A recent report from leading research firm Aberdeen Group says too many small and medium sized manufacturers are relying on outdated and inefficient paper-based methods to run their quality management. The result is lower productivity, significantly less visibility into product development, and increased likelihood of making a mistake that can alienate a customer or raise the wrath of a regulatory agency.
Quality management affects many aspects of the manufacturing process. It monitors materials and parts usage from the supply chain, it supports regulatory reporting, and it often is a key aspect of a process audit trail. When some parts of product development are automated (such as design or Bill of Materials generation) and other parts are not, it causes an inefficient workflow that slows down important and timely inquiries, and it makes it more difficult to document the full spectrum of product development.
Aberdeen Group says 53% of manufacturing firms are still relying on paper-based or other manual systems for quality management. When Aberdeen researches a manufacturing topic, it uses an in-house metric to evaluate Best-in-Class companies and business practices. Among companies they rate Best-in-Class, 61% report using an automated quality management system.
There is more than the cost of inefficiency at stake in using manual quality management. Paper-based systems carry a higher risk due to opportunity for fraud, disaster (fire, flood, shop floor accident, etc.) and inability to adequately record accidental or intentional non-compliance. Aberdeen Group’s research clearly shows automated systems outperform their manual counterparts.
Maintaining a complete audit trail for each document throughout its lifecycle is an essential aspect for compliance with industry standards and regulations. The electronic audit trail features in Synergis Adept offer a straightforward way to understand the complete history of each document. Authorized users can see the ongoing activity history of a file, including what action was taken, by whom, and the date and time the action occurred. At any time, this information can be requested and assembled into a report. Adept also maintains connections between supporting documents and design files.
“The impact of poor quality cannot be overstated,” says Reid Paquin, Aberdeen Group research analyst and author of the report. “It takes only one quality issue to potentially lose a customer for life... leading companies have turned to holistic quality management to ensure their customers are happy, while keeping costs to a minimum.”
Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985.