It’s time to turn the page on Quality Manuals, Part 1

In a three-part series on Document Management Systems, we highlight how AlisQI transforms your manual from a closed book into a content hub. We look at how manufacturers can enlist their quality manual and other documentation to be part of that holistic and omnipresent workflow that is a characteristic of quality maturity.

A manufacturer’s quality manual is often referred to as the ‘quality Bible’ of the business and the phrase is apt enough in some ways: the manual is an ultimate source of authority, and every factory has one. However, as a document, it is somewhat inaccessible and if not, downright intimidating to many factory workers.

But the Bible comparison (or the variant ‘quality DNA’) is misleading in one crucial aspect: quality manuals are – or should be ­– living and breathing documents. They are not set in stone but should be in constant dialogue with the realities of the factory floor, amended, versioned, and inspected almost as if the manual itself was also a process.

Ultimately, you want everyone to like your quality manual as you would appreciate and like any tool that helps you do a better job at improving quality performance.

 

Modern manufacturers stuck in the old ways

Few manufacturers start from scratch, with a quality manual that is still not digitalised; most find themselves in the position of Lamers HTS, a supplier of high-precision production environments to the Dutch technology giant ASML instrumental in the production of Apple’s transformative M1 chip.

At Lamers, Document Management consisted of a paper manual and a folder structure on a server. An intranet page provided access to the quality manual, which was in fact no more than an archive. Versions and changes were managed and updated manually; nothing was automated. Altering or replacing one of the manufacturer’s more than 2,000 documents required a lot of effort.

Even finding the right document was eroding productivity at Lamers.

Digging for files – a common pain

We all know this from experience and have all got very good at living with legacy systems and fragmented content. Unfortunately, the virtuosity of our workarounds can blind us to the fact that we are still wasting time. As we wade through duplicates or subtly different versions of the same document or opening quality manuals that don’t seem up to date (so we have to check), we are not contributing to productivity.

In a recent US survey 58% of office professionals listed a quick search for files and documents as the “number three problem” at work. Alarmingly, 1 in 5 ranked ‘digging for files they need’ as the biggest obstacle to the future of remote working.

But how do you know if your filing system is too cluttered? From our experience of working with a wide range of small and very large Fortune 500 companies, the ‘average’ manufacturer has 500 controlled documents, processes 300 QESH registrations a year, schedules 100 QC inspections a week, and generates 10 Certificates of Analysis every week. And, even if this doesn’t sound like there’s a need to speed things up, using QMS software, we estimate that on document accessibility alone, this manufacturing business would save 1,042 man/hours a year.

AlisQI cloud based quality management system free you from using Excel

Accessible quality manuals people actually use

Automating your Document Management significantly speeds things up but there is another aspect that you should be considering – and that is omnipresence. As you would expect, there is a lot of specialist software on the market that helps manufacturers prevent the problem of documentation from getting out of control. One of the most well-known and effective solutions promises to integrate “payroll, accounts payable, HR records management, logistics DM, engineering and manufacturing document management, proof of delivery, vehicle records and purchase invoice processing”.

Even if ‘engineering and manufacturing’ DM included the quality manual and all other quality reports and documentation, integrations with payroll or invoicing would yield no synergies at all. A focus on omnipresence, however, leverages data, workflows, and documents across all quality activities in a factory or laboratory.

This is what Lamers HTS found after it had implemented AlisQI.

In AlisQI, its quality manual was re-built around models and Visio flowcharts. The manufacturing process was mapped out visually in AlisQI; clicking on parts of that process would bring up the relevant documentation, making it much more accessible to factory floor operators. By linking download screens to the process and procedures in the Document Management System, Lamers can now create accurate and useful instructions for the completion of control forms on the factory floor.

In other words, a Document Management System as a stand-alone solution (as it would be, effectively, within the confines of an overarching system for manufacturing) does not lead to omnipresence, does not advance you on the path towards Quality Management maturity.

It is to this aspect of DM that we shall turn to in our next blog.