Using an out of date process for managing your specifications can cause errors and rework for employees, inconsistent processes across different departments, and costly delays in production. A disorganized spec management process can also have a major impact on highly regulated companies who must comply with government regulations, resulting in legal ramifications, sanctions and fines. However, deciding which Specification Management System and vendor are right for your company can be difficult. To help you to narrow the playing field and find your perfect solution, we have compiled six questions to ask your selected vendors.
- How are document workflows set up and organized?
The way your document workflow is organized within your specification management system is just as important as the ability to set up a workflow in the first place. A well-designed system will automatically tie revisions to individual specifications to their parent specification (i.e. a revised component will automatically be related to its parent BOMs). It will also give you the ability to set default routing for review and approval and default distributions for when a specification becomes effective. These features keep your document workflow working as efficiently as possible and help you keep your spec management process organized. If the software you are looking at does not host these capabilities, it is best to keep researching.
- Does it employ a document hierarchy with various rules for versioning BOMs and component specs?
When you begin using a specification management system, it is very important for your organization to understand the purpose of each type of document, and their application in the documentation hierarchy. There are different types of documents that help make a company run smoothly. Spec hierarchy can include Packaging Specifications (SKUs) which include the Bill of Materials (BOM), printed components, component (common specs), masters, materials and even the related content such as procedures, work instructions, test methods, and drawings.
This means that your specification management system must have the ability to employ whichever type of document hierarchy your company chooses to use. A well organized and defined hierarchy supports the distribution, maintenance and understanding of your individual documentation, keeping your processes as efficient and straight forward as possible.
- Does it use structured data?
Structured data refers to any data that resides in a fixed field within a record or file. This includes information contained in relational databases and spreadsheets. Data of this type within your specification management system allows for controlled, approved values; things like dropdown lists, checkbox lists, text, calendar, formulas, English/metric converters, grids, required fields, and character limits.
You know best what materials your company uses and what units of measurement are acceptable. If your employees can make any type of data entry into these documents, your information will be far from uniform. When data that does not match up, usage of the spec can be extremely confusing once it begins being utilize on the manufacturing floor. Ensuring that your spec management system employs the use of structured data in terms of what exactly can be written and placed within the document make the specification process much smoother once this data makes it down the workflow pipeline within your company.
- Can you edit your own templates, or can only the vendor do that?
A lot of spec management software providers do not allow their customers to create or edit custom templates within their systems. This restricts what you can do with the software and how you handle your own data. Through the use of custom template design, there is no limit to the types of data structure your company can upload into your specification management system. And, this makes the document importing process easy, because you can dictate the way your templates are designed and the format in which your data is imported. So, if a vendor does not offer template editing, their software is probably not the best specification management option for your company.
- Does it have a Vendor/Supplier Portal?
Distribution of specification, BOMs and their related content (artwork, technical drawings, die lines, work instructions, etc.) to Contract Manufacturers (CMs) or even in-house global packaging sites is a critical part of the specification management process. Ensuring that CMs have the latest version of a specification is critical to a business, and if this process is done poorly there could be an expensive manufacturing waste cost, and potentially even expose a product manufacturer to legal issues.
Therefore, a good specification management software should include automated methods to deliver the latest version to CMs through the use of a vendor/supplier portal. These portals are platforms that allow businesses to connect and collaborate with their third-party suppliers through the internet. Suppliers can use the portal as a means to keep track of their business relationship, locate the latest version of specification and its references (drawings, work instructions, etc.), and even be part of the approval workflow. While the company operating the portal can track the same data across multiple suppliers and identify which supplier is utilized for creating which components in a matter of seconds. Without a supplier portal, collaboration is error-prone and inefficient.
- Is it compliant?
The last question you should ask your specification management vendor before deciding on a solution is whether their software is compliant - and if it is compliant - exactly which government regulations it satisfies. Depending on your industry and company processes, you have specific compliance standards to adhere to, and if a solution does not meet every requirement your business may fall into legal trouble. Does it comply with US FDA 21 CFR Part 11, US Fair Packaging Labeling Act, or Canada Consumer Product & Labelling Act? What about the Canada Cannabis Act, EU CELEX, or Germany VerpackG? Is the system available validated, both on-premises and in a GxP compliant cloud? Attempting to comply with these regulations with a spec management system that does not meet each of them can put you at risk for legal ramifications, sanctions or fines. Therefore, ensuring that you choose a solution that fits every compliance standard that your company is expected to meet is very important.
So, if you are looking for a spec management software that satisfies all six of the questions we discussed in this article, contact DocXellent today. We are happy to advise you on how you can accomplish your goals and demonstrate how our specification management application can maximize your company’s efficiency.