High praise from the auditor
Customer case: Delamine
Delamine, a leading chemical manufacturer in The Netherlands extended its Alis Quality Control LIMS with the Document Management and QESH modules. Alis now operates as the central quality platform throughout the organization.
In this case Susanne Haaijer, QESH Manager at Delamine, tells all about:
The auditors were very satisfied with this, they called this: Best Practices and an example to the industry.
In its state-of-the-art factory in Delfzijl, The Netherlands, Delamine produces ethyleneamines, a raw material for a wide range of staples including tea bags, bleach activators for a whiter wash, motor oil, paint hardeners, pills against car sickness and various veterinary products. The company, a joint venture between Akzo Nobel and Tosoh of Japan, exports to over 50 countries with annual net sales well in excess of €100 million.
Delamine had been using the Alis LIMS module for a number of years when it decided to overhaul its QHSE and Document Management processes. The Delamine Quality Manager, Susanne Haaijer, was tasked with selecting and implementing the appropiate solution. Haaijer was ideally suited to this task: not only had she been with the company since the early nineties, she had also worked with a wide range of QA management software.
What were the parameters of her search? The system had to be widely supported and user-friendly while meeting the stringent requirements of both Akzo Nobel and Delamine. The Platform also had to support ISO and VBS (Safety Management System). They found that in Alis.
The Quality Management System had to be really user-friendly and comply with the pre-set requirements.
Although Delamine was very happy with the way the Alis LIMS module managed and controlled laboratory and shop floor processes, this didnot mean it was the go-to choice for an integrated system. Haaijer is adamant about this. She says: "The fact that we already used Alis for QC could not play a decisive role."
Haaijer looked at the requirements with a fresh eye. Some of the solutions she reviewed failed to meet these requirements, others were not a good fit with Delamine. "They all had too many features, which we were not going to use,” she explains. “We thought: does that really fit our company?"
Apart from user-friendliness, one of the other key functionalities that tipped the scales in favour of Alis was document management. "If another package had looked better for document management, we might have chosen that one instead," Haaijer comments.
She broke down her recommendations for Alis as follows:
The fact Alis already had a foot in the door was only an advantage once all the other requirements had been met.
Haaijer is confident that her advice was right. "I have used many different QA software products. Every product has its pros and cons, but I am very happy with Alis."
I have used many different QA software products. Every product has its quirks, but I am very happy with Alis!
Although ease of use was among the top prerequisites for the integrated system, Haaijer is still delighted at just how user-friendly Alis turned out to be in practice.
She was able to implement Alis herself, together with a colleague – neither has an IT background.
It doesn’t end there. "It is great that you can paste your own images from Visio,” Haaijer says. “This makes it very easy to visualize the workflows."
There were no teething problems. "Anyone who has ever worked with Google can also work with Alis; it's a very simple system, and easy to understand.” This made the factory-wide roll-out very stress-free. "You only have to show it once to new employees,” Haaijer explains. "I have never known anyone to have trouble with it."
Inclusiveness contributes to better Quality Management and this is why Alis operates a site license; user licenses would effectively penalise a company for encouraging cross-functionality.
User-friendliness empowers the end-user, as Haaijer realises. "The department representatives each set up their own part of the system,” she says. “This makes it very clear to the users, because they actually recognize their own processes."
The Alis user-friendliness also means the system is easy adapt. Haaijer: "If you make a workflow, you can easily add everything that goes with it, without extra work in managing the workflow."
And easy to manage. "The advantage is that you link everything together,” Haaijer continues. “It is always up-to-date: you do not have multiple versions in one system."
User-friendliness means end-users are in control. For 99% of the time, Delamine itself controls and adapts the software. "It's nice that you can organize everything yourself. You don’t have to call for every change," Haaijer says.
The advantage is that you link everything together. It is always up to date: you do not have multiple versions in one system.
With Alis, you can create filtered overviews and place them on a dashboard. You can share those dashboards with colleagues.
For example, if you routinely discuss three points at your quality meetings, you can easily create a dashboard for your meetings.
"This saves us time, both in preparation and execution of the meeting. All participants have access to the dashboard before the meeting so they can easily check if everything is up to date or not. During the meeting, the dashboard guides us through the open actions. This speeds up the meetings quite nicely."
We no longer have to search and filter ourselves. We are getting through our meetings a lot easier.
One of the benefits of implementing Alis’s integrated Quality Management Platform is stress-free audits, as Haaijer relates. “We have regular audits and inspections. Recently, emergency situations and incidents were on the agenda during an audit.”
“In Alis, we have prepared a form for unusual incidents, which we used to do in Excel.”
“Of course, all registrations result in actions, because when something happens, you have to respond to it. All actions that are a result of unusual events are now linked to Alis, and included in the central action list. So you have traceability immediately. If you have an incident, no matter how big or small, actions will flow from that incident.
“Those inspectors could now see: something happened, you can immediately see that three actions have been started, two of which have been completed and one is still running.
"And if they come back next year, and they ask: ‘What’s the current situation?’ You can click on that particular incident and you’ll see those three actions immediately. Our auditors were very satisfied with this, they called this ‘Best Practice and an example to the industry’."
Our auditors were very satisfied with this, they called this: Best Practices and an example to the industry.
Haaijer uses the findings that arise from audits to set out action points for the entire factory to follow. She uses the forms and action lists in Alis to do this.
“If the inspectors came again next year, they could say: you had 16 findings, of which 6 still had to be done.
"And we can show that the loop has been closed. Furthermore, it’s easy to find!
"Auditors are always looking for the improvement loop. It has to be there. We’ve drawn everything out in Alis.
"If we now walk through the management system with the auditor, we can simply show the process flow on the screen.
"You can see what is connected and what belongs together. This gives you immediate insight, so less stress during the audit."
You can see what is connected and what belongs together. This gives you immediate insight, so less stress during the audit.
Insight into Quality Management processes means insight for everyone. This is crucial for documentation and certification.
“You can make beautiful cross-links,” says Haaijer. “Every inspector who comes along naturally wants to look through the organization in his or her own way.
"So an ISO auditor wants to see everything in ISO, but an auditor for another certification wants to see other things.
"In the past, the auditors could not differentiate the data clearly and asked: ‘Yes, but which part is specific to element B of this certification?’
"Now I can just say: this is number B. And those are the same documents that are also in the system for ISO, because they need to be the same, plus perhaps some other documents.
"For example, for a Safety Management System you have seven chapters. And what the auditors could not see before we fully implemented Alis was: which of those seven chapters do you see where in the management system?
“Of course, we had manual Excel lists with cross references, but it is difficult to keep on updating when new documents come in or others expire.
“That’s been included in the system, and now if we add new documents, we look at both the ISO and other standards to see where this or that new document belongs.”
Every inspector who comes along, naturally wants to look through the organization in his own way.
Delamine has placed its action lists in Alis, and deployed the QA calendar for simple management of all its periodic tasks.
Currently, it is working on the development of KPIs. This makes Quality Management easier to monitor (and therefore better).
The KPIs will help Delamine to continuously assess its processes. Up until now, these indicators were maintained in separate Excel sheets. “The ease of automatically generated performance indicators changed our working lives,” says Haaijers. “It enables us to spend our time on the actual improvements, rather than on the data collection and performance measurement."
She gives an example of a KPI. "For a simpler view of all high-risk overdue actions, a filter has been stored in the dashboard. I can see that right now.
“You can then also send it back and then you know where you stand. Previously, we knew that as well of course, but now you can show it more clearly.
"And with a KPI on the system, we automatically measure every month, so I do not have to think about it myself."
The auditors found the links between all registrations to CAPA actions very strong. An example to many, they called it.
Nothing but praise for the way Alis handles documentation.
"We have a lot of standard documentation and statements about our products,” Haaijer explains.
"If customers had a question about this, it all came to me. We have now put it all into Alis.
"Our marketing manager in America can now also simply view our system and send the latest statements to our customers, without me being involved. This saves us both a lot of time.”
Our marketing manager in America can now also simply view our system and send the latest statements to our customers, without me being involved.
The Alis software is flexible and adaptable. This is mirrored in the lean organizational structure of the vendor itself; the team responds quickly to suggestions, and is always receptive to new ideas.
Quality experts such as Susanne Haaijer value this greatly. "I always like to think along a bit,” she says. “I have tried a lot of software products for Quality Assurance. And I often think: ‘Gosh, I could do that in other software, why not here?’
"And now I just ask the Alis team, and if possible, it is always arranged quickly.
"And even if it is not possible, then I notice that they sometimes come back with it after a while and say: ‘Well, we have thought about it a bit: if you do it like that ...’
“To give you an example, Akzo Nobel wanted Delamine to evaluate actions with a high-risk potential. I scratched my head a bit. ‘How do you keep track of that?’ I wondered. ‘The action has already been completed, but it has to be evaluated in about half a year.’
"Well, then I suddenly receive an email from the Alis team: ‘The way around it is like this.’ Alis solved the problem. And then I realize: ‘Ah, I had not thought of that myself’.”