Coordinated Business Systems Blog

Manufacturing: Why an Audit Trail Is Important

We’ve talked in the past about the importance of controlling your documents. Under ISO 9001, every business-related document must be controlled, especially in the manufacturing world, where process revolves around a constant flow of documents, their approvals, and their ability to withstand an audit

That’s why big and small plants alike are adopting document management solutions that can deliver:

  • Robust database security
  • Easy audit preparation
  • Document control
  • Version control
  • Structured approval processes
  • Automated workflow consistency 

With so many moving variables in a world that is highly dependent on precision and compliance, having the ability to instantly recall a document’s history with a secure audit trail – exactly who had access, and what they did with it – is a paramount part of document control. This is even more risky for those operating across multiple jurisdictions and countries.

What's an Audit Trail?

An audit trail is simply a log of the path that a document has taken. Most audit trails capture key details about a documents journey such as:

  • date and time the document was accessed
  • name of user who checked in or out a document
  • action taken with the document (approved, modified, declined)
  • comments about the document in the respective step of the process

Take the high level example of the basic manufacturing process. A document, such as a purchase order, is received from a customer and then passes through a series of checkpoints within the organization to initiate production, inspection, and, finally, delivery. The problem is that so much can happen (or go wrong) along the way.

Each step may involve a series of approvals, additions, deletions – all important changes made to the initial order. What’s more is that these modifications are not just made by one person, but a number of different employees involved in the production process. With so many cooks in the kitchen, anything can go wrong.

  • Unauthorized printing: Audit logs can be configured to work in conjunction with your print tracking software, so you can track whether or not a file was printed.
  • Unforeseen errors: Many systems ensure that previous document versions are retained regardless of their changes. This way, if a change has been made that was in error, the originals are still intact.
  • Missed deadlines: With an eye on the automated process, users can be alerted when deadlines are approaching or missed.

ISO 9001 compliance benefits customers in the following areas:

  • Better products and service
  • Timely production and deliveries
  • Ease of access to customer records
  • Instant answers because information is at your fingertips
  • Fewer returns and complaints
  • Instills trust in the supplier’s commitment to quality

What’s more is that many companies are actually requiring their suppliers to maintain ISO 9001 standards because it shows their dedication to quality control. Customers want to know that their suppliers are paying adequate attention to the quality in their products and services. Keep your eye on you processes (and your documents) and learn more about how you can protect your document’s journey today.

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