information management compliance

Information management that takes the complications out of compliance

Another challenge created by poorly optimised information management in manufacturing is weakness in regulatory compliance. Compliance-related documentation needs to be managed effectively. Failure to do so can result in costly production delays and exclusion from tenders.

Information accessibility issues create a clear challenge in this area: it’s difficult to meet compliance obligations when documents are lost or badly coordinated. But there is an issue at the other end of the spectrum that is worth mentioning. Many organisations are aware of where their document retention obligations end, but are nonetheless unwilling to commit to sentencing schedules. They keep everything. The most common reason for this is that large companies often aren’t sure what their archives contain. From a liability perspective, the cost of ongoing storage is more than justified by the danger that an arbitrary sentencing mechanism might accidentally destroy mission-critical documents. However, businesses practicing “infinite retention”, while ostensibly ensuring compliance, may in fact be hampering it. Besides causing a company to spend many times what is necessary — in both dollars and square meters — to store their archives, infinitely retained human resources information, for example, may result in a violation of the Privacy Act.

Compliance in manufacturing is also complicated by an excessive reliance on paper in many businesses. While paper remains an indispensible part of information workflows, failing to adopt digital systems where appropriate can result in a lack of automation and more complex human-reliant information management systems. “Complexity is fertile territory for error,” says researcher Matthew C. Holtman.[1] When the human element in a system increases, so does the possibility that something will go wrong. More human engagement in the compliance process can also drive up costs because of the additional manual labour involved.

Whether paper-based, digital or hybrid, manufacturing businesses need a way of handling compliance that lowers costs, and limits error, and eliminates the risk of violation.

Professional information management companies help businesses stay compliant by staying abreast of industry-specific legislation and creating sentencing schedules to match. They can also set up automatic document management systems that take the human element out of the compliance equation. The danger of accidental destruction is eliminated with a verification process that double-checks with the information owner before any action is taken.

The hallmark of a high-quality information management solution is the ability to ensure all of an organisation’s records comply with the Privacy Act and other relevant legislation without significantly driving up costs. In fact, it can help lower them. By eliminating a company’s risk of non-compliance, the chance of expensive fines and lost productivity is dramatically reduced. Careful monitoring of retention requirements also limits costs by ensuring files are not being stored unnecessarily. Automated systems contribute to savings by reducing labour costs as well as the financial fallout that results from human error.

[1] Holtman, M. C., “Paradoxes of professionalism and error in complex systems”, in Journal of Biomedical Informatics, Volume 44, Issue 3, June 2011, pp. 395–401