By Dave DeWitt, Editor ManufacturingStories®
In STEM related careers being able to communicate effectively in writing is critical. In my early career I was a production engineer for a medical device manufacturing company. Every medical device is manufactured according to a written Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). The SOP assures the public that every device is exactly the same and safe to use.
Do Your Homework – Know You Audience
Writing an SOP requires in-depth research of every step of the manufacturing process before writing begins. It is imperative that the procedure be concise, clear and easily understandable by the persons who will be following the procedure and performing the actual work. Providing photographs and other visual examples helps assure a full understanding by the personnel following the procedure.
Write – Review – Revise
As with any technical writing document SOP’s go through many drafts and revisions. It is imperative that the SOP is reviewed by everyone who will using the SOP.
The SOP needs to gain all required internal department approvals and signatures. In addition the SOP must comply with all legal and regulating agency requirements.
Publish & Update
The SOP is then published according to organizational policies. In time, the process may require changes. Process changes require SOP revisions that follow the same procedure as the original SOP.
A Handbook is Always Helpful
Whether your are writing medical device SOP’s, an operating manual for a vehicle, or instructions on how to use a home appliance, it is helpful to have a outline to follow.
I recently became aware of the Dozuki “Technical Writing Handbook”.
This free on-line Handbook identifies each step of an effective technical writing project. Each step is described in detail with frequent examples on its own webpage. The Table of Contents button on each page returns the reader to the overview page. Helpful links to additional support materials are provided.
Appendix A – Standard Work
This section is best described by Dozuki – ” Work instructions may take a lot of time to plan and create, but great instructions will significantly benefit production. They are the pathway to incremental improvement—the cornerstone of lean manufacturing. Every employee has a slightly different way of doing things. Each has a different background, different experience, different depth of skill, and a slightly different work process—and that introduces variation into a company’s workflow. The larger your operation, the more variation works its way into the production line.”
Want a pdf of the Guide?
Sometimes we all like to have a pdf to read off-line. I personally like to have a printed copy where I can make notes in the margins. Educators may also like to have a printed copy to review with their students. Dozuki provides a download link on the overview page or click the image to the left.
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Technical Writing Workshop Webinar
Dozuki and Julia Bluff of iFixit published a Webinar on Youtube that covers the basics of technical writing. You can learn how to fix just about anything with their step-by-step guides. Bluff describes the importance of well written guides.
About the Author: Dave DeWitt is a retired manufacturing business owner who now volunteers in middle schools, high schools and teen centers with STEM related educational programs. He also is the editor of ManufacturingStories®