While the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be waning, the crisis prompted several changes in business practices throughout the world. It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, – and in this case, that meant coming up with new ways of doing business so that operations could carry on as normally as possible.
Amid this time of rapid and unexpected change, business leaders throughout the world adapted to changing circumstances by deploying new technology. Online meetings have become commonplace. Working from home has gained greatly in popularity, and many businesses have seen the benefits in the form of happier employees and lower occupancy expenses.
For quality management professionals, the pandemic brought about a shift toward tools and techniques designed to minimize face-to-face contact between people, including practices such as remote audits using videoconferencing or similar tools. Safety protocols took on a new importance, as organizations endeavored to protect the health and well-being of their employees. Paper-based systems, – which rely on a person’s physical presence on site and often involve multiple people touching the same clipboard and pen, – receded in popularity because of safety precautions.
Many of the changes prompted by the pandemic will be permanent, though. Just as online meetings have become commonplace, so too have the benefits of digitization been widely recognized in other domains. For quality managers, digital systems offer significant advantages over older manual systems. Here are five key reasons why it makes sense to implement a digital quality management system.
#1: Eliminate Cumbersome Paper-Based Systems
As we have already noted, the old-fashioned method of logging data on a clipboard has distinct disadvantages. First, it requires manual effort. After data is recorded on paper, someone must then key that information into a computer manually. That requires more time and effort, and it has a tendency to introduce errors. To make matters worse, the flow of information is delayed because of those extra steps in the process.
Very often, handwriting can be illegible, and the information provided may be incomplete. There is no way to create a “required field” on a paper-based form! Just as often, paper-based log sheets can easily be lost, or are relegated to the bottom of someone’s “to do” pile. Consequently, it can take a long time for information to flow from the production floor to the system of record where it should ultimately reside, – if it ever gets there at all. When information is delayed, management has limited visibility and corrective action may likewise be delayed.
#2: Make Data Collection Easier
Not only does a good digital QMS system make data collection more reliable, – it also makes the process of gathering complete and accurate information much easier. At Intellect, we provide tools that enable quality managers to easily design and deploy mobile apps for virtually any purpose. Employees can record information virtually anywhere, using a device they carry with them all the time such as a mobile phone or tablet. Data collection processes can even incorporate photos of product defects, safety hazards, certificates, serial numbers, or other information that is important to keeping accurate and complete documentation.
Performing these kinds of processes with a mobile device is vastly easier than using paper-based clipboard systems or being compelled to enter data at a computer workstation in a fixed location.
#3: Automate Workflows
Once the data has been collected, where does it go from there? If your quality management systems are built around common productivity tools such as Microsoft Excel or Word, then you’re missing out on the benefits of automated workflows. With a modern digital quality management system, information can be automatically routed to whoever is next in line to see it and act upon it.
Digital data collection ensures that information gets into the pipeline quickly, – but automated workflows guarantee that it moves to the next stage in the process without delay. Workers throughout the organization can quickly and easily see which issues require their attention at any given time, and can act upon them promptly. Homegrown data flows and processes that are built around Excel or Word simply cannot match that.
#4: Build Accountability into your Processes
Even when there are automated workflows in place, sometimes tasks don’t get executed promptly. That can be the result of an absence, such as an employee who is out sick or on vacation. In other cases, though, someone simply might not be doing their job. Digital quality management systems assign clear ownership of tasks and track actionable cases throughout their lifecycle, until they are resolved.
With a good QMS system, it’s always clear who is responsible for a given task, how long they have known about it, and when it is expected to be completed. In cases of an employee absence, such tasks can easily be reassigned or delegated to another person, – but for those who are simply not fulfilling their responsibilities, QMS makes it difficult to hide. Accountability is clear.
#5: Enable Remote Collaboration
Anytime/anywhere access, made possible by cloud computing, is transforming the way people work. Many of the changes that were thrust upon us in 2020 will undoubtedly remain. The use of remote collaboration tools is one of those things that will likely continue to grow in popularity. A digital quality management system stores information centrally and makes it easily available to authorized users, wherever they may happen to be.
If information is recorded and stored in local databases, Excel files, or Word documents; it can quickly become difficult to manage access across a large number of users. While it’s true that files can be shared, – most businesses quickly run into problems with versioning and ownership of those documents when multiple users are granted access and editing rights.
This shift toward remote access has powerful implications in terms of workforce management. People can spend less time traveling to and from an office location or production facility, and more time focused on value-added activities. Although on-site audits are unlikely to go away anytime soon, the practice of performing remote audits became commonplace during the COVID shutdowns; and in many cases companies will choose to continue with that practice in the future.
Gain a Better Understanding with Analytics
Modern QMS software brings together all organization’s data pertaining to product and quality management under one roof. That enables a holistic view of relevant information. It opens the door to using that data more intelligently and effectively. It provides the opportunity to deploy analytics to inform better business decisions. Moreover, because digital data collection results in increased accuracy and completeness of information, business leaders can have greater confidence in the insights produced by their analytics.
Intellect develops QMS software that helps your organization become more effective and efficient in its quality management processes. If your business is seeking to take your quality management system to the next level, Intellect would love to talk with you. We can help you reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction, and streamline and optimize your quality management programs. Our software is designed to be easily adapted to fit the way you prefer to work. Contact us today to discuss your needs and learn how Intellect QMS can help you achieve your quality objectives.