Companies today face some very common, yet critical, quality issues (ex. nonconformities, regulatory compliance, and auditability) that they must continually address to stay competitive, ensure product reliability, grow market share, and maintain accreditation. There is a cost associated to addressing, solving, and preventing these issues, but the cost of not doing so can be far greater!
Most companies already have a defined quality-based improvement strategy comprised of many differing initiatives. However, since many of these issues require a formal approach to managing the various documentation associated with their lifecycles, our recommendation is to start by focusing on digitizing and structuring documents across the organization into a single centralized repository that is both accessible and easily searchable by all.
Document storage, accessibility, maintenance and retention protocols (incl. history and version control) will also need to be defined and implemented, but once completed will ensure that each document is available anytime, anywhere, to the right people. Of course, before implementing these protocols it is necessary to understand the various stages in the lifecycle of most documents. These can be broken down into the following four stages:
The evident starting point is the initial creation of a given document. Once created, it needs to be stored in a central electronic repository to make it easily searchable and accessible by those who need it regardless of time or location. This can be optimized through the creation and use of standardized document templates for a company’s various needs. This speeds up creation time by putting the focus on the information rather than the formatting. It also makes it much easier to find and interpret information from within a document. Of course, documents may undergo various revisions. This is addressed in stage 4 – Continual Optimization.
After Creation, documents will typically need to be validated for accuracy prior to distribution. The validation process is a highly controlled workflow that ensures compliance with company, customer, and accreditation body quality standards. Given the value of the information that might be extracted from a document once finalized and shared, Validation establishes the reliability of its content by allowing relevant experts to review and revise the document prior to publishing and distributing.
To ensure the efficient execution of this workflow, notification and history tracking system should be implemented that will facilitate and record the step-by-step flow of the document validation process for all participants. Once validated, the document is ready for distribution.
After a document has been validated, it should be put into the central repository for consumption. However, before being made available, it is important to check any potentially sensitive documents to avoid any confidentiality or security violations. This will ensure that documentation has the accessibility settings in order to protect information and support customer requirements by only making relevant information available to the right parties. Unfortunately, this is a step that is hard to execute without a centralized document repository.
After accessibility, settings have been put on documents and they are put into the central repository they are now available for distribution and consumption. According to a study by Morar Research, “More than 50% of companies acknowledge that they have lost business opportunities due to the unavailability of timely and relevant data.” Therefore, it is critical to have a powerful search capability that will minimize the time looking for information and maximize the results.
Once created and stored, a document may go through a continuous change process as new information becomes available. Therefore, it is critical to keep the various versions of documents, along with their histories of all edits and editors. As this information could be used both internally and externally, this guarantees traceability of source that is so critical, especially in highly technical applications. Digital documents in a centralized document management system enforces the usage of only the most up to date information while also identifying other potentially relevant documents. It also allows for the successful execution of corporate retention initiatives by identifying documents that have not been used or are past mandated retention dates.
By creating and utilizing a central repository for digitized documents, access to these documents will greatly increase. And whether stored on a corporate WAN or in the Cloud, all information can be aggregated and linked which increases and strengthens collaboration between departments while speeding up the process for investigating, resolving and recording quality actions. Furthermore, since there is full version control and complete traceability within the digital solution, product quality and customer satisfaction will increase, while the time to complete investigations and audits is greatly reduced.
To learn more about the advantages of an Electronic Document Management solution for your quality documents (certifications, standards, procedures, reports, etc.), do not hesitate to visit our website:
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