In the past five years, manufacturers have trained an eye on more efficient ways to mitigate risk and improve efficiency using more automated, digital quality management systems. Until recently, many quality and regulatory professionals had been using cumbersome, paper-based methods for tracking and reporting quality issues. Today, nearly all are embracing a more streamlined electronic method that increases transparency, efficiency, and visibility among even third-tier suppliers in the supply chain.
Making Mobile Technologies An Integral Part of Quality Processes
Mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets have become a staple of a working professional’s toolkit. As more professionals are on-the-move between meetings, business travel or even telecommuting from home, mobile technology plays a role in keeping them connected to the product team. While most cellphones and tablets come with email apps that allow colleagues to stay in near-constant contact, as mobile enterprise quality management system (EQMS) software becomes more widely adopted, quality professionals will have the backbone of a sound, efficient quality process (literally) in their back pocket.
The Benefits of a Mobile EQMS: Efficiency. Immediacy. Accuracy
At its core, EQMS and regulatory and product tracking software is designed with the purpose of making sure that the right information is efficiently and effectively communicated to the right people at the right time. Real-time communication of changes to a product, component, or raw materials must be conveyed quickly and accurately. EQMS acts as a centralized hub of information that issues notifications to the parties who must be informed of these changes.
Recalls directly impact a manufacturer’s bottom line. This impact is measured not only in the cost of a recall itself, but in terms of disposing of a bad batch of product, lost sales, and sometimes irreparable damage to brand reputation. And in some cases -- particularly within the pharmaceutical, medical device, and food and beverage arenas -- the cost of a recall can be measured in lives. Quality is crucial in protecting not just profit, but people.
When time is of the essence, mobile technology will play a critical role in helping to distribute important information faster and helping to ensure that immediate action is taken to prevent escalation of an issue.
Mobile technology aims to eliminate the need for quality professionals to be tethered to their desktop computer to take swift action to ensure the end goal of a product that meets industry standards. A mobile EQMS system, such as TrackWise Mobile, may be used for intake of complaints. Quality managers or specialists who are traveling may be able to review and approve quality records as they travel.
Mobile technology also makes it possible to report a quality incident in real-time. For instance, if a quality issue is found on the manufacturing line, it can be reported at the time of identification using a mobile device. Additionally, quality professionals can use their mobile device to take and attach a photo to their report to more clearly illustrate the problem.
A complaint can be logged via the mobile EQMS while on-site rather than scribbling down the issue on a notepad and logging the issue in the system at a later time. This can save either minutes or days. Paper-based systems leave far too much to chance. Paperwork can accidentally get lost or thrown away. By using a mobile device to file a complaint, the issue is reported in real-time and personnel can request that a specific person or department take action on the item, saving valuable time.
The use of mobile technology and EQMS also circles back to accuracy. In the scenario described, the person responsible for reporting the complaint may have hastily handwritten the issue on a scrap of paper. Later, when he or she attempts to type it into a structured e-reporting tool, they may not be able to remember (or read) what they wrote. The result is potentially inaccurate and less detailed information that could have been avoided if the information was typed directly into a mobile device at the time the initial incident was spotted. Complete and accurate details can make a big difference in determining root cause and resulting actions to close out a quality issue.
Although detailed reports are important, as a best-practice, mobile applications should be streamlined compared to their desktop software counterparts. TrackWise Mobile provides the option to pare down the minimum amount of fields required to create a record – allowing for just enough detail, but not enough to detract from the efficiency of using a mobile device to report.
Secure, Efficient Communication
While mobile technology provides an added layer of convenience, users know all too well just how easily mobile devices can be lost or stolen. Quality processes, not to mention sensitive and confidential materials, need to be protected. With security in mind, TrackWise Mobile has two layers of encryption built into the app.
To ensure secure communication between the mobile device and network, the data within that channel is encrypted. Second, you must be an authenticated TrackWise user in order to log on. Since the mobile app is always online, data is not stored locally on the device, but rather in the authenticated TrackWise database. If your device is stolen, proprietary company information isn’t stolen along with it.
While secure transmission of information can give quality professionals added peace of mind, a mobile EQMS solution can also provide them with a multi-angled solution with regard to efficiency and on-the-go insight into multiple tiers of the supply chain.
- Companies that use mobile devices during the inspection process have the ability to get more accurate and specific information and turn it around to suppliers. - Redundant processes are eliminated by giving quality professionals the ability to log information during the inspection process instead of later. - Decisions can be made while traveling or outside the office and swift action can be taken to lessen the risk (and cost) of a recall.
It’s rather exciting to think of how mobile technology has the potential to transform the manufacturing of quality products and make it more efficient and accurate. While many manufacturers are only beginning to adopt mobile technology within their quality processes, in the future, it’s anticipated that they’ll be able to complete the entire workflow of a quality incident using only a mobile devices.
Interested in learning more about where technology is taking the quality process? Check out our webinar, The Technology of Quality to learn more about tech trends and quality management tools that are improving productivity for quality professionals across multiple industries.