Even in our digital-first world, paper-based data collection is common for many manufacturers who still need to get off paper and into a digital solution.

While it may seem cheaper to manually manage quality, paper is inefficient and leaves ample room for costly errors.

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That’s why it’s likely you’ve heard manufacturers need to undergo a “digital transformation.” Typically this transformation starts with quality data because it provides visibility into your manufacturing performance, enabling future digital expansion and improvement.

In this article, we’ll explore the problems with paper, the benefits of digitizing data, and how you can execute a move from paper to digital.

Problems With Paper

First, paper simply wastes time. Paper records can be lost or misplaced. Your team then spends time searching for information instead of what they should be working on: manufacturing your products.

Another deficient trait of paper records is illegible data. People don’t always write perfect numbers and letters, especially if you’re a time-crunched operator. When data is entered manually, there’s plenty of room for error. The result is costly delays, lost business opportunities, and frustrated staff.

If there’s room for error, then that can result in hefty regulatory fines or penalties when an auditor visits. In a digital system, it’s easy to supply auditors with the information they request—and you can be confident in its accuracy.

Paper vs. Digital

With all paper’s faults, it’s not surprising that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requires electronic record keeping for manufacturers in industries such as food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices to ensure consumer safety.

To ensure compliance and in-spec products, manufacturers must properly manage documents and records. They must have reliable traceability in the event of recalls and be able to execute the proper corrective and preventive action (CAPA) protocols. If quality data is stored digitally in the cloud, these activities become much easier to do. A paper-based system can’t handle these tasks.

What are some other benefits of getting quality data off paper and into a digital cloud-based solution?

Saves time

Instead of forcing you to track down information, the cloud provides immediate and universal access to the data your team needs. That reclaimed time can be spent on advancing quality and improving processes.

Improves agility, responsiveness

As evidenced at the start of the pandemic, demand and supply can be volatile in manufacturing. A digital solution helps improve your agility and response to change. And on a local level, digital data enables you to respond to any out-of-spec events in your production processes before they become costly problems.

Ensure historical information is not lost

Paper locks away data. That means manufacturers typically rely on personnel with deep experience who have seen that information. So if those workers leave, your productivity suffers.

Remote, universal access

Storing data electronically gives your users access whenever—and wherever—they are. In a work environment that increasingly relies on remote workers, access to data is more important than ever.

Start the Move Off Paper

It’s hard to change paper-based habits.

First, ensure your teams understand the risks associated with paper and the cost of standing still.

Then look at the benefits of digitization. You’ll quickly see that you can greatly reduce risks by digitizing a core component of your manufacturing: quality data.

Digitizing quality data enables you to be proactive instead of reactive. You can catch data entry errors immediately, use real-time SPC data to spot out-of-spec processes, and save time (and increase accuracy) through automation. In the long run, you’ll keep your customers satisfied by producing consistent, high-quality, in-spec products.

Let’s look at the three primary steps in successfully converting your operations from paper to digital.

1. Standardize

Every aspect of manufacturing becomes easier when you standardize data. First, you need to centralize it in one place—instead of locking it away on thousands of papers. In addition, consider standard naming conventions for things like product codes, feature names, lot number formats, and more.

Once those changes are implemented, communication and collaboration become easier across all plants. And you can perform high-level reporting and data analysis, which fuels continuous improvement.

2. Select a Cloud-Based SPC Solution

Cloud technology is unmatched when it comes to its security, scalability, and accessibility. And a real-time SPC solution that’s hosted in the cloud requires little or no ongoing IT maintenance and saves money traditionally spent on hardware.

It also provides flexibility in licensing costs. Because it’s subscription-based, your team pays only for what it uses, enabling you to scale up or down based on operations.

3. Ensure a Successful Adoption

The last hurdle in conversion is to ensure your users have a successful adoption. A Proof of Concept (PoC), or focused implementation approach, may be helpful in showcasing the value of a cloud-based SPC solution to your team.

A PoC allows you to start small, implementing the software on a specific production line or family of products. Then, once your initial phase is complete, you can expand from there. This approach allows your operators, quality professionals, and managers to gradually become more comfortable with the software system and digital-first operations.

Paper is Risky

If data is stored on paper, companies face unnecessary risks associated with non-compliance.

In contrast, digitizing data offers exciting opportunities to improve efficiency while reducing the risk that paper-based systems present.

Still suffering from paper problems? Visit the InfinityQS website to learn more about cloud-based quality management and its competitive advantages.