Ubiquitous across industries, a standard operating procedure (SOP) is a series of step-by-step instructions that help workers successfully and efficiently execute routine tasks. While incredibly useful to our everyday work, digital SOPs also have considerable benefits at a wider, enterprise level.
Unfortunately, many companies rely on sluggish analog workflows and word-of-mouth or paper versions of SOPs that kneecap quality and safety from the get-go. Any SOP that is hard-to-find, hard-to-follow, vague, or lacking will produce inconsistent or subpar work, as well as overlook safety hazards that could lead to injuries.
Having the right tools and processes that effectively describe, circulate, and manage SOPs is critical, particularly for organizations with field teams. As we’ll see, digital field service management platforms are the most effective way to deploy accessible and customizable SOPs for better, more consistent safety and quality outcomes.
To start, let’s take an in-depth look at the pitfalls of poorly managed SOPs and the problems field workers face when it comes to performing consistent safety and quality work.
Barriers to consistent, safe, quality work
Without an effective way to circulate and manage them, SOPs are often not uniformly followed, jeopardizing worker safety, quality output, and field team productivity. And as companies struggle with worker shortages and budget cuts, ineffective SOP management becomes even more problematic, as shown below:
Staffing and resource shortages result in fewer managers to go around, with field team members left to their own devices. Under pressure to complete the task and move on, they will be forced to make best guesses, a scenario that quickly leads to safety hazards and subpar quality.
Inconsistent, resource-heavy training
Resource crunches also exacerbate the onboarding process, especially as new hires often show up on site with limited experience. Assigning veteran workers to become trainers is an expensive, time-consuming option. In addition, any training that occurs using paper-based SOPs is not likely to be kept current, nor are updates likely to be provided to existing staff. Without SOPs that are easily accessible and updated, both new hires and experienced workers will struggle to follow safety and quality standards.
Lack of visibility
Supervisors still need to check up on the work of all employees, not only new hires. Full visibility into the execution and progress of tasks, the abilities of individual employees, and the overall pace of a project helps supervisors adjust on the fly to meet quality and safety standards, as well as budgets and deadlines. Without a clear view of the work performed, supervisors are blind to emerging issues and forced into a constant reactive state that has them putting out fires as they come up.
Poor quality control
Progress checks, alongside ongoing and historical field data, is crucial to maintaining quality controls. Lacking the visibility into how workers follow SOPs, on both present and previous projects, managers can assess neither their ability nor the validity and reliability of step-by-step instructions. This prevents them from implementing crucial adjustments, whether streamlining workflows, tweaking SOPs, or reprioritizing resources to improve quality and prevent rework.
Safety and compliance fails
Given a project’s wide operational scope spread across sites, teams, and equipment, it can be challenging to implement and scale effective safety and quality programs. Any system where the transmission of clear, updated, and precise SOPs is lacking will suffer from poor or inconsistent quality work or inspections that lead directly to both compliance failures and safety hazards. And without the ability to see subpar work, remediation is often too late, after people have been hurt and fines levied.
How digital SOPs help improve safety, quality, and consistency
To circumvent these challenges entirely, leading digital field service and data collection platforms deploy tech-forward checklists, accessible mobile apps, cloud-connected data, and insight-driving performance dashboards to automate and scale SOPs. Here are a few of the ways that digital SOPs and automated workflows help improve safety, quality, and consistency.
Make quality and safety standard
Digital platforms enhance quality and safety by embedding consistency in checklists. These checklists can have step-by-step instructions that act as guidelines for the work. Quality checks are integrated into SOPs, ensuring high quality from the start and reducing rework later. Safety measures are included as essential components, not as afterthoughts.
Using a single, company-wide platform with cloud-connected data, digital resources like SOPs become the go-to record. Your entire workforce can use these to execute tasks consistently. This consistent execution leads to improved overall performance.
Easily onboard new workers
No matter the task, digital checklists quickly onboard new staff to required standards, regardless of their experience. Supervisors can craft customized SOP checklists for new hires using dropdown menus that feature step-by-step instructions. Following that, they can enhance these checklists with picklists, photos, and references, making them more comprehensive.
By displaying only the steps necessary for the current conditions, field teams avoid confusion. This ensures tasks are completed correctly every time. Such clarity improves the team’s confidence in their work and your confidence in their performance.
View progress from wherever you are (and they are)
Always cloud-connected and collecting shareable data, digital platforms let off-site managers remotely monitor real-time task execution and project progress to ensure work is always done correctly. Quick uploading also means field teams can instantly share photos, videos, and audio files so supervisors can more granularly spot-check work, while automatically geotagged records guarantee workers are always where they need to be.
Show remote workers how to do their work
As a shared, accessible, multimedia tool, a digital platform bridges the information gaps that lead to poor safety and quality outcomes. Data circulates quickly when it’s uniform, reliable, and rich in context. This data can be integrated into automated workflows spanning various sites and teams. Supervisors can then offer additional guidance in real time. This guidance may include reference photos, videos, OSHA regulations, and instruction manuals. It can also encompass quality guidelines, schematic drawings, statements of work, and more.
Turn everyday actions into data
Every worker, regardless of their routine tasks, creates a constant and rich data stream through their daily actions. This data can be utilized to enhance safety and quality. Digital platforms enable the extraction of various data types from routine tasks. These include situational, training requirements, location-specific, and ROI data. The data gathered offers expanded visibility into emerging trends and root causes. These factors impact the team’s ability to perform quality work safely and effectively. Enhanced visibility leads to improved insights and decision-making.
SOP: Super Operating Platform
Digital checklists help workers execute tasks – that’s a given. Digital SOPs fundamentally change how individuals approach their work, ensuring tasks meet desired standards more reliably. These improvements, when applied across teams, lead to a cumulative, enterprise-wide consistency in work. Such consistency is unattainable in traditional or non-digital field service management systems.
This consistency is key in establishing effective and efficient safety and quality programs. Knowing exactly what to do and when is crucial. Field service management software, with its automated workflows, connects various workforce segments. It provides timely and reliable information, forming the backbone of an efficient workforce. Safety and quality are integral to each task in this system.
Sign up for free trial to see for yourself how your teams can consistently do safer, better-quality work with digital SOPs and field inspection and data collection processes.