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Document Control Goes Web

Software review by Dirk Dusharme

With its introduction of QualTrax, Comprehensive Computer Solutions launches an entirely new genre of document management software. Working over a company's network or through a Web browser over a corporate intranet, QualTrax allows instantaneous, paperless document routing, review and sign-off for new documents, nonconformance reports, audit reports and more.

Originally developed for CCS' own ISO 9000 implementation, the software offers the advantages of a uniquely Web-based application. Consider: In most companies, walking a document revision through a paper-based system takes days. After that, copies must be printed and distributed throughout the company. There's potential confusion with multiple revisions sitting on employees' desks. A Web-based application, on the other hand, uses e-mail to notify employees immediately that a document needs to be signed off or that a new revision has been released, providing instant access to that document. And unlike network- or platform-specific applications, access is available from any kind of computer, running any kind of Web browser.

System requirements: Documents are created and administered from QualTrax running under Windows 95 or NT. For document viewing and sign-off, run QualTrax on the same network where the files are stored, or view files from a Web browser connected to the Internet or the company intranet.

Up to five login names: $400/login

After five, the cost is $360/login

Contact: CCS
105 Industrial Drive
Christiansburg, VA  24073
Telephone: (800) 277-3077
Fax: (540) 382-1801
Web: www.qualtrax.com


Think of QualTrax as a document control department, with handling and routing electronically controlled by the software. New documents, preferably in HTML, GIF, JPEG or text formats, are imported into or created within the program. The document creator informs QualTrax which level in the QMS the document reports, which standard or section of a standard it applies to, and designates the list of "approval" and "notify" personnel. The program stores a copy of the document in its directory structure. The original version of the document is no longer required.

The click of a button releases the document for approval by e-mailing everyone on the document's approval list. Using the QualTrax application or a Web browser, approvers log into the program, view the document and either sign off or reject it. If everyone on the approval list signs off on the document, it is automatically published, and everyone on the approval and notify lists is sent an e-mail message. If anyone rejects the document, e-mail is sent to the document's creator as well as everyone on the approval list. Assuming that all relevant employees check their e-mail frequently, sign-off on a document could be reduced from days to hours.

In the same way, if users or auditors find a nonconformance in the system (perhaps a product defect during final test or a procedure that has been incorrectly followed), they can use a Web browser to fill out a nonconformance report. The user specifies which standard or procedure the nonconformance is against, the priority and provides a description of the problem. The program then sends an e-mail message to the responsible manager and the quality manager. The responsible manager assigns a person (whom QualTrax notifies) to address and close the report; once closed, it is sent back to the manager for verification and from there to the quality manager for final sign-off. The routing process and the report fields can be customized by the system administrator.

QualTrax also allows for Web-based testing, offers full document search capabilities and includes a Web-based suggestion system.

My chief complaint is the same one I have with many great applications: Where's the "Getting Started" manual? This program has a steep learning curve, and even the company admits that startup training helps. CCS is developing a "Getting Started" booklet. Meanwhile, plan on spending some time on the telephone with customer support -- which is excellent -- or getting training directly from the company.

Clearly Web-based document management is the next leap forward for quality management systems. For companies pursuing ISO 9000, Web access to documents means that a remote site does not need a high-bandwidth data connection to share electronic documents. And, during an     audit, nonconformities go directly into the system, where they are instantaneously sent to the appropriate parties. The time and money saved from this alone could make QualTrax the next must-have application for quality management documentation.


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