I learned very early in my career the importance of keeping Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) organized and updated. I was fresh out of college and starting week two when The Unannounced Audit Came. The auditor arrived late at night after the management team left, so the SOPs were my greatest resource.
Except they weren't.
Several of you may have similar stories that led to a valuable realization: document control matters. Nowadays, as an auditor, the speed and confidence in these documents provides valuable insight into an organization's food safety culture. The following tricks are applicable to work instructions, sanitation standard operating procedures, policies, or whatever else your organization uses.
1) Maintain a library
There's a reason why it is required for GFSI accreditation: registers provide a quick (and organized!) view of each current SOP and amendments. To make the most out of your library, use it to keep track of other SOP information, like the current version, standard equivalent, or the date of last review.
2) Bring SOPs to life
If you notice SOPs are not being utilized, it may be time to add a user-friendly option or supplement. Part SOP and part training tool, convenient to use on the floor and align with the formal SOP, allowing easy access for further information.
3) Pay attention to details
Minor details can be easily overlooked and lead to major confusion.
Only add a component (number, dash, department code) in the nomenclature if it brings value
Avoid putting version information in your nomenclature
Include the title when saving SOPs
Use titles instead of employee names in most circumstances
If possible, align the nomenclature with the standard being followed. You can also incorporate it into the footer or SOP library instead
4) Improve archiving
Using a designated storage location to store outdated versions will help minimize the chance of an old version being used. Take it a step further by designating on the SOP itself. For example, rename the document or add text at the top of the page on anything less than current. Remember to do the same on related documents, like records or forms.
Do you have any favorite suggestions or questions? Contact me -- I'd love to hear from you!