Standard operating procedures (SOPs) provide step-by-step instructions of any repeatable procedure and allow for uniformity, safety, quality, and accountability for complex but routine duties. SOPs are important to quality programs so that data is produced and collected in a standardized form. The author of an SOP should be the person most familiar with the task at hand (i.e. those persons actually performing the work on a consistent or daily basis). For SOPs to be truly effective, they should be translated into checklists that are used daily. It is important to use SOPs not as a replacement for, but as a tool to assist with employee training.
How To Write Successful SOPs
- Keep it simple: For SOPs to be effective they need to be written the way your team works and in common language.
- Be specific and concise: Different equipment requires different SOPs. For example, you’ll need separate SOPs for fermenters of different sizes. Write SOPs so that employees at every level of experience can understand and carry out the procedure.
- Use pictures or graphics: Graphics ensure that written instructions are properly interpreted.
- Maintain and update SOPs: Regularly audit your SOPs. Critically evaluate SOPs for procedural changes or updates needed to improve safety, efficiency, or economy.
- Make it accessible: Post the SOP in an area where the procedure is usually performed, compile in a binder, or archive as an electronic file.
- Train employees: Make sure employees understand and acknowledge the SOP.
An important step in creating an SOP is to evaluate the associated safety hazards involved in the tasks performed. Refer to the Brewers Association’s guide to Hazard Assessment Principles.
Depending on your operational procedures and department, the elements in SOPs will vary along with the level of detail. A front-of-house cleaning SOP may be structured as a list of steps whereas a brewhouse SOP may include a list of environmental and safety hazards, a detailed step-by-step procedure, and labeled images.
- Name of author
- Date written or revised
- Purpose and scope
- Environmental health and safety
- Equipment and materials
Additional elements may include a record of updates, trouble shooting, or quality impact.
For more detailed guidance and SOP templates refer to: Craft Brewers Conference 2019 Seminar: Writing it Down! SOPs: The Foundation of Any Brewery Quality Program