If you manufacture or mass-produce a product anywhere in the world right now, you are up against one of the toughest business environments in history. You already face the challenges of global competition. To compete against the constant downward pressure on your price margins, maybe you have adapted to a global production model yourself – if your operation is not on that scale, then you’re striving to compete on quality. You must demonstrate uncompromising quality control, achieved through a rigorous and documentable audit process.
Your quality control systems must also keep in compliance with ISO 9001 standards for quality management and assurance. These requirements outline how companies must document the system elements that must be put in place to maintain an efficient quality system.
Keeping up took all-out commitment and many boots on the ground. Then came COVID-19, and all your established procedures ground to a halt. Even now that you’re back in production, your audit team’s access is compromised.
Thus, you are up against three challenges in one. Proper audits are more essential than ever. They have to be more accurate and effective than ever—not just in your eyes, but in compliance with ISO 9001 standards. And they’re more difficult than ever, because your team must be able to audit under COVID-compliant conditions.
If this sounds like an impossible set of challenges, it’s also an opportunity to review outdated procedures, create fresh production goals, and reestablish your competitive edge with the superior capability offered by mobile audits. The technology is there for you to adopt audit techniques that can expose flaws and collect all the data you need, in real time. This also holds true if you’re in a global situation, coordinating workflow from facilities around the country or the world.
Here is a quick checklist of reasons why now is the perfect time to leave your paper-based past behind and explore what mobile audits can do for you. In fact, as you learn more, you will see that this remarkably effective technology has implications so far-reaching that it can help you revitalize American manufacturing in the COVID era and beyond.
MOBILE AUDITS INSTANTLY CREATE REAL-TIME RECORDS
No matter how forward-looking you are, you likely learned about audits as a multi-step process. Data is collected in the field, brought back, and regenerated on paper, or perhaps uploaded to an old-school spreadsheet program that was a big investment in its day, was hard to learn, and now has your whole staff resisting a new learning curve they think would be just as difficult. But the newest generation of audit software will sweep all those objections away. Now there is no time lapse between recording and reporting audit data. The two processes are one and the same. If your team has a smartphone or tablet in the field, you have their data in the same moment they collect it.
MOBILE AUDITS ARE EASIER TO TRACK: WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE’S YOUR DATA
When your records consist of leaning towers of paper, you are chained to your office, where the paper lives. Mobile audits allow you to break free and receive the data you are paying for in real time. Which means that you can spot trouble in time to fix it. That’s how you improve process efficiency, whether you’re in one plant, a dozen, or an international supply chain. With mobile audits, your team can be finishing a plant inspection and you can come right behind them, in that same plant, with real-time information that allows you to meet with managers and assess, same-day, how best to maximize your newest knowledge.
EXPAND YOUR FLEXIBILITY IN STAFFING AND TEAM BUILDING
More efficient audit protocols mean a less burdensome learning curve for your team, so you can expand your eyes and ears and bring more intelligence into your process at every level. There is an opportunity for greater employee involvement and buy-in with the knowledge that feedback is more easily seen and intelligent action is more easily rewarded. This is especially true in the COVID era, as innovation often comes from those workers who are most directly experiencing the process day to day.
In one case, where the company was a food manufacturer, employees and junior managers actually invented the mobile app that helped them sharpen and speed up their own inspection process in response to food regulations that continued to shift at an ever accelerating pace. However, developing your own in-house auditing software and apps can be risky and more trouble than they are worth. Some enterprise companies have experienced mixed results when in-house auditing software often proved unreliable and potentially not replicable or scalable across multiple sites, locations, departments, or operations.
LAYERED PROCESSING PLUS ISO 9001 COMPLIANCE: A BETTER APPROACH
When it comes to quality management, you know what you want: quality products with zero defects, and a result that keeps you in the low PPM range, so you can keep going and growing. COVID makes this harder for so many reasons, but a Layered Process auditing system can help you make up that lost ground in efficiency. What is a Layered Process system? It’s a mobile auditing and inspection platform that enables you to inspect at each stage of manufacture, rather than inspecting a finished product once it is made.
In 2020, your Layered Process auditing system must do something more as well: At each point in the auditing process, your criteria have to keep in compliance with ISO 9001 standards. When you consider auditing software, it is critical to insist that your software deliver on both fronts at once.
In the old days, simply transmitting the record of an inspection would have taken longer than the time allotted to complete the production process on the product in question. The key to the Layered Process approach is the questions it helps you pinpoint. This lets manufacturers pay constant attention to the core processes in their companies and encourages a disciplined approach, accountability and constant improvement. Mobile technology is THE game changer that makes this possible.
MOBILE AUDITING IS A MONEY-SAVER
When your audit teams can work independently in the field, performing their own internal reviews as they go, your outlay is better utilized, as the need is eliminated for duplicative efforts of the past. This advantage is particularly clear AFTER data collection, when your team used to have to report back to the main office, upload their findings, and then write out a report. No longer! In the mobile audit world, your team in the field collects the data, which gives you smarter answers, which allows you to make truly timely adjustments in your manufacturing process. This same process has built-in accountability, offering you a template to help every team member understand the strengths and weaknesses of your process, and help pull together toward your goals.
FEWER MISTAKES MEAN BETTER RESULTS
By now it’s well known that computers don’t make human errors; humans do that! Minimizing human error is an outstanding advantage of the mobile audit process. With today’s tablet-oriented software tools, your team can collect and securely process voice data, images, videos, and even GPS coordinates as electronic evidence. Even when the unexpected happens — remember the old nightmare of an office power loss, resulting in a massive data loss? — today’s mobile audit technology is way ahead. Built-in features preserve audit information even when network connections are lost. This is obviously critical to a seamless process when audit teams are in the field, where connectivity may be lost.
Then there is the kind of human error that is not unintentional! Mobile audit platforms offer the best tools yet for detecting fraud or abuse that may be dragging your operation down. Just knowing that any anomaly will be caught is a great motivator for all team members to maintain maximum efficiency.
THE END OF PAPER MARKS THE BEGINNING OF SCALABLE SOLUTIONS
Although COVID has partitioned the world for this moment, soon enough your operation will be back at full speed, in direct competition in the global marketplace. When that happens, your best strategy is to be online with scalable solutions that eliminate barriers, so that you can create pipelines and serve markets regardless of where they are, taking into account specific regulatory environments and specific regional resources. With mobile audit technology, you can measure and track Key Performance Indicators — like safety, cost, quality and delivery — no matter where in the globe you want to be. And that means you are prepared to act.
Having your technology in place brings you one step closer to coming out of COVID in a strong position to follow your dream and keep growing your business. The more you know about how your process works, day to day and minute to minute, the better prepared you will be when new opportunities present themselves. And one thing we can be sure of: they will.
For good advice on which one of Process Intel’s mobile auditing and quality software solutions might be right for you, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org (auditsiq.com, processintel.com).