Mature solutions can ease exceptional change
With the unprecedented challenges that manufacturers are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, quality management might be the last thing on your mind.
But your quality management system (QMS) could be one of your best means of meeting today’s needs for greater scalability, streamlined document-management workflows, and extended visibility across enterprise sites and supply chains.
After all, quality is about more than compliance; it’s about consistency, productivity, and reliability. And those are all vital components to weathering any unpredictable, fast-changing environment—be it brought on by a merger, technological disruption, or global health crisis.
The key is to ensure that your QMS is up to the task
Even some software based QMS solutions lack the flexibility and robustness to support the scalability and insight that are needed in times of growth or crisis.
But a digitally mature QMS can provide functionality to help you meet multiple needs.
- Easily scale quality operations to meet increasing market and supply chain demands
- Improve operational efficiency by streamlining your document management process
- Ensure product quality standards throughout your extended supplier network
- Reduce resolution time and accelerate time-to-market through proactive analysis of quality events
However, there are a range of digital capabilities available on the market. Most solutions have evolved and advanced to different stages.
On the low end, a QMS might feature only the most rudimentary digital functionality; on the high end, a supremely sophisticated solution can enable a proactive, predictive quality stance.
At the low end of the digital capabilities, quality management is fragmented, involving mostly manual or even paper-based processes. Email communication is about as digital as things get at this level.
The downsides of such systems are clearer than ever. Manual quality management doesn’t hold up well when production personnel lack sufficient time and focus to take accurate recordings and then translate them from paper to electronic records. The organization lacks extensive, comprehensive access to the quality data it needs to make proactive, actionable business decisions. And forget about gaining any predictive insight from a piecemeal, document-centric system.
Organizations that can capture quality data electronically—say, in an Excel spreadsheet—fare slightly better. These manufacturers might maintain a digital list of approved suppliers, supplier agreements, or even supplier ratings. However, they don’t have a dedicated, software-based QMS that can help them gain the insight they need to increase efficiencies.
These days, many manufacturers—especially those in the life sciences field—have some level of quality automation. Such organizations likely have an on-premise QMS, although larger companies with multiple manufacturing sites might use different QMS versions or even different products. (This is especially true in the wake of mergers or acquisitions.) The QMS meets regulatory governance requirements and might even extend to Tier 1 suppliers. But although quality data is electronically accessible, visibility is limited, and turning that data into the type of analyses that leads to proactive decision-making is a chore.
Connected organizations understand the benefits of the cloud. They likely look for a QMS that is available in SaaS form (or a hybrid option), offers automation, and integrates with other automated solutions, such as ERP systems or supplier systems. A QMS at this level offers reporting and analytics that supports business decisions.
At the top of the digital maturity scale, best-in-class QMS options leverage the latest technology—and help manufacturers future-proof their investments. QMS software is cloud-based, ready to handle the massive amounts of data that the IoT produces and might even incorporate the benefits of emerging technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. At this level, quality becomes not a chore but a cultural value. Compliance is a benefit but not the only end goal of quality data, which provides predictive insights that enable optimal outcomes for both the organization and its customers.
Is Your QMS Helping You…or Holding You Back?
Wondering how your QMS stacks up? The quality experts at Sparta Systems have put together a digital maturity checklist. Use it to see where your current solution fits—and where you might need additional support.