Call it the curse of success: as Unity Lab Services—a business unit of Thermo Fisher—flourished, the already massive amount of vital documentation that required tracking, continual updating and maintenance became exponentially larger and more difficult to manage. For a company that has obtained its leading edge by providing customers with a single source for integrated lab services, support and supply management, the very notion of out-of-control documents and outdated, rogue work instructions spelled potential disaster.
In a recently released case study, John C. Brown, MCSE, Senior Systems Administrator at Thermo Fisher Scientific, explained how his organization dumped its obsolete and inadequate document control system in order to resolve its document control dilemma. “We had a highly customized system,” Brown said, “but it was no longer supported by our IT group.”
Unity Lab Services needed an automated enterprise document management system (EDMS) that could fulfill their content needs right away without requiring complex customization and one which could handle the migration of thousands of existing files relatively quickly and efficiently. After narrowing the list of potential EDMS vendors, Unity Lab Services eventually selected the solution that offered the fastest time-to-implementation and also had a proven track record. “Only MasterControl could fulfill all our user requirements right out of the box,” Brown said. “Plus, it was already in use by other business units within Thermo Fisher.”
Benefits of Automated Document Management
Upon implementation, Unity Lab Services immediately began to see a wide array of benefits from the investment in MasterControl’s potent EDMS. “This solution has replaced an onerous factory-controlled ECO (engineering change order) process that had stymied our ability to implement timely quality and feature updates to the field,” Brown said. “The former process also exposed our intellectual property to abuse by anyone who retained a copy of the support CD that contained all products’ content, which could have resulted in lost revenue and usage of outdated content.”
The examples below show more of the many benefits Unity Lab Services has enjoyed since upgrading its EDMS to a more efficient and effective system.
Faster and More Convenient Access to Crucial Documents: One of the most useful features of the system that Unity Lab Services relies on is MasterControl’s “Organizers.” Similar in design to Windows Explorer, an Organizer is an easy-to-use MasterControl tool that allows users to rapidly find and access the documents they’re looking for. “(Organizers) allow for a comfortable transition for people who are used to a Windows content structure,” Brown said. “Plus, they provide tremendous granularity to control access at several different levels.” Unity Lab Services leverages Organizers to publish content via dynamic links to the majority of its users, presenting them with a familiar Windows-like view of their content. “While this might not matter for a completely new implementation where users are coming from a paper system, this feature provides perhaps the best ‘comfort’ during content migration projects, because we can deliver the same apparent folder/file hierarchy view through which users already know how to locate their content,” Brown said.
Minimal Training Required: Since the electronic system issues training updates electronically, Unity Lab Services’ training procedures are dramatically streamlined. “Because most of our users only need view or print access and we provide that through Organizers, we have zero training overhead for those users beyond an introductory email containing the dynamic Organizer links,” Brown said.
Simple Interface and Familiar Directory Structure: According to Brown, another great advantages of the MasterControl system is that it reduces the amount of time that system administrators must spend on training users since the system’s directory structure is similar to other programs that the average computer user routinely works with. “If they know how to use a browser, they know how to get to their content,” he said.
Maintaining Current Content with “Time Bombs”: The ability of the MasterControl system to set a document to expire on a set time and date provides Unity Lab Services with the peace of mind that content is always kept up to date. “Through a combination of electronic expiry via the publishing ‘time bomb’ and content delivery through dynamic external links, we have assurance that employees in the field can only use the current, effective revision of content,” Brown said.
Content Not Limited to Documents: Aside from handling typical file types such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, MasterControl allows Unity Lab Services to manage all manner of file types. “We deliver executables, zip files, Flash media, and several proprietary instrument file types needed by the field to support our products,” Brown said. He added that certain files such as Flash viewer files of recorded training that his co-workers frequently use are quite large (greater than 50 megabytes). He said that “these can be managed in MasterControl, while they could not be managed on our own internal SharePoint sites” which have a 10 megabyte limit.
Validation Support: Software validation, an area in which MasterControl has a well-established track record of excellence, is a necessity for companies like Unity Lab Services that do business in regulatory environments. Brown said that his company was able to get its EDMS up and running within the parameters of regulatory compliance much faster than anticipated. He even recommended the experience for companies that are not subject to regulatory guidelines, saying, “While validation is a requirement for regulated businesses, I would encourage all sites to execute PQ (performance qualification, a series of test cases used to verify that the system will perform as expected under simulated real-world conditions) for one simple reason: script execution is the best hands-on training a user can receive before going live!”
To read the entire story about how Unity Lab Services is finding ever more success by managing documents more efficiently, download a copy of the case study here.
James Jardine is a marketing communications specialist for MasterControl Inc. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Utah and is based in MasterControl’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.