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Diana Avram06/06/20248 min read

The smart manufacturer’s guide to Document Control Software

The smart manufacturer’s guide to Document Control Software

In manufacturing, using outdated documents can end in disaster.

A wrong SOP in a chemical plant? That's a potential catastrophe. It could result in poor product quality and put safety on the line… you simply can't afford those kinds of mistakes.

That's why manufacturing companies often turn to document control software. It gives you a convenient way to keep track of all your documents and stay on top of compliance.

The best part? Document control software runs itself after the initial setup. Automated version control, change tracking, form capture, audit preparation - it takes care of so many time-consuming tasks. Your team can focus on the job in hand, rather than chasing paperwork.

If you still manage documents the old-fashioned way, perhaps it's time to make a change. Let's start by looking at what document control procedures are and some of the day-to-day challenges you might be facing.


What is a Document Control System?

A document control system (DCS) is a tool for keeping all your paperwork organized and under control. Think of it as a digital filing cabinet that doesn't just store documents, but also makes creating, organizing, and finding documents simple.

Using document control software lets you create, review, approve, and distribute documents electronically. It cuts out the need for paper trails or emailing drafts back and forth. The system makes sure that any changes to product design documents, standard operating procedures, plans, and manuals are handled and documented properly. The updates are carefully managed from start to finish. The system ensures that all changes are recorded, throughout the lifespan of the documents.

Everyone in the company that needs access, can view or edit the most up-to-date and accurate information, depending on user permissions. This is essential in heavily regulated industries such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, automotive, and aerospace.

Cloud-based document management software with AI and machine learning technology can help with tagging, indexing, storing, and finding documents. It's easier than ever to organize and locate important files. The software uses advanced technology to streamline document management processes. This helps users to quickly access the documents they need. Moreover, rather than simply organizing your files, the software learns from document handling behaviors to improve data retrieval over time.


Top 15 Document Control challenges in manufacturing

Document confusion

  • Problem: People using old and outdated procedures or forms.
  • Solution: Updating something replaces the old document in the system and archives it instantly.

Access control issues
  • Problem: Controlling who can view, edit, or distribute sensitive documents.
  • Solution: Use a system that makes most documents view-only, with certain people who can edit, and only a few with total control.

Document retrieval delays
  • Problem: Wasting time trying to track down specific documents.
  • Solution: Implement a document control system with quick search feature and document tagging with keywords, categories, etc.

Regulatory compliance
  • Problem: Keeping up with the changing regulations such as new labeling, updated safety standards, and other documentation requirements. Failing to do so can lead to hefty fines.
  • Solution: Use a document control system with built-in compliance checks and automatic updates.

Paper-based systems
  • Problem: Relying too much on paper forms is slow and messy. Documents are easily lost.
  • Solution: Transition to a digital document management solution in phases. Start with the most critical documents - the ones you use all the time. Gradually add all your documents, forms, and records.

Audit preparedness
  • Problem: Being ready for audits with records of changes and access.
  • Solution: Use document control software that maintains a detailed audit trail for every document.

Integration with other systems
  • Problem: When systems don't work together you end up with duplicated work or things lost in the cracks.
  • Solution: Integrate with your ERP to track inventory, orders, etc. and automatically store the relevant documents. For example, when you get a new batch of raw material in, the supplier's quality certificate gets saved.

Teamwork challenges
  • Problem: Emailing Word files around and trying to merge different versions with conflicting changes is problematic.
  • Solution: Allowing multiple people to work on a document at the same time, while tracking all the changes in real-time, and a built-in commenting system means you can collaborate without endless email chains.

Training employees
  • Problem: Training people on a complicated document control system is difficult.
  • Solution: Choose intuitive document management software that can be learned easily by all team members.

Scalability issues
  • Problem: As you grow, there's likely to be more and more forms and procedures to manage and update.
  • Solution: Invest in a scalable document control management system that grows with your business. You don't want to go through all the work of setting it up, only to have to switch systems again in a couple of years because it can't handle the load.

Cost of Document Control Software
  • Problem: If you're on a tight budget, upgrading to document control software might seem too much of an upfront cost.
  • Solution: Think beyond the immediate cost and figure out how much time and money is wasted dealing with document problems - outdated versions, hours spent searching for records during audits, etc. You'll probably find that the positive ROI means the system will pay for itself quickly.

Ensuring consistency
  • Problem: If your operations span different plants and factories, it's confusing when each one does things their own way.
  • Solution: Document control software helps to keep everything standardized across various locations. When you change a company-wide procedure, it gets updated everywhere.

Key features of good Document Control Software

If you need document control software for your manufacturing company, use the list below as a reference. You may not know what features to look for. The list can help you with that.

1. Automatic Version Control & Archiving
When anyone makes changes to a document, the old version doesn't disappear - it's archived. All revisions are kept in check and obsolete documents stored for auditing and traceability. The document register should also be updated and indexed automatically.

2. Audit Trails
Quality managers will find automated audit trails invaluable. Everything gets logged - all documents, forms, and reports. If the auditor says, "Show me when this quality form was approved last month." You can show it within a couple of clicks - date, time, who did it, the whole nine yards.

3. Compliance with Quality Standards (ISO 9001, HACCP, BRC)
Standards often have specific rules about how certain documents should be written, formatted, and stored. Instead of stressing about things like, "Are we following the latest template? Did we miss any sections?", instead look for a document control system that has those standards built-in. When you set up a new document, the software guides you along. You should also make sure that the software automatically updates when standards change.

4. Email Notifications & Reminders for Overdue Documents
Find a document control system that acts like a helpful assistant. It will alert you when deadlines are approaching for important documents such as safety forms and calibration records.

5. Digital Modification Processes
Make edits directly in the document control software, just like a regular Word document, but with tracking and approval processes behind the scenes.

6. Permission Management & eSignatures
Set up permission management for sensitive documents that contain things like production formulas or supplier info. No need for password protection on each file, as you can set different user types - viewers, editors, managers, etc. This replaces the need to print and physically sign the document as everything can be done with a few clicks.

7. Interactive Flowcharts
Let's say you're looking at the whole production process for a new product. It's useful to have flowcharts for each step - receiving materials, mixing, quality testing, packaging, etc. Look for document control software that links all these flowcharts and relevant documents together. This saves a lot of time when training new staff and updating processes.

Flowchart (1)

8. Integration with Quality Management Systems & QESH Forms
Unify all your forms and data with links to all the relevant forms. For instance, link your test results to the SOP directly. No need to fill out additional paper forms. Safety incident forms and environmental checklists can be linked together. This allows for easy access to all necessary information and is particularly important in emergency situations.

9. Graphical Overview of DMS Activity
Offers visual insights into document management operations, which can help in identifying bottlenecks and improving processes.

10. Statistics and KPIs
Finally, look for a document control system that makes it easy to see data and trends. This lets you see things like an uptick in corrective actions after switching suppliers - a red flag that you'll want to investigate.


AlisQI - Quality Document Control that checks all the boxes

Instead of wasting time trying to guess which SOP is current, with AlisQI's automatic version control, you don't have to think about it. You can see the whole version history at a glance whenever you need to.

With AlisQI you don't need to do a mad scramble hunting for paperwork, trying to get everything ready for the auditors, as all the audit trails are built-in. Staying on top of ISO, HACCP, and other standards is easier than ever.

AlisQI's document control software helps you to easily view all your processes with flowcharts that link to the most recent documents. You can even build your own quality intranet to connect all your info, forms, and data, making it easy for anyone from shop-floor to top floor to find the documents they need in AlisQI.

Why not check out AlisQI today? Book a demo here.


Diana Avram

Marketing & Media