting the person is to define clearly the procedure that is being standardized. 

Some of the questions that your data collection step should answer are captured in the data collection sample card.

  1. What is the procedure that we are standardizing?
  2. Why are we standardizing this procedure?
  3. How will we standardize this procedure? Detail the steps of procedures that will be standardized for performing regular tasks in the goal of achieving process completion and improvements?
  4. What are the pros and cons of standardizing this procedure?
  5. What are the assessment methods to determine the effectiveness of standardizing ways to perform tasks / jobs?

Step 2: Determine the Goal and Objectives

Following data collection is to think what must be accomplished with the act of establishing a manufacturing SOP. It is essential to determine the goal and set objectives in order to facilitate effective applicability of SOP within the boundaries and parameters of its specificity.

Manufacturing Process Compliance SOP | Example

The purpose / goal of this SOP is to ensure that the right steps are adhered in the process of final inspection and testing of cars at the facilities in India. The objectives of this SOP extend to achieve optimised resource utility for efficient production and waste reduction without hampering the quality standards.

Step 3: Define the Scope

The scope defines the extend of SOP and the boundaries of its applicability. The businesses processes for which the SOP is drafted must be clearly outlined. The scope of the SOP should state the limitations, assumptions (if any) and exceptions along with the team that will be engaging with it.

Manufacturing Process Compliance SOP | Example of Scope

  • Where will this SOP be Applicable?
    • Final Inspection and Testing Department
  • Which teams that will be required to follow this SOP?
    • Testing Engineers and Inspection Officers
  • Any limitations and exceptions of this SOP?
    • The scope of this SOP limits only to the final inspection and testing of automobiles

Step 4: Select a Format

Formats for SOP manufacturing are many in number. It is essential to select the right format to match the operating facility’s condition and needs. A manufacturing Statement of Procedure ideally follows the step-by-step format as it is a method that is crisp in providing information in an orderly manner. The step-by-step format is easy to follow and straightforward. On the same lines, there is the hierarchical format of SOP. 

The main differentiator is the fact that the hierarchical format goes on to furnish detailed and specific instruction for each step / action in a process. Another format that is found to be employee-friendly for decision making in the manufacturing business operations is the flowchart format where processes are illustrated. Manufacturers can choose one or combine formats, so long as it is appropriate and easy to grasp by your audience.

Step 5: Draft the Procedures

Based on the selected format, begin drafting the procedures / methods for conducting tasks relevant to the scope of SOP. An ideal principle to adhere when putting together an SOP is that of the 5 C’s; concise, clear, correct, courteous, compelling. Ensuring that the 5 C’s are met in the drafting the SOP, eliminates guesswork in performing procedures and affirms that each step is performed consistently.

Manufacturing Process Compliance SOP | Example of Procedures

  1. Gear up with necessary safety suits.
  2. Ensure each part testing facility is available and tidy to conduct inspection.
  3. Activate vents before starting the testing process.
  4. Set compliance check methods and standards for each type of inspection and quality check.
  5. Conduct electronics testing.
  6. Conduct dynamic components testing.
  7. Conduct Fuel tank and cooling system testing.
  8. Pursue Visual safety testing.
  9. Pursue tyre and wheel testing.
  10. Ensure battery checks.
  11. Buckle up and proceed with a test drive.
  12. Approve and send for supply.

Step 6: Review, Test, Edit and Implement

Soon after the SOP is drafted, it must be sent to team members for a thorough review. A test run of the drafted procedures in the SOP can be conducted to evaluate the practicable applicability of the steps. If the test generates a positive outcome that dictates practical steps for enhanced functioning of processes, it can be passed and quickly implemented. If it proves otherwise, driving any confusion or hindering work efficiency, then it must be re-looked, edited or improved ahead of final implementation.

Step 7: Re-Visit, Improvise and Update

When an approved SOP is active and in practice, it does not mean that it is going to be the same draft that will be effective for years to come. Change is inevitable, processes are dynamic and so must be the procedures / steps to achieve tasks and processes. Therefore, it is mandatory for businesses to re-visit existing SOP and improvise procedures to suit processes and compete competitors in the global markets. The updates are to be jotted and inculcated in the SOP indicating new updates to all employees. Else a new updates SOP can be reviewed, sent for final approval and implemented.

With exploring the steps to write and SOP accompanies the need to understand the benefits of SOP. The next section follows with the benefits of SOP in manufacturing.

Benefits of SOP Manufacturing

In the manufacturing industry, establishing and operating in-line with SOP is critical. It defines the very accuracy and trajectory of events in the processes of manufacturing. SOP helps achieve process efficiency, uniform performance (machines and workers), regulatory compliance and high-quality output. This section briefs on the crucial benefits that are also recognized as importance of SOP in manufacturing.


The primary purpose of a standard operating procedure is to officially establish and enable the practice of a standard way of completing tasks. Assigning approved SOPs ensure that workers always perform tasks consistently in the same manner across manufacturing facilities and production lines. Manufacturing SOPs facilitates process streamlining, improve process stability and help management make informed decisions on how efficiently a standardized procedure works. It omits inconsistency and delegates workers to conduct work


Managers constantly seek to improve production efficiency with the contribution of their teams. SOPs can be of great help to managers, stakeholders and teams in general. With an established SOP workforces function more efficiently with measurable performance and predictable work channels. Procedure templates makes work efficient, it could either be how to run a machine or how to perform performance audits, everything functions smoothly when a procedure is standardized. Redundant steps can be identified and eliminated from processes to make production more efficient.


When procedures are standardized, managers can share data and metrics hassle-free with team members, thus enhancing communication between different levels of the corporate hierarchy. Efficient communication will significantly enhance risk compliance standards, improve supply chain and streamline management of projects.  Manufacturing SOPs serve to communicate procedures between different facilities and teams, digitizing the same with an MES software will enable managers and workers access real-time information on work status and efficiency levels. SOP can standardize communication methods and help streamline internal communications, thus leaving no room for mishaps.

Regulatory Compliance

One of the critical importance of SOP in manufacturing is to sustain regulatory compliance. When auditing operations and product performance, manufacturing facility managers and inspectors are asked to conduct a thorough review of standard operating procedures. This helps identify expected performance and actual performance, recognize faults, suggest methods to improvise. In case of a legal action, the SOP can even serve as a crucial defence documentation to validate that all industry regulatory practices and guidelines were followed. Worker’s health and safety is enforced by OSHA’s General Duty Clause. Manufacturing SOPs can significantly contribute to the company’s enhanced credibility.

Quality Assurance

An established SOP serves as an official guide to conduct operations to ensure top-notch quality in manufacturing. Particularly, digital SOPs are crucial during auditing processes for quality inspectors as they rely on SOPs as a checklist. In addition to SOP, quality systems that run parallelly to keep check on quality standards are also critical in quality assurance. The ISO 9000 was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to elaborated define quality management system. ISO advices companies to provide products and services that meet customer needs and legal requirements. The ISO also proposes that manufacturers enhance customer satisfaction with effective system applications and process improvements.


Standard Operating Procedures must clearly define who is responsible for what within the boundary of its applicability. Defining the responsibilities workers in charge of maintenance checks, work order completion, quality inspection and so on. In this manner, SOPs improve accountability across manufacturing operations. If a task is not being completed adhering to timelines, if a standard operating procedure was not followed, management can check and take preventive actions to avoid any potential errors.

Reasons for failure of SOP Manufacturing

SOPs can be an invaluable tool in achieving optimized resource utilization, efficient production, waste elimination, process improvisation, cost effective and so on. Yet sometimes, even a manufacturing SOP can seem to be of no help in case it is used incorrectly. Some of the common mistakes that lead to the failure of standard operating procedures in businesses are captured in this section.

Lack of SOP Leverage from Management

In order for employees to operate efficiently in accordance with standard operating procedures, it is primarily essential for the management to ensure that the SOP serves as a yardstick for measuring the accuracy of work. If the management’s expectations of accurate work do not reflect the contents of the SOP, it could mean one of two things:

  1. The SOP is incorrect
  2. Nuances of job / work processes are not understood by the management

For Management to leverage SOP, it is in the best interests of businesses to issue the management with a crisp, well-articulated SOP, so it can be employed as default tool for evaluation of work in manufacturing.

Etched Methods

The needs of departments in the process of manufacturing change. It cannot be static given the conditions of dynamic components in manufacturing. If the standard operating procedure is written in a format that requires lot of effort in accommodating change / amendments, it will be of work add-on than a flexible medium for conducting tasks in manufacturing operations.

Here are some of the examples of inflexible SOPs:

  1. Physical copies – If SOPs exist in printed copies only, it is challenging to track down prints to accommodate change and swap out the old ones.
  2. Page formatting – Page alignment and formatting impacts how much of the SOP is grasped and followed. Dense content on one page hinders stable formatting and alignment of content on other pages, leaving scope for errors.
  3. Content over graphical representation – When content overpowers graphical and other forms of representation in the SOP, perceiving all the contents and directions becomes challenging. It can neither be understood completely nor be easy to change.
  4. Unannounced – Changes in SOP that are not made known prior to implementation or trained for is inflexible for employees to align and work.
  5. Memory Way – Procedures that don’t have to be looked at when performing jobs gives opportunity for missing the addition and / or omission of new information.

These are some of the examples of inflexible SOPs that makes it challenging to be dynamic and often remains hostile to change.

Absence of accountability

All change requires effort and foregoing of comfort zones at times. For employees to adopt the new, accept change, and take on the spirit of accountability consequences and benefits are to be laid out clearly. Accountability on the part of employees is expected when the SOP defines or explains when and how to evaluate the work related to SOP. Positive outcomes of change when elucidated in the SOP encourages employees to tend to changing circumstances.

Defunct / Outdated Information

As much as helpful an SOP can be in the pursuit of achieving manufacturing processes, it can capable of causing twice as much work. To avoid such unwelcomed double work, SOPs have to be updated and maintained from time to time. Incorrect, incomplete or defunct functions mentioned in the SOP will create additional work to rectify errors than enhancing productivity and consistency standards in manufacturing.

Tough to follow and Employ

SOP must be handy, formatted in a manner that is easy to comprehend and use. If it isn’t easy to follow and use, it will not be employed at all. Instructions charted out in the SOP must be clearly differentiated one from the other to avoid mishaps and confusions. All information must be neatly sorted with a table of contents, subheadings, color-coded tabs, bullet points and graphical representations (wherever needed). It is also suggested that SOP can be written out briefly within the workspace, it is called the principle of integration. The principle of integration is so important that it will even facilitate the creation of a fail-proof SOP.

  1. ‘How to’ and ‘When to’ posters can be hung within the vicinity of equipment and operations.
  2. Create physical copies of checklists with QR codes that link to helpful websites.

And this way, the principle of integration serves well to enhance work efficiency and productivity in manufacturing operations.

How to create a fail-proof SOP supported by Manufacturing Execution System?

Creating a fail-proof SOP can be easy when it identifies itself with three features; Digital, Integration capable and Interaction-oriented.


Creating, updating and altering SOPs on a digital platform is easier, flexible and faster. Employing SOPs that are digital is a globally competitive medium in the management of operations of an entire business.

  1. Digital SOPs offers the flexibility of updating information and alerting the same to employees / workers at real-time. It does not fail with lack of updates and alerts that otherwise become an issue with manual SOP maintenance and alert systems. Manufacturing execution software empowers manufacturing facilities to generate and maintain digital SOPs in an organized manner.
    1. Digital SOPs provide the flexibility to include multimedia instructions. Text, images, videos and even links to other related information can be included in digital standard operating procedures, thus making it more user-friendly.

Digitalizing standard operating procedure is one way of achieving a fail-proof SOP.

Integrated with Process

A standard operating procedure that is capable of integration is a game changer for manufacturing facilities and businesses. Integrated SOPs help build and mould information / instructions into the SOP in alignment with the needs of the hour. A digital SOP must inevitably accompany the potential to integrate with existing systems at work. Integration of SOP will help;

  1. Automatic alerts to inform employees / workers on outstanding tasks and updates of procedures.
  2. Teams are equipped to input data to SOP directly, thus powering triggers when additional tasks are required.
  3. Automatic report generation upon work completion. Additionally, performance tracking, inventory / stock updates, maintenance checks / schedules and downtime checks.

When such is the case, standard operating procedure in manufacturing will become a tool that is employed everyday by workers and employees instead of just being available as a manual.

Interactive with People

Implementation of SOP successful when it is a two-way process (instruct and allow interaction from users) rather than a one-way process that simply suggests steps to be followed. An SOP need not only instruct but also receive inputs and serve as a help-oriented interactive tool to users (employees / workers). MES software is of great help in interactive SOPs for manufacturing and businesses.

  1. Facilitate workers to check off tasks that are completed and update status as and when there is progress in the work.
  2. With one click, all steps / information pertaining to a team is accessible during the course of work.

When standard operating procedures are digital, interactive and integrated, it becomes an effective tool for teams to use on a daily basis to know where to be, what work to do and how to do the work.


Standard operating procedure in manufacturing is of great help in maximizing the potentials performance, achieving process improvement standards, waste reduction, lower equipment redundancy rates and execute overall management of top floor and shop floor effectively. The scope of SOP in manufacturing extends to how effectively it can influence strategic and practical change for the overall efficiency in achieving compliance-oriented output.

The contents of this blog are not the be-all and end-all of standard operating procedures in manufacturing, it elaborates on the key components of SOP in manufacturing. As standard operating procedures evolve and grow from time to time, the scope of SOP grows.

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