4 Reasons Why You Should Look at Paperless Manufacturing

4 Reasons Why You Should Look at Paperless Manufacturing

Ask any child what pet they want, and you are bound to get a plethora of answers straight from Animal Planet.  My nephew recently asked for an elephant, and ended up with a puppy.  This was a simpler, more manageable first step for a junior elephant-tamer.

There are good lessons to be found in parenting, including the benefits of simpler, more manageable first steps.

What would you gain if your manufacturing operations went paperless?

There is a lot of risk involved in implementing a full shop-floor MES solution.  It is a major investment, and IT, Operations, Engineering and Executives all play a role in the project.  New functionality must be integrated with existing work flow.  Is the existing ERP going to play nicely with the new software?  If custom code is needed, then you have more concerns.  Will the shop floor accept change, or have you bought shiny shelfware, with employees continuing to work from paper?

Paperless Manufacturing – the simple step of moving work orders from a paper-based distribution system to a fully-functional system that creates electronic work orders, is a low-risk first step that offers immediate improvements.  With paperless manufacturing, you control the pace, rate and cost of change focusing on improvement, not managing risk.  Here’s why:

  1. Low Risk

Moving work orders and instructions to a paperless system is low risk.  Cost is minimal, in fact, you gain the direct cost savings once printing and delivery costs are eliminated.  There is no need to replace existing work orders, you are simply managing them in a new format – electronic work instructions.  Many of the risks involved in using paper work orders or MS Office work instructions, such as revision control and miscommunication, are removed when you move to paperless manufacturing.

  1. Easy Transition

Small changes are much easier for a team to make than global changes.  A web-based browser system requires little work from IT.  There is no reason to make significant changes to your communications.  You use the same work instructions found on the paper documents, which greatly minimizes the training time and transition period for your shop floor.  In fact, it is simple to incorporate other improvements like workstation training videos and visual work instruction once you have paperless manufacturing in place.  When ready, you can add more powerful capabilities to improve shop floor communications.

  1. Guaranteed ROI

Many MES projects fail when unnecessary additional functionality is added to the project.  Companies pile functionality and features on the MES, but the added costs make achieving ROI more difficult.  In a phased project focused solely on achieving paperless manufacturing, it is simple to calculate ROI.  Once you’ve transitioned to paperless manufacturing, you can better evaluate the additional functions to find the greatest ROI.

  1. Ensure functionality

Often, MES projects turn out to be a Leap of Faith.  You go from nothing, to a full-fledged software solution for manufacturing with mountains of functionality and steep learning curves.  Many manufacturers end up using only what they have to, barely scratching the functionality surface.  Paperless manufacturing allows a slow rollout of functionality, ensuring your team is optimizing their usage before moving on to the next step.

There has never been a better time to free yourself from paper!

Done right, true paperless manufacturing implementation is a simple, quick process requiring very little training for the shop floor.  It delivers tremendous benefits over manufacturing using distributed paper or simply viewing a MS Office document or pdf on the shop floor.  Paperless manufacturing offers added security, revision control, linkage of images or graphics to text or video, accurate archiving, in addition to cost savings, increased quality, and improved productivity with streamlined changed management and work order distribution.  You’ll see an almost immediate ROI, with no need for production downtime.

How many manufacturers are using a paperless manufacturing system now, or have begun to incorporate the functionality of an MES into your operations?  What success have you had introducing new functionality into your operations?  Share with us!  And join us next time as we look at what the future holds for manufacturers, and how we can be prepared to seize success when it comes.

3 thoughts on “4 Reasons Why You Should Look at Paperless Manufacturing

  1. anthony

    MES is great from the shop floor to the top floor. Our team just finished implementing our 7th cheese/whey/processing plant.

  2. Lynn McSparrin

    Documented information is beneficial for training but I agree with the article that paperless on the floor is the way to go. With modern inventory tracking and point-of-control touch screens, not to mention CNC equipment, much paperwork can be eliminated but there is still need for documented inspection sheets as per regulations for waste handling and hazardous materials storage.


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