The Quality Case for Digitizing Frontline Operations

Brian Carpizo

February 8, 2021
digitizing frontline operations quality

Unforced Errors?

As operations managers, none of you set out to make quality mistakes, and neither do your staff. More than 3,400 nursing homes were fined for non-compliance with infection control and failure to report during the first part of the pandemic. It’s safe to say that none of them did it on purpose, but the consequences of faulty quality management were severe in both money and risk to life.

According to Atul Gawane, author of The Checklist Manifesto, “Even the most expert among us can gain from searching out the patterns of mistakes and failures and putting a few checks in place. But will we do it?”

How Do Frontline Operations Problems Persist?

A key bargain is the cost of fixing the problem versus the cost of not fixing it. The up-front cost to fix a problem can make people shy away and end up incurring higher costs later, especially if the problem is “minor”. But minor things add up. It’s easy for the more imminent cost to outweigh the theoretical one down the line.

Another issue is that the mistakes may be invisible. In a good number of cases, the problem processes are status quo. Institutional memory, typically so valuable, can ossify into institutional inertia.

This inertia means that often the issues are not a human error but rather systemic in nature. Thus, the system itself needs to be analyzed to establish what is going on. Analysis needs to determine whether the problems can be fixed by training or whether more significant changes are required in processes. In some cases, the issue can cross over between these two areas.

Digitization: Solve Systemic Problems & Avoid Expensive Trouble Later

Best-in-class operators have a solution. It starts with the digitization of their standard operating procedures and tracking. This allows for orderly storage and retrieval, as well as easy access to information both in the head office and, with modern technology, the field. Changing your protocols requires understanding what they are. Problems also ensue when procedures are not standardized.

The second part of the puzzle is much harder, and that is identifying the problems and mistakes you are already making so that they can be addressed. This is done using CAPA (Corrective and Preventive Action) to identify and eliminate both existing and potential issues. CAPA is a circular and ongoing process to ensure continuous improvement. It makes sure that feedback occurs in order to prevent a fix to one problem causing a different one. It helps highlight issues you failed to notice and points out inefficiencies in quality management that might be costing you money.

Digitization of processes helps with this by flagging things that human eyes might not notice. (Obviously, they should not be relied on entirely but should be used in concert with the expertise of your front-line workers.)

You should then work with your front-line workers to develop new protocols, test them, and continue to move forward. Digitization, however, helps make sure that things don’t get put into the back of a filing cabinet and forgotten while everyone goes back to the old, familiar way of doing things. The system you use needs to be a portable solution using standard operating procedures where staff works – including on mobile tablets and smartphones, away from desks. This allows recurring processes to be done the same way every time

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Example of a TrustPlace CAPA task automatically generated after a process failure

TrustPlace - Integrating Business Process Management with Quality Management

TrustPlace offers business process management software that supports connected workers in the field. Our software can solve your systemic problems and help you see and correct the issues you did not know you had. TrustPlace’s CAPA (Corrective Action, Preventive Action) feature allows operations managers the capability to set failure criteria and automatically create CAPA tasks for investigation and remediation.

Contact us to find out how TrustPlace can help you and your frontline workers and to request a demo of our software.

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