In Praise of Procedures! (Part 3)

2. Operating Procedures

I have laid out what would pass for a “procedure” in many organizations. Take a look at it and decide, “does it function as a procedure?”

1. The receiving department receives the raw materials, checks for accuracy and then places the materials on shelves to be available for production.

2. The production clerk receives the work order, identifies and pulls the raw material for the order, and tags it for delivery to the assembly area.

3. The warehouse operator pulls the work order, gathers the raw material for the order into a tote box, checks the material against the order to ensure all materials are present, and delivers the materials to the assembly area.

4. The assembly area supervisor receives the order, and distributes materials to the assemblers based on the assembly work they will perform.

5. The assembly workers put together the finished units from the materials, and place them in a bin to go to the testing area.

6. The assembly supervisor delivers the bin of finished units to the testing area.

7. The test technicians perform quality assurance testing on the units, and place the acceptable units in a bin for delivery to the packaging and shipping area.

8. The packers place the units in boxes, with all necessary instructions and other paperwork.

9. The shippers place the boxed units on a pallet, and prepare the pallet for shipment to the customer.

Many organizations would hand such a document to a Quality System auditor, declaring that “this is our operating procedure for making our product.” (And to jazz it up, the document will also include a flow diagram that essentially identical to the verbal description).

What is particularly distressing is the willingness of the auditor to accept it.

True, the nine steps above look suspiciously like a procedure. They do lay out an order in which actions will take place (good). They identify who will do what (okay). It  summarizes the general order of events that result in product realization (good). 

Does it meet the requirements of an operating procedure? Not at all!

The “procedure” above is missing the key element that makes a procedure worth the paper it is printed on (or the electrons used to store it). In my next post, we will discuss what is missing.

About Tim James "Mr. Procedure"

A communicator; all-purpose capability in writing, designing and presenting training for all facets of organizational function. While my focus has been manufacturing, my training/development experience includes supervisory and lead person development, audit processes, continuous improvement and Lean, and Quality Management System implementation.
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