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Top Challenges of Moving from a Paper to a Digital Quality Management System

Written by: Michael Rapaport

Top Challenges of Moving from a Paper to a Digital Quality Management System

Transitioning from a paper-based quality management system to a digital quality management system can be challenging for companies of all sizes. In changing the existing system and processes, your company may face financial or operational barriers to adoption when moving from a paper to a digital quality management system (QMS). Below, we’ve outlined ways to mitigate those potential challenges to ensure a smoother transition to a digital quality management system.

1. Defining an Easy-to-Use Information Structure

When your company moves from a paper to an electronic quality management system, it may seem more inconvenient, at first, to locate the inventory of your files digitally. Whereas before you would walk to a filing cabinet to find information, now you must sort through a digital repository, which can prove difficult in a new paperless environment.

Just as your paper-based filing system would be futile without a sensible taxonomy, so would your digital document management system unless you structure it into a systematic order. Without optimizing an easy-to-use classification for your information, your employees will not use a digital record system that locks in the very inefficiencies you are trying to eliminate.

2. Revision Control and Permission Policies

Along those lines, employees may fall back on manual work processes when security and approval processes are called into question. In a paper-based system, you would have to print, sign, and manually refile changes to documentation, which is not only an inefficient use of time, but can make the task of following paper trails and version control challenging when operating across disparate sites.

Managing signatures and approvals is critical to staying compliant with government regulations as well as managing permissions to view and alter documentation. A digital solution should be able to streamline those processes by including a clear hierarchy of approvals and access permission, along with electronic signatures for added visibility and security. In addition, change management and engineering change notice (ECN) features can take the risk out of product management by incorporating automation and version control into the process to ensure that every employee has access to the most up-to-date documentation.

3. Adapting Quality Management Processes

The document management software you ultimately choose should be able to do much more than just file and retrieve documents. It must also be able to provide tangible value that aligns with your company’s objectives and goals. The challenge is how to adapt your current quality management processes to fulfill a software's potential, guarantee it doesn’t lack essential features related to the required standards of your industry, and ensure that siloed processes are integrated together.

As you explore digital quality management solutions, it’s important to consider how these solutions complement your current processes to ensure compliance. The right quality management solution must be able to take into account the current state of your operations, including how quality data is logged, filed, shared, and tracked throughout the supply chain. It must also be able to provide faster resolutions of corrective and preventative actions and enable you to collaborate cross-functionally within your company and with suppliers. The key is being able to adapt best practices to the new digital document management system that fosters streamlined processes for more efficient business practices.

4. The Cost of Time

A new digital quality management system might require the implementation of software that will take time to implement fully. Once installed, your employees will likely need to devote time for setup, training, and troubleshooting to integrate this new system into your operations. This commitment may take your employees away from day-to-day operations, quality management issues, and other key initiatives.

The proposed complexity of implementing a digital system, though, shouldn’t be a barrier to adoption. The best digital quality management systems will actually help you lower overhead costs, save time, and remove bottlenecks. But choosing a digital quality management system that is streamlined and efficient is imperative. Your organization must balance the time-cost of implementing a quality management system and the value that can be derived. Implementing a centralized, reliable, and automated solution that can both save time in the long run and provide a positive ROI is pivotal in optimizing workflow.

5. Changing a Complacent Culture

When it comes to change of any kind, any company is almost guaranteed some resistance. It’s likely that a percentage of your employees are bound to oppose this transition, making it one of the biggest obstacles you might face when moving to a digital system. The technical details of how to structure data and approve changes, and even the cost and time are relatively straightforward when compared to motivating employees to use another software.

The solution you choose must provide more value than merely being “paper on glass” and should not be overly complicated or burdensome to your operation. Otherwise, old inefficiencies will transfer over to the new system, and your company may fall back on manual, paper-driven processes.

Most importantly, changing a complacent corporate culture requires starting at the top, where leadership can trickle down the sentiment that this solution is a positive investment in good quality. A robust digital quality management system can actually link siloed processes and people together to achieve a common goal.

The Risk of Complacency and Paper-Based Processes

Despite those challenges, the fact remains: the world is moving toward digitization. Global businesses will not be able to sustain themselves on manual processes much longer. Manual processes are prone to human error, take time away from valuable business activities, and perpetuate defective processes if done incorrectly.

As your company grows with global mergers and acquisitions, an outdated paper-based quality management system becomes more of a burden instead of an aid. It takes more time to find and sort through the necessary information and risks documents becoming lost, misplaced, or unfiled. This creates an endless opportunity for blind spots, informational disparity, and obscured data-driven insights. Your organization cannot afford to question whether quality policies and procedures are being followed, especially during an audit.

How to Thrive in the Modern Era with a Digital Quality Management System

While you may feel hesitant to move to the digital domain of quality management, the fact is, there are many benefits to transitioning from a paper-based document management system. With a digital solution, like enterprise quality management software (EQMS), you can tackle several data quality challenges with automated document control, oversight, and workflow management capabilities in one tailored system.

Using a digital quality management system encourages continuous improvement with lower error rates, increased production, standardized processes, and improved agility. Even more, your company can save money by lowering the amount of manual labor and supplies required to find, modify, and refile documentation, all resulting in long-term gains.

Keep in mind that at the heart of successful change is proposed value. It makes sense to use modern technological advancements to produce efficiency in your business. By considering the five common challenges listed above, as well as the benefits of adoption, you can empower your workforce to feel confident in taking the digital plunge into a streamlined digital quality management system.

Ready to transition to a digital solution like IQS? Contact us today to learn more about our enterprise quality management software or to request a demo.


Managing Documentation within a Quality Management System E-Book_IQS