As their business continued to grow, Brightwell Dispensers found it increasingly difficult to manage their paper-based Quality culture and systems.
It was clear that they needed an online-based Quality Management solution to help them move forward.
Brightwell Dispensers Ltd has grown to become Europe’s leading independent manufacturer of soaps and paper, as well as a complimentary range of peristaltic pumps for industrial, dishwashing, laundry and other applications. The company often works in partnership with major corporates to develop exclusive ranges of equipment, but they are always seeking to improve and expand their own range of dispensers from which the bulk of their revenue is made.
The company pride themselves on being market leaders and developing new technologies and features, with products regularly winning design and innovation awards in the UK and internationally.
Brightwell has a philosophy of bringing the manufacturing processes in-house. This not only reduces the outflow of funds to suppliers but also offers improved control over their supply chain, making for more flexibility in manufacturing.
This philosophy has led to the introduction of an in-house injection moulding plant where most of the dispenser components are made. Since this development, the electronic side of the business has benefited from the same philosophy, as flow solder and automatic test equipment (ATE) has been followed by laser guided assembly equipment and most recently, surface mount ‘pick and place’ equipment. Brightwell now produce over 90% of their components in-house. Brightwell obtained registration to BS EN ISO 9002:. However, over the following years the enormous burden imposed on the company by maintaining that standard became apparent.
The Group Quality Assurance Manager, Phil Metcalfe, takes up the story. “In the years after registration we were working to improve our Quality culture and systems. Significantly, much of this work involved producing more paperwork. Bought in and ‘in-house’ components became better specified, key suppliers had quality based assessments and quality based contracts issued to them, and most importantly, detailed specifications of all our products were being produced"
"This, combined with the vast range of different processes the company is involved in, and our wide product base, had caused an explosion in the amount of documentation in the company. The quality manual, just under a lever arch file in size in 1996 had expanded to an entire room. We worked out that around a third of the time of the quality department was being devoted to producing, updating and maintaining the work instructions, specification and procedures involved.”
The answer at first was a software package designed specifically for quality assurance. This vastly reduced the burden on the quality department, but over the following years became very much an enclosed system, separate from the rest of the company.
“Our documentation system had become something of a blind alley. People referred to the documents when they needed to and day-to-day forms and instructions were obtained from the system, but the system was too distinct from the other company systems”, said Phil.
The EQMS solution
Brightwell set up a team to address the problem. The company has always been at the forefront of internet-based activity, particularly in marketing, and so an intranet-based solution seemed a logical extension of this. Phil continued: “We established a ‘wish list’ of goals for a new intranet; it had to be user friendly and be able to facilitate the availability of information throughout the company by grouping documents logically and having a powerful search facility. The intranet had to be capable of being made available over the internet to our internationally based sales team, our stockists and our key suppliers. Practically speaking it therefore had to be capable of being corporately branded, it had to look ours. Finally, it had to be easy to maintain and capable of controlling documents to ISO 9001 standards where necessary, and to a simpler level where not.”
After examining several packages on the market Brightwell settled on EQMS from Qualsys Ltd.Phil explains their decision: “EQMS did all of the things we wanted. Crucially though it was remarkably user friendly – this is vital as all our staff from the MD down to the shop floor use the system daily. It doesn’t just control our Quality documents properly but it also makes all our other documentation readily available without having to subject it all to full QA style document control,”
Smart corporate branding of the package has produced a system that looks as good as it works, and it looks and feels more than smart enough to be made available to outside users.
“The directory structure and search engine are easy to use; documents can be grouped together and the facility to reference a document more than once in the structure means that users have alternative places to find documents. EQMS also has no client-based software, using Internet Explorer to allow users to access the system. This was also important to us, reducing the amount of IT department support required which is important for an SME”, said Phil.
The role EQMS now plays
Phil explains: “It took us about three months to decide that EQMS was the best package we’d seen, but it took only a few weeks to get the vast document base uploaded onto the system. We EQMS was launched it replaced our intranet, our electronic quality manual and a range of information sources built up by different parts of the company. Now that we’ve had the system for a number of years it has developed and improved. We have around 4,000 documents ranging from digital photographs and video to test-based procedures, flow charts and process maps. We have linked pages from the web into the software as well, competitor sites, supplier sites, customer sites and useful web-based resources. It’s a bit like having a corporate “Favourites” list”.
Opening the system up over the internet has allowed the internationally-based sales team access to technical resources, customer and product details and a wide range of other information previously only available to staff in Newhaven. Stockists followed, giving them access to some of the same information. Finally, key suppliers have been included, allowing purchase specifications and other information available online to them as well.
Brightwell continue to look for new ways to use the software to improve their business. “For us, the software is all about moving information quickly and efficiently. Although we already have some electronic records – SPC software connected directly to test equipment for example – we believe we can reduce the amount of paperwork we still have around the company in the form of records and data still further using EQMS. Audit reports, customer complaints and performance indicators are being placed on the system to allow managers instant access to the information. Even reports from our BSI assessors are available“, explains Phil.
But it seems that this is just the beginning: “We have not even started using all the features EQMS has available and Qualsys continue to develop the solution, regularly adding useful features. We expect more productivity gains over the coming years. We achieved payback in the first months of use and are certainly well-ahead of the game.”
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