For the past 50 years, the confectionary manufacturing plant relied on an apprentice- style approach to teaching newcomers how to do their job. Not one single job process was documented. As a result, the company had no idea if employees were working as effectively or safely as possible.
To rectify the situation, the company wanted to create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for each of the 68 jobs in the plant.
Getting from No SOPs to A Complete Compendium of SOPS
To ensure consistency, TrainSmart learning and development consultants first needed to create an SOP template. Before they could do that, they had to spend time observing multiple jobs to determine key areas of commonality.
The problem: Despite being told about the project, many employees were suspicious. They did not believe the consultants were there to create an SOP; rather they believed the consultants were documenting their work habits in order to lay them off. In order to succeed, the consultants had to first build trust before they could tackle their real assignment.
To create a robust SOP, the consultants needed to capture every single detail of each job from the start of the day to the end of the day.
The Challenge: The observations and interviews had to be conducted in real time. That meant the consultant/writers were on the plant floor, wearing safety helmets and glasses and in some cases ear plugs. It was hard to hear but that was the least of the problems: when an employee stopped to talk to or explain something to the consultants, it meant they weren’t doing their job. As a result, the consultant/writers had to take “a hands-on approach to data gathering”.
While the primary job was to create a SOP for each job, in many ways the project established best practices for each job.
Since the plant operates four shifts – 7 days a week, there were multiple people doing the same job, none doing it exactly the same. Once the consultants observed all employees doing the same job, they had to make some decisions on which steps should be part of the SOP and which steps some employees needed to stop doing.
After the consultants had a working draft of a particular SOP, they invited the employees to review the documents. It was during these sessions that employees had an opportunity to discuss their own differences in how they approached their job, and ultimately agree on a best practice.
This detailed documentation allowed the company to see where there were gaps in an individual’s understanding of the job requirement, and they were able to provide training to eliminate the gaps. Having detailed documentation for each job helped build consensus between the various shifts.
The Standard Operating Procedures also allowed the company to start cross-training. In the kitchen, there were people who knew how to make fudge and people who knew how to make caramel. But the fudge people couldn’t make caramel, and the caramel people couldn’t make fudge. Having the Standard Operating Procedure allows the cooks to support each other, if necessary.
One of the unexpected results of this project is that it has made it easier for supervisors to hold people accountable. Before there was documentation, the job descriptions were very vague. With the SOPs, supervisors are now more confident.
TrainSmart Delivered On Time and Under Budget
The consultants began the project in early 2014 and ended in November of that year.
“One thing that surprised me was how quickly they caught on to what we needed. They were out there, getting things done. They were writing. They didn’t need a warm-up. They could jump in, and get done what needed to get done. It was really a positive experience. There were budget constraints and people were really flexible to help us meet our budget.” Client spokesperson