Setting off on the right foot makes all the difference when implementing a new document management system. That’s where INFICON AB is right now, as the company prepares for expansion and a future with better control. With Columbus by their side, they’re laying the foundation for their success.
Global industry on Åland
INFICON Aaland AB is part of a group that develops, manufactures and sells instruments for gas and vacuum measurement and analysis. The company, which is head-quartered in Switzerland, is a global leader in its niche and their sensors are used in a range of different industries around the world. Their most important customer segment is the semi-conductor industry, but their products are used in a whole host of areas – both in manufacturing processes and as components in actual products. They have eight manufacturing facilities in different parts of the world, one of which is on Åland.
Full control required
Many companies find themselves in the same situation as INFICON: they need to move to a new generation of system and also make sure it works in all the companies within the group. With each month that passes, the volume and number of versions of documents rises. At the same time the company is growing organically and recruiting new employees. Consequently resources are used to train new employees to use the older system – even though it's going to be replaced anyway. Sometimes the group acquires companies that use other systems, which makes things even more complex.
Roger Danielsson is based on Åland and is the Global Head of Quality and Environment. During the last few months, he has been focused on the internal documents required for managing and reporting an ISO certified business like theirs. Having full control of the right document versions, such as governance documents and sustainability reports, is absolutely essential. Roger provides an example:
“Let's say that the technical designers in the engineering department update the drawings for a component. The purchasing department has an out-of-date version of the drawing, contacts a supplier and orders a year's supply of a component. One month later, we don’t just have a costly expense we also have a serious delivery problem. That simply cannot happen.”
Implementation of M-files
INFICON has just commenced its implementation process (May 2022). Roger and two of his colleagues have installed M-Files as a first small pilot. Their implementation follows a tried-and-tested workflow and Roger emphasises how important the preparatory work is. A new system like M-Files has many benefits and the wish-list of all the places you want to start using it can easily grow. At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that replacing different, older systems is a complex change to make. Here’s Roger’s advice:
“Write a list of everything you don’t need from the start instead. Think smaller solutions and make them successful, rather than trying to do everything from the beginning.”
Roger thinks that most people are good at saving documents, but most people don’t realise that the real challenge is getting rid of them. This is where a system like M-Files can help. You set a “best-before date” so that the owner of the document can determine whether the document is current, needs updating or should be archived. Out-of-date documents shouldn’t even be accessible to employees generally.
Don't wait too long
It’s a challenge to do an implementation while the company is growing rapidly and new personnel have to be introduced. And getting colleagues to allocate time is difficult, even though it's crucial for the future.
“My simple advice is to just get going. Nobody benefits from waiting. In our case, we also had a software solution connected to Explorer which will simply stop working if we don’t do something.”
The plan is that the 80 employees at the Åland site will be up and running with M-Files before the end of the year. There are currently 300–400 governing documents, instructions, process descriptions, environmental certifications etc. Additionally there are 150–200 forms and a few hundred or so further process documents. And internationally there's at least eight times more documents.
Ready for an expansion
These are long-awaited improvements that will ready the company for the future and further expansion. When it comes to IT solutions, you always have to stay a step ahead and have the capacity for tomorrow’s needs. For example, many other systems have limited language capabilities, whereas M-Files can handle as many as 38 different languages.
Roger explains that their choice of M-Files was decided by the languages and the overall capacity of the system:
“Obviously, I can’t give M-Files a rating just yet. But I can say how important it is to have a good supplier who can explain and show us what we need. Columbus has opened doors that we hadn’t thought of ourselves, and I have great confidence in the consultants that are helping us.”