Paper, Paper Everywhere

In the last year or so I have visited lots of manufacturing plants including packaging, medical device, electronics, consumer goods and commercial food manufacturers. One thing keeps cropping up at each one of my visits: In addition to using InfinityQS software products, most companies rely on paper-based systems for collecting data. Lots of data and lots of paper.

Although slightly different, each of the paper forms seemed oddly similar. They have check-boxes for confirming actions were completed. They have blanks for identifying traceability fields like shift, order number, line #, etc., and placeholders for noting the time and date, and the bottom of the page has a bold line for the operator to enter initials or a signature.

There were separate forms for safety checks, machine setups checks, production checks, shutdown checks, quality checks and just about any type of data collection you can imagine. Some plants even had operators write down SPC-specific data on paper first, then manually type the numbers into InfinityQS’ ProFicient software. Needless to say, this all seemed quite inefficient.

But my eyes weren’t really opened until I found out how all that paper was managed. Usually, forms were gathered up by an administrative assistant and delivered to the quality manager who would perform a cursory review of the data. Then, a second administrative assistant would collect the pages from the quality manager and, cell by cell, page by page, painstakingly enter the data into an Excel spreadsheet.

But the real shocker came when I found out what happened with the paper after the data was typed into Excel. In several of the plants, an on-site “library” and a full-time “librarian” were needed to manage all of that paper. After aging a year or so, the paper was shipped to a warehouse. Here the paper would sit for another seven or more years just in case someone needed it.

First, this system is not only inefficient, but it is exceptionally expensive and difficult to manage. What’s the solution? Several InfinityQS customers are replacing their paper-based systems with ProFicient SPC software. Instead of writing numbers down on a sheet, they are entering data into ProFicient. Instead of storing paper in a library or shipping it to a warehouse, the data is stored in a database. For archival purposes, the data is backed up on small, portable memory storage devices.

Think about it: if paper is replaced by ProFicient software, not only would you be able to easily access the data without rifling through thousands of pieces of paper (and incurring all those nasty paper cuts…), but you could actually make charts, graphs and analyses of the data. Also, if you have ever suffered through an audit, you know how time consuming and challenging it is to dig up the data that the auditor asks for – especially when the data is stored only on paper. Instead, you could just open ProFicient, select a few fields, and let the microprocessor do the work for you.

The result? No more paper. No more library or librarian. No more warehouse storage facilities and no more transporting paper to and fro. Basically, replacing paper with ProFicient makes your quality system simpler, more efficient, faster, easier to manage and less expensive. And who doesn’t like that?

Doug Fair
By Doug Fair
Chief Operating Officer
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