This business is full of acronyms and most of them are legal requirements. In order to get your ducks in a row for GACP and GMP certification you are going to need written documentation of your procedures. That means that you will need Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and work instructions, a series of rules and regulations that illustrate how your company functions. Let us tell you why it’s important and how to write a SOP for your cannabis cultivation.
Starting a business, any business is hard. Starting a cannabis business, in an industry where everything is not defined yet and sometimes lack the correct examples to follow, is even harder. So, to make things even harder for yourself you decided to look into the possibility of drawing up a SOP for your company.
Firstly, it is important to understand that you are not making it harder for yourself. Yes, it is extra trouble that you are taking upon yourself at a time when there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. The payback is that you only have to do it once (okay and then tweak it every once in a while) to actually take a lot of weight off your shoulders.
Most of us have had a partner or friend (perhaps an ex-friend) who always failed to return the scissors to the place where they got it. This meant that you had to constantly try to find the scissors whenever you needed it. You lost time, your temper and the process led to frustration and irritation. Life would have been easier if the user had returned the scissors to its rightful place where everybody knew where to find it. A SOP basically serves the same purpose. It brings order and a smooth workflow where everybody knows and understands how things work. It means that the idea of how things should be done is not just only in your head. It means you can go on holiday and everything still runs smoothly and key people can leave your company without causing too much of a hiccup. You will be seen as a pro and it also means that you can sell your company easier for a higher price because you are not the essential element, the SOP is. The consistency and compliance of the SOPs are not only important but also lends stability.
What exactly is a SOP?
A SOP can literally start with where you store the spare key for your delivery vehicle. Essentially a SOP is a list of rules of how the company is run, it creates rules for work flow from how seeds are planted to how machines are cleaned. This means that the person responsible for those actions have an exact description of what is expected of them and how to carry out their task. It is a work instruction.
Why do you need a SOP
Consistency and compliance are two terms that we have repeatedly discussed in our GMP and GACP articles. (find out why GACP and GMP are important and how GMP can be made easy), but it can never be stressed enough. If your product is consistent and compliant according to the established rules and regulations, it means that you can be a player. Without it, you will always struggle to find a market for your product (and in some cases you won’t). You will be creating structure with a solid foundation which means that your company can cultivate. It also means that new employees can be trained quickly and efficiently to understand the processes that they are involved in. There will never be any doubt how to do things, even if it is something that doesn’t get done regularly. Workers will be self-sufficient. It empowers them and makes them feel like they are in control of their own process. No-one will ever run around not knowing what to do. It brings peace of mind for all those involved. Having a proper SOP also means that you are able to evaluate your workers’ performance measured against their competence with implementing the SOPs. It can also improve workplace safety and save you money. Imagine Col Sanders never wrote down his secret recipe of herbs and spices.
How do you draw up a SOP
There are many ways to skin a cat, the old saying goes and the same goes for cultivating cannabis. A master grower will tell you that there are many ways to get to the same result. You need to decide how you want to have things done and what your end products should look like. Then you start making a basic list, bearing in mind that this is a working document that can change according to practical implications. It is very important to talk to your workers and get their input. You are the boss and know what you want as an end result, but the workers are the people on the ground who are dealing with the practicalities. It is of no use to make rules that are difficult to abide by, especially if the worker doing that specific task has already found an easier or more practical way to get to the same result.
It is important to split this document up department by department and task by task, so discrepancies and can be ironed out without necessarily having to redo the whole document. Before you implement it, it is important for all parties involved to get a final look at it to make sure that everything is in its place. A good starting point is perhaps asking your workers to write down what and how they do it, look at how it is possible to streamline it, discuss your suggestions with them and then take the next step. SOPs should be a clear and basic instruction. It should not be complicated or difficult to understand. A SOP doesn’t only have to be words, it can include photographs or even flowcharts to explain the work process.
In its most basic form a cannabis SOP set should cover the following points:
- quality assurance
- personnel and education
- buildings and facilities
- seeds and propagation material
- primary processing
- storage and distribution
Once you are sure that your SOPs are clear and easily understandable, it is important to communicate and enforce their rules and it is also important that it not be kept in a drawer or on one person’s laptop. It needs to be accessible at all times to be used as a problem solver should any queries arise. Also make sure that you constantly review it to update any changes.
The initial SOP may be a daunting task, but is essential for the professionalism of your business. As part of Cannavigia’s consultation services we help people set up their SOPs, so if you feel that you need advice or even someone else to do it, you can contact our consulting team for more information.