Discovering the (Hidden) Benefits of Paperless Manufacturing

Many times, the greatest benefits of paperless manufacturing aren’t ones in your list of requirements.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Our recently launched new website (have you seen it at www.cimx.com?) opened my eyes to how powerful an open, adaptable paperless manufacturing system can be.

We did extensive functionality and feature planning for our new website.  We looked at designs, determined the core audience and their needs, and studied how we use our CMS (Content Management System).   We were left with a massive, unwieldy list that we promptly whittled down to focus on our key needs.  In the end, it wasn’t a matter of sacrificing functionality, but realizing the massive list of requirements wasn’t the best way to meet our business needs or the real needs of visitors to the site.

Selecting an open, adaptable MES can yield hidden benefits you might never add to a list of requirements. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Selecting an open, adaptable MES can yield hidden benefits you might never add to a list of requirements. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Then the website launched and we started using it.  All the cool functionality on our initial list is there… like the ability to download PDF’s, a news stream, and our new blog (a VERY cool blog that this one will merge into), and more.  But, the feature I now love the most wasn’t even on our requirement list.

On the old site, I spent HOURS (many-many hours) uploading new material.   It involved formatting and loading text into forms, adding artwork, and creating links and menus.  In the past, I would schedule a day to load pages, and then time to make corrections.  Our CMS was custom-built, and I was making full use of the massive requirement list the CMS was based on.  I thought this pain was just the price of doing business on the website.

Once I got over my, “this is how we have to do it,” attitude, I quickly fell in love with the new system.  Today, loading a new page or article is something I can knock out quickly.  The system is open and easy-to-use, so I spend my time doing more productive work.  I miss nothing about the old method.

Stories like this are common in successful MES and paperless manufacturing implementations.  Sure, MES will give you process control, increase quality, drive profit, and give you shop floor visibility and real-time production information, but with the right system, you’ll discover other benefits. For example, we recently implemented a shop floor work instruction viewer for a customer.  They now collect shop floor data and have eliminated paper build books – HUGE benefits to the shop floor.  They are more productive and efficient.  But the ability to link a photo of a machine to the work instructions has become the shop floor’s favorite feature, and it wasn’t even on the list of requirements.  Turns out, since the shop floor worker has to use multiple machines, having that photo saves them a lot of effort and makes their job easier

The shop used a digital camera to take a picture of the machines.  An engineer added the photo to the work instructions.  The photo could have been a short video of machine set up or on-demand training as another company is doing.  It took 10 minutes of work, and now the entire shop floor is more productive, and management benefits from increased excitement for the new paperless manufacturing system.  It was an unplanned benefit of using such a robust and open paperless manufacturing or MES system.  The goal of the software should be making your business better, working with your processes, and not dictating how your processes need to work.  We know manufacturing and software, but we’re still excited to hear how customers discover new ways to benefit from our software.

Many manufacturers believe their only option is a custom-built paperless manufacturing system, or a system built internally.  They fool themselves into believing an 18-24 month design and implementation project is necessary.     Many custom-built or form-based manufacturing systems are rigid by necessity, many times driven by extensive requirement lists, and end up delivering less functionality than a more open, adaptable system.

Want to know more?   Do you have the ability to use your shop floor methods in new and unexpected ways that excite the staff?  Is your shop floor empowered to use their system to maximize opportunity and find a “better way”? Stop by our new website (www.cimx.com) and take a look at other new features we’re offering.  As always, we’re happy to answer any questions you have.

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