How to Change Your SOPs to Totally Control Quality First, and then Rapidly Improve It


To control quality, it is important to separate each individual activity done to complete each a task in a job from the one before it and the one after it. By keeping each task’s activity simple, clear, and specific you put it in a defined ‘mental box’ that helps peoples’ brains understand what they must do to achieve a successful result—thereby, you make quality top-of-mind.

That is why every job everyone does in an organisation needs its own explanatory standard operating procedure—the details contain the sure way to deliver the required outcome, the quality wanted from doing the job.

If your operation does not yet use standard operating procedures (SOP’s) and work instructions (WI’s), then your starting point is to document the work that people do, task activity by task activity, into the tabular format mentioned below.

These days, with the Accuracy Controlled Enterprise Target – Tolerance – Test Quality Control and Quality Assurance (QC – QA) methodology, it is much clearer what to do to become a high-quality organisation providing high quality products and services.

Using the Accuracy Controlled Enterprise Target – Tolerance – Test (ACE 3T) approach also makes it more certain to achieve that goal.

The ACE 3T methodology begins with an easy layout change to make to your standard operating procedures (SOP’s) and work instructions (WI’s). Instead of having descriptive text and photos explaining the various activities to complete a task, in an Accuracy Controlled Enterprise 3T procedure you use the same descriptions and content, but you put them into a table with each activity described, and quality controlled and quality assured, on its own individual row.

Below is an example of the simplest ACE 3T table layout for an SOP or a WI. The table can be expanded to include other columns to provide specific information, or to capture specific information, about a job task.


The important information needed to get total control of quality are the three columns under the heading, Quality Control and Assurance Standards—the ‘Good, Better, and Best’ columns.

If the quality of a job task does not matter and the result is unimportant, then leave each cell empty and let the worker have the discretion over task quality—you get whatever they think is adequate. But, if the job quality is important, then complete each cell as explained below.

For each task activity, in the ‘Good’ column insert the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) quality requirements, or the engineering standard the OEM specifies. The ‘Good’ specification establishes the lower limit of acceptance—what is “good enough.” Having been clearly stated, then everyone will know when quality is poor and unacceptable and is “not good enough.”

In the ‘Best’ column you indicate what the world best-practice quality outcome or specification is for the same task. Typical, it is a magnitude better than the OEM’s standard. With a world-class specification set in place it will become peoples’ aim to achieve it. Everyone who does that task will look across to see what is in the ‘Best’ column and they will do what they can to achieve it.

In the ‘Better’ column you set a requirement that is halfway between the Best and the Good values.

The Good, Better, Best quality requirements can be described in words and numbers. A photograph, sketch, or image can be inserted instead if its use makes it clearer to understand the work quality benchmark to be achieved.

One surprise that might await you when you go to set the ‘Good, Better, and Best’ values or criteria is that no one in your operation knows them. Where you thought you had quality control and quality assurance, in fact there was none but an opinion of what was right and what was wrong.

In such cases—where QA – QC does not yet exist—you must research to find the correct information to put into your procedures and work instructions. The right information may reside in the OEM’s manuals, in industry codes-of-practice, in international standards, in books written by experts on a subject, and in publications and articles by specialists.

If you are interested in trialing an ACE 3T procedure at your operation, here is a first version example of a layout for a roller bearing installation:

All the best to you,

Mike Sondalini
Plant Wellness Way EAM System-of-Reliability
21 September 2022