Quality Paper-Based or Automated Management Systems

In this article, we consider the use of "traditional" quality management systems, which rely on hands-on manual input from personnel, and compare its effectiveness with automated software-based systems.

Paper-based quality management systems are common and popular, particularly in SMOs. They are cheap to implement, require little ongoing training, and are familiar to most staff. Unlike an automated system, there is little initial capital outlay and no proper time-investment in personnel. For companies looking at the bottom line, using a paper-based quality management system would appear to be an obvious choice.

However, there are unseen, hidden costs. The shortcomings of relying on a paper-based quality system are wide-reaching, not least their potential to undermine a firm's productivity, as well as increasing the risk of non-compliance.

A comprehensive quality SistemieConsulenze management system should be able to trend / categorise quality-related problems, and use that means to identify problems before they arise. Preventative action in quality management is seen as one of the great achievements of automated systems. By contrast, this is often impossible to attain with a paper-based system, which does not lend itself to trending problems.

In addition, paper-based systems make document control - a fundamental aspect of most compliance programmes - difficult and time-consuming. In particular, a paper-based documentation system does not afford visibility into the status of documents in the review cycle, making these reviews long and unpredictable. This in itself can slow down - and even immobilise - an organisation's ability to comply with regulations, and to implement and enforce continuous improvement initiatives.

Using a paper-based system necessitates manual effort to comply and analyse metrics. The compilation process itself is usually highly time-consuming, resulting in a slow-distribution of information, and then equally slow analysis. The net result is an inability to address matters as they arise and to respond appropriately and in a timely fashion. This in return leads to a high cost - both of poor quality, and of compliance.

Finally, while a paper-based system may have few Sistemi di gestione initial start-up costs, hidden costs quickly become apparent. Productivity is reduced while managers become tied-up with manual, menial matters - such as determining and rectifying hold-ups in document reviews, locating missing documents and identifying and managing staff members responsible for delays or errors. The costs of failure to identify corrective actions are not quantifiable, but by the time these issues come to light, the damage is often done. Even if corrective action is implemented, this is often difficult to establish, delaying the quality-management processes even more, and undermining regulatory compliance requirements.

By contrast, an automated system works to streamline the process. All users have instant and total visibility of all parts of the system, and can identify the status of a document at any given point. Any personnel lagging behind in the process can be instantly detected, and managed accordingly. A reviewed document is updated and recorded, so that users are, at all time, working on the most up-to-date version - minimizing errors and delays. Automation also enables users to determine all corrective actions that need to be taken as they arise, as well as flagging potential problems and enabling management to address them as necessary. This in turn creates a process of trending problems, as well as providing the organisation with the tools to flag any problems specific to it.

Overall, an automated quality management system reduces the cost of poor quality as well as the risk of non-compliance. While such require an initial investment - of capital, time and commitment - the longer-term returns - notably the growth and success of the organisation in increasingly automated environments - are greater.

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