A Brief Overview of Quality Management Systems
A comprehensive quality management system program requires extensive documentation and record-keeping of its processes. Some of the documents and records that must be maintained and controlled within an organization include:
- Training programs and documentation
- Calibration records
- Test results
- Non-conforming material documentation and tracking
- Corrective action tracking
- Supplier quality management
- Audit tracking
- Customer complaints
Plus, there may well be others, depending on the particular business and product.
In addition to the actual records themselves, systems to maintain these valuable documents must be well organized and structured to facilitate rapid retrieval by auditors, employees, and managers. Obviously, management of such a system can be time-consuming and laborious, especially for those companies with extensive quality systems and large numbers of employees. Records management can become a full time job for one or more employees within an organization. To ease the manpower requirements and burdens of managing a large quality management system archive, many organizations have turned to quality management software to help control costs and increase accuracy.
Nuts and Bolts of the QMS Software
Quality management software is, quite simply, a database or electronic repository for all of a company’s documents and records. It can be as simple as a stand-alone system on a centralized work station where the files are stored and accessed, or as complex as a fully-integrated solution that automatically tracks, records, and notifies management when processes need attention or are out of compliance. Data entry can be completely manual or completely automated.
QMS software can be purchased pre-packaged with a host of generic document templates and procedures, or completely customized to fit the specific applications at a particular business location. Quality management software can also add value to a company by analyzing data to develop benchmarking for improvements in quality and cost, to increase accuracy and reduce waste, to streamline production, and improve productivity.
Real Business Benefits
The benefits recognized by a company that employs a quality management software system vary depending on the level of integration of the software and complexity of the otherwise manual document control process. Fully integrated software can be used to automatically collect and record measurements taken from instruments in the quality assurance lab and on the production floor. It can be used to track critical dates like calibrations, document reviews, and re-certification and alert management when those systems require attention. It can track and record supplier compliance, automatically generate and email non-conformance reports and data analysis summaries, send reminders when corrective actions are due, and alert management when a customer complaint enters the system.
A well-designed and functional quality management software system will be completely scalable with the size of the company, and have the flexibility to generate the reports and notifications required by managers. To be fully compliant, it must provide the proper level of access to everyone at a facility, while still restricting write/edit and add/delete rights to a select few. Most importantly, it must be immune to attack from hackers outside of the company who may wish to sabotage critical company records.
Electronic quality management software has the ability to house documents in a central location for distribution remotely to any number of workstations in different areas. For a large-sized facility, the time savings can be enormous since employees can call up and print out procedures, forms, and reports locally in their work areas instead of having to walk to another part of the facility. Everyone has access to the information where and when they need it, reducing the likelihood that employees will store hard copies of out-of-date procedures locally, which improves accountability.
At a minimum, quality management software can help a company organize and file its manually-generated documents, reports, and test results in a centralized system for common access. At its best, quality management software can automatically track and record data, analyze the results, notify managers and employees about any number of topics, and benchmark a process for improvement. Most importantly, it provides accuracy and security for a company’s valuable records.
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