Three Ways Mobility Will Improve the Enterprise Quality Software Space

  • August 28, 2013
  • Feature

By Mike Roberts, LNS Research

Sure, it’s rude to look at your smartphone during dinner, but imagine how stuck to the screen you’ll be when an app is showing you customer complaints by product line, open CAPA by supplier, and average overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) of every one of your manufacturing facilities across the globe in real-time. You might get yourself into even more trouble when you find that the visualization tools let you easily slice and dice the metrics data by region, plant, product, and so forth.

If you’ve been paying any attention to mobility in the enterprise quality management software (EQMS) space, you know that these functionalities are not far off; in fact, some leading vendors are delivering them today. It’s true that mobility is more mature in other software categories but it’s likely that quality will catch up quickly. As EQMS vendors continue to invest in capabilities, next-generation mobile applications will become increasingly common and eventually the standard.

With mobile-enabled quality management at our doorstep, it’s important to know what’s coming and what’s already available at some levels. There are three key functionalities you can expect to see in the not too distant future.

1. Corrective and Preventive Actions, Incident Management, and Audit Management that Utilize Native Smart Phone Functionalities

With EQMS, many companies have already automated CAPA, Incident Management, and Audit Management, streamlining the root cause analysis investigation process and also integrating it with other functionalities like risk management to prioritize open CAPAs based on criticality. Mobility will take the advancements provided by EQMS a step further.

With mobile-enabled EQMS, managers will have the capability to leverage the native functionalities built into today’s smartphones such as image/video and voice capturing. Users will be able to create a new corrective action, upload picture/video and audio files, and route the issue along with its attachments to the appropriate parties over the mobile network. Mobile-enabled corrective actions will carry much more value and are likely to expedite resolutions and a number of vendors are currently investing in and building out this capability.

2. Streamlined Audit Management with Online/Offline Capabilities

EQMS has helped to standardize and centralize the audit management process across the enterprise. With everyone working on the same system, both spot and scheduled audits deliver a considerably higher quality of data. Managers can use this data to analyze and identify global trends, which is critical to enabling an environment of continuous improvement. Audit management has come a long way since manual and paper-based methods, and mobility will continue to push it in the right direction.

Mobile-enabled audit management will pick up where the current limits of EQMS’s automated capabilities leave off. In some cases where a connected laptop is infeasible, auditors still have to rely on taking notes in Word documents. They have to then go back and enter data into the audit management system. Mobility will eliminate these duplicative efforts, as an auditor will have the ability to carry a tablet or smartphone and collect information. Even in remote locations where mobile networks are unavailable, offline capabilities will allow auditors to sync to the system once back in range.

3. Real-Time Reporting and Analytics Integrated with Business Intelligence Tools

As previously mentioned, analytics and reporting are exciting new features expected from most leading vendors in the near future. This is seen in other software markets, where business intelligence (BI) and visualization tools found within Web-based or on-premise software are programmed to be viewed on a mobile device.

It’s likely that quality dashboards will be one of the first mobile functionalities rolled out by many vendors, since areas such as CAPA and audit management will require a deeper process and information layer. However, it's important that vendors are not simply putting the same visualizations from the desktop on a smartphone. The number of visualizations and the analytics must be adapted in an intuitive way for smaller screen size and touch.

Looking into the Future of Mobility in Enterprise Quality

The rise of mobility in quality management is an exciting time for anyone involved in the space. Software users will have the capability to view quality metrics and process data from remote locations, as well as fill traditional information gaps that on-premise and cloud-based software currently cannot support. Although CAPA, audit management, and dashboarding are the main focuses of this article, there will be many other great improvements to EQMS functionalities with mobility in other areas as well, such as risk management, supplier quality management, employee training, and more.

The good thing about apps is that they can constantly be upgraded to improve user experience as well as functionality. Some vendors have already taken steps to deliver mobile capabilities. Apps that are currently available and those yet to come will only become stronger and more effective with continual upgrades. In the future, it’s likely that apps will be yet another enabler of closed-loop quality management, encouraging communication and collaboration across the value chain.

About the Author

Mike Robertsis a researcher and writer for LNS Research, a technology research firm located in Cambridge, MA. He focuses on the topics of quality management, sustainability, manufacturing operations, and industrial automation.

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