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When a quality control technician describes her first year of using a document management solution as “the best year of her life,” you might think she’s exaggerating just a little bit. After all, how many times has a software program had that much of an impact on your psyche?

It does if you’re “used to handling 10,000 Word documents manually,” explains Paula Rumsey, quality control technician in J. Rettenmaier’s plant in Schoolcraft, Michigan. “When we first implemented the system, I counted how many clicks it took to approve a file; we went from 17 clicks to 1. It’s pure bliss.”

Just like J. Rettenmaier, a lot of companies start off with basic processes for controlling documents related to quality. As those documents multiply, the basic processes show their inefficiencies. Many organizations start to think about a robust approach to document management. Here’s J. Rettenmaier’s story.

Standing For Quality

J. Rettenmaier develops fiber products that provide solutions for various applications and chemical processes for almost every field of daily life: everything from pharmaceutical and food applications to technical and industrial uses. They are a global company that maintains both European and U.S. quality standards. If you ask Rumsey, she’ll tell you that “the Rettenmaier name stands for quality.”

As a part of building a quality culture, every new employee spends a day with the quality management team. For a part of that day, they are shown around the laboratory. They learn about the building blocks that make up the quality program and what their responsibilities are, and within the last year, they’ve begun learning about the document management solution that helps tie the quality program together. Every employee can view the documents on the system, which means they all play a role in ensuring quality.

Getting from There to Here

As part of its continuous improvement processes, the quality management team saw the need for change two years ago as the amount of documents and processes became more and more cumbersome to control.

“The Word documents had worked for a long time, and they were meticulously maintained, but you can’t do too much with a bunch of Word documents; they’re not very flexible,” Rumsey notes. “We needed to automate for our own sanity, if nothing else.”

The quality management team began to assess its document control needs. Ultimately, they reviewed four document control solutions and decided on an inexpensive provider—well, at least they thought they were inexpensive.

“The costs kept piling up after the initial implementation and we still weren’t getting what we needed to make the system work for us,” offered Rumsey. “So we scrapped that went back to the drawing board.”

In the end, they chose Qualtrax because the company could meet J. Rettenmaier’s requirements. The solution just worked.

“Qualtrax has features that meet the customer’s requirements,” notes Rumsey. “Because the system is so flexible, we can easily adapt it to our unique business process.”

Now, little more than a year later, the system is making life easier for everyone, according to Rumsey. Information is flowing more clearly throughout the organization. Updated documents are easily accessible and perhaps most importantly, their auditor loved the program and was amazed at how fast the company could provide the requested documents.

Too Much Time On Her Hands?

It’s reasonable to think that Rumsey would have more time on her hands these days. Without the need to comb through and update 10,000 documents, surely she’s able to sit back and let the system do the work it was meant to do, right?

Not so, says Rumsey. “My biggest challenge right now is keeping up with the requests from all over the organization to use Qualtrax.”

Once the various departments saw how the system could be used to simplify document management, they wanted to use it for their own purposes, adds Rumsey. J. Rettenmaier intends to continue to expand usage of the system in the coming months and years. Specifically, they want to begin establishing workflows and automate some of their training offerings.

These are the types of challenges Rumsey appreciates in her work, not the risk of 10,000 paper cuts.

SIDEBAR:  Four Questions to Ask Your Document Management Solution Vendor

Rumsey offers some questions for quality managers to ask themselves (and their prospective vendors) when considering a document management solution.

  1. What is the true cost? Spend time evaluating your options to determine what the true cost is. Will there be a charge for assistance as your company implements the system? What about upgrades & customer service? Do your current files need to be reformatted to work, and does the vendor make this easy?
  2. Is the system user-friendly? Think of every level of employee who will interact with the system. Change (even good change) is difficult. Will this upgrade actually be an upgrade or will you spend more of your time allaying the concerns of your critics?
  3. Do you believe in the program? If you haven’t already figured it out, you are responsible for selling the document management solution internally to your leadership and your users. If you are not comfortable as the chief cheerleader for the solution, do not go down the path of implementing it.
  4. Will the provider speak your company’s language or its own language? Many of you may be thinking that this doesn’t matter as much, that you can probably change the words and it will all work out. That’s possible, but definitely check. If it isn’t possible, it can become a major headache for you and all of the people counting on the system to make their lives easier.

Category: Manufacturing