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Incorporating SOPs

(May 2011) posted on Tue May 10, 2011

Using standard operating procedures to better your business.

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By Marty McGhie

Describing the graphics industry as “challenging” might be considered by many as a bit of an understatement. In my own company, we occasionally find ourselves bemoaning the difficulties of trying to meet our clients’ expectations in an ever-changing environment. Virtually every job that comes into the shop, we often complain, is completely different than the one before; plus, the custom nature of the work poses real challenges and calls for entirely different operating procedures.

But is that really the case? Is there really no way to approach your business in a standardized fashion? Perhaps what we all really do from day-to-day isn’t that customized after all – particularly if we utilize standard operating procedures.

Standard operating procedure (SOP) is a business buzz-phrase that has been used in the workplace longer than any of us have been around. While we all know what it means, many of us probably don’t use the application of SOPs nearly as much as we should. So where should we begin?

Implementation and accessibility
The first step in converting your shop to an SOP process requires an adoption of the philosophy among the entire management team. This isn’t as easy as it might seem. Breaking down the barriers with employees and managers who have done things a certain way for a long time can be a daunting task. It’s critical to help them develop an understanding of the tremendous benefits inherent in a standardized system of processes.

Begin the process by choosing one SOP in their department that will clearly make a difference. Pick something relatively simple to adopt and implement -- it could be related to productivity, accuracy, financial gains, or anything that will help them manage a better department and quickly see results. Once they see that the SOP can actually help, they will begin to look for other SOP-likely areas and as a result, improve their department even more.