Coordinated Business Systems Blog

Do Uncontrolled Documents Hurt Your Manufacturing Business?


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When it comes to your documents – work and change orders, financial documents, standard operating procedures, material safety data sheets, etc. – do you control them?

Do you know where the latest versions are? Are they secure? Do you know who's accessed those documents?

If your business' documents are all paper-based, you don't have total control over them. Employees could have different versions of company safety guidelines. Paper-based accounts payable and other financial processes move more slowly. It's harder to relay changes to a customer order to the production floor.

In a worst case scenario, a disgruntled employee could simply take your files or copy them to share with a competitor as they walk out the door. (Security breaches are often – up to 60% of the time – caused by employees. While most of these breaches are from lack of knowledge or laziness, malicious acts by employees do happen.)

I wrote about the 4 C's of document management in Document Management Improves Manufacturing Processes: control, cost, collaboration, and compliance. 

Let's talk about control.

Document management software will store all of your documents in a single document repository. 

That means all of your documents are in one place.

The Business Benefits of Control

What are the business benefits of controlling documents? Here are three. 

Audit trails track who accessed documents. In combination with print tracking software, you can even track if a document was printed.

Find documents when needed. When document are created, they are indexed by keywords (account number, customer name, etc.) for simple retrieval. Documents can also be full-text indexed with OCR (optical character recognition) software that allows you to search on all of the content in a document – exactly as you search the Web with Google.

For instance, let's say that a customer contract wasn't indexed with the customer's name. A full-text search would enable you to type in that customer's name and still be able to find that document. Documents can be indexed when “born digital” or when a paper document is scanned and converted into digital format. PDFs, a common file storage format, can be full-text searchable.

Ensure up-to-date documents are used. Version control makes it easy to share the most current version of a document. And no wasted effort working on outdated versions of a document when collaborating.

What Documents Should Be Controlled

The ISO 9001: 2015 standard has a number of useful questions you can use to ask yourself if a document should be controlled. Some of these questions include:

  • Does the document guide the production of products?
  • Is the document about verification, inspection, or testing of your business' products?
  • Does the document contain details about customer and/or product specifications and requirements?
  • Does the document record business processes used by the business?
  • Is the document used in decision-making?
  • Does the document contain information that would pose a risk to you or customers if not updated?

If the answer is “yes” to these questions, the document needs to be under control. 

Do you control your documents or do they control you? If your documents have you feeling out-of-control, document management will have you feeling at ease.

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