Next in our top ten countdown of quality system saboteurs – poor document control!

Not getting maximum benefit from your quality system? Poor document control always adds to inefficiency!

Reason #6 – Document control is not enforced!

Making sure everyone is working off of the same page (often quite literally) is the primary goal of the ISO 9001 clause 4.2.3 – Control of Documents. We hear from many quality managers and management representatives that this rather simple requirement, which seems on the surface to be easy to handle, can be a real bear to nail down. It is hard to imagine that this would be a difficult task, with most companies relying on electronic documentation. So what gets in the way of making complete and effective document control a given?

It generally starts with most companies not knowing just what to control. Sometimes it is assumed that the only documents needing control are those that make up the quality system. This narrow (and incorrect) interpretation of the requirement can lead to document chaos. Most companies have multitudes of documents that affect not only information getting to the customer, but also between departments, areas, and processes. Documentation that is not providing the most current info can wreak havoc with production schedules, customer communication and overall product/service quality.

Some areas/departments that are more isolated from traditional design and production processes (such as Accounting, IT, and off-site Sales personnel) may develop a whole subset of documents that might fly under the document control radar. There may be the thinking that certain documents are not important to control since the individual department is the only group using them for intra-departmental correspondence.

If there is confusion with knowing just what to control, let this be your guide: if any document or form provides direction, status, guidance or is kept as some sort of record, it should be controlled! Why risk the chance that someone might make a costly mistake with obsolete info? This is obvious when it comes to such items as specifications, drawings, assembly instructions and the like. But remember, document control can even include the most basic of communication tools such as fax cover sheets, inter-company memos, or business cards. Even the seemingly smallest overlooked items on documents like incorrect phone extensions, old email addresses, revised building or suite numbers, etc., can cause confusion with a fellow employee or boss, not to mention the customer!

For more info on how you can get a handle on document control, ask the experts at G3 Solutions today!

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