Author: Paul Van Metre
Tips to lean out your QMS.
Running a regulated manufacturing company is difficult. Aside from the normal daily challenges of getting product out the door, managing employees, keeping quality high, you have the added burden of keeping perfect records of everything you do, doing it exactly as you say you do, keeping up with training employees in the never-ending changes of process, regulations and more. It adds to what was already one of the more difficult jobs on the planet and makes it that much more impossible.
But what if it wasn’t a burden? What if having a certified QMS was actually the least cost and lowest burden way to run a thriving manufacturing company? You’d be hard pressed to find many people who would agree that at the end of the day, being ISO 9000 or AS9100 certified was actually the lowest cost way to do business. But it really is. We are some of those rare people who believe that because we’ve experienced it first-hand.
Most QMS systems are either paper-based (which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy), or they are a little more advanced and use a combination of Word, Excel and other Microsoft “Office” files to keep records of everything. In a paper-based system, companies are constantly battling over keeping track of the latest copies of records, procedures and more. The cost of maintaining such a system is incredibly high and it is likely so difficult that it is completely neglected and won’t reap the benefits of having the certification. Research from Dassault Systems found that more than 70% of today’s businesses would fail within three weeks if they lose paper-based records, due to unforeseen events such as flood or fire and almost 15% of an organization’s revenue is spent creating, managing and distributing paper documents. Those are crazy statistics! In an “Office” based system, there is likely a lot less paper, but the complexity of file revisions, checkouts, permissions, software management and more may be even more difficult.
The solution to both problems is a 100% paperless, web-based QMS system. One that looks like this:
1. ALL employees have unique user IDs in the system.
2. All documents are digital and web-based. Managers have total control over read and edit access of all users.
3. Only the latest revision of any document is available to the staff.
4. When new revisions are created, managers are alerted for approval and signoff.
5. Once approved, the new document becomes the latest revisions, all relevant users in the company are alerted that new revisions must be reviewed. The now old revision document is automatically archived and unavailable for most users.
6. All documents have a list of trained users with integrated training records and proficiency levels that are tied to training documents and processes.
7. All employees can see exactly what training they need to reach that next job promotion or company position.
When all these elements are in place, the QMS becomes a central tool for everyday activities. Employees become inspired to make positive changes. New revisions of documents are made daily as employees improve and refine how shop activities are performed. As these processes improve, company performance improves, improving quality, lead times and customer satisfaction. Profits increase as work is flowing more efficiently through the shop. Work becomes less frantic and there is time to make even more company improvements in a positive upward cycle. Before you realize it, the company has taken what used to be a profit-sucking and tedious task and morphed it into an engine of efficiency and profitability. Long gone are the days of scrambling to prepare for your next external audit and then abandoning all QMS work the day the auditor leaves, in a vicious cycle. You are ready every…single…day because to be ready for the auditor means you are ready for that new big customer. Ready to say yes to a huge new project that will catapult your company to the next level.
All this is possible and is playing out with customers of ours. If you’d like to see first-hand how this works, please contact us. We’d love to help your company realize these kinds of improvements.