Implementing a document control system is a good way to improve your processes, no matter what industry you are in. Having everything in one place helps you organize and handle your processes, job descriptions and other important material. The benefits, however, spread far beyond just document storage. All aspects of your organization can benefit from a centralized document control system.
Many regulatory initiatives—such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001—stress the importance of documenting your processes and following set procedures. A document control system centralizes your organizational data and gives you greater control over your processes, as well as a reliable method for documenting procedures. We’ve outlined some further benefits of centralizing your organizational data with a document control system.
1. Greater Control of Your Processes
Keeping your data in one centralized system gives you greater control over all of your processes, no matter which area of operations they fall under. Sometimes having different types of documents can pose a challenge to some organizations because they can’t be handled the same way. For example, you wouldn’t have—or want—the same workflow for a job description as you would for supplier specifications. With a document control system, you can have different information and routing options, yet keep everything easily accessible and in one place.
In order to easily access all of the different documents, you need an easily configured system for organizing them. With a document control system, you can configure the metadata surrounding your documents. This means customizing the high level information surrounding a document, such as the department, priority level or ISO elements. This way, you can keep everything in one central place, but you can search, filter and change keywords as needed to easily find documents.
A centralized organizational structure will be especially useful when you need to access documents quickly, as in the case of employee training. A document control system lets you integrate your centralized documents with your training system. In addition to having all of the documents necessary for training centralized, you can have full control over employee training upon document creation or update.
When integrated with a training system, document control easily defines who needs training and automatically updates records. Employees can participate in self-training, which streamlines the process. As a leader, you can have full control over who gets trained on what, with confidence that everyone is following the same centralized training.
2. Faster and More Efficient Collaboration
Having everything in one location opens the door for better communication. In turn, your collaboration—both internally and with external suppliers—becomes more efficient. Linking all of your documents to a central system that features automatic notifications and reminders helps you achieve better collaboration. By notifying parties of assignments instantly and keeping them reminded of due dates, these alerts reduce response time of internal and external communication without the security and urgency issues of emails.
An important factor in achieving quick and efficient collaboration is ensuring that everyone has access to the most accurate, up-to-date versions of documents. A document control system can keep all documents relevant by incorporating changes in real time through integration with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). The changes made in the controlled Microsoft document will appear instantly in the system, and vice versa.
Once this smooth workflow is established, it’s important to maintain it, but sometimes that’s a challenge when key personnel are out of the office or some other communication interruption occurs. A document control system accounts for these possibilities by having review and approval rules. Defining these rules lets you assign substitutes and alternate approval routes when certain people are not available. This keeps the process moving smoothly so that all deadlines are met with no interruptions.
Another concern regarding collaboration—especially when dealing with suppliers and other external parties—is being able to share necessary information without compromising security. A good document control system has data filtering and security features that lets you collaborate securely. Using a direct communication system eliminates the risk of information being lost or intercepted through channels like email. This type of system can filter or lock certain information based on established rules, so certain parties only have access to what they need and no other sensitive documents or information.
3. Increased Visibility and Platforms for Improvement
When all of your data is in the same place, you have better visibility into the effects your procedures are having on your organization. Having a document control system that integrates with reporting tools gives you even more visibility. The reports give you a way to look at all data in one place in a meaningful way. You have a variety of options: you can look at the data on an aggregate level, run ad hoc reports and run scheduled or templated reports.
When information is presented in a meaningful way, it can be used to drive decisions and make improvements. Running a variety of reports gives insight into different strengths and weaknesses throughout the organization, highlighting opportunities that need to be taken advantage of and areas that could use improvement. The results are reliable platforms to make decisions. When basing decisions on accurate data, you can be confident that the resulting actions will improve your operations.
When you change your processes to support these improvement measures, there will be new documents and updates that your team needs to see. A centralized document control system supports change requests and revision control. There is a workflow for revision, review and approval of the new version of a document, which allows it to automatically take the place of the old document. Such systems can also support multi-document change requests, so if there is a change to a range of documents, the system can use the metadata to change all affected documents.
These features help drive improvement by allowing changes to happen quickly. The automatic workflow streamlines the process, drastically reducing the amount of time needed to implement a change. Since the workflow is automatic, you can be sure your employees are accessing the most up-to-date versions of documents. Also, if there is any additional training needed on the new versions, the system will automatically alert anyone who needs it.
Having good visibility into your quality data is the best way to drive improvement. Using the data to make decisions and having a system that implements the changes quickly is the most efficient way to improve quickly. With a centralized document control system, you can gather data, analyze it and implement changes efficiently and quickly.
One of the major changes in the most recent ISO revisions is a stronger need for the documentation of set procedures for quality operations. Using a centralized document control system lets you work towards this requirement while providing many additional benefits to your organization. Automating and centralizing important documents gives you greater control over your processes, speeds up collaboration efforts and increases visibility while promoting improvement.
Not only does having a document control system organize and simplify document handling and employee training, it opens up the opportunity for improvement in other areas of your business.