Tag Archives: Lean Manufacturing

6 Ways Paperless Manufacturing Can Help Your Shop Floor

A paperless manufacturing system can quickly and easily deliver even more benefits than you might think.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Ensure an early ROI for your project by focusing on items with the greatest return. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Ensure an early ROI for your project by focusing on items with the greatest return. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Many companies begin researching paperless manufacturing to solve a single problem.  Depending on the problem, paperless manufacturing likely holds the solution.  No other shop floor investment addresses so many of the challenges manufacturing faces.  Which is why manufacturing firms spent more than $5 Billion on MES and paperless manufacturing solutions in 2013, and estimates predict the MES market will expand more than 20% annually.

But, a powerful and capable paperless manufacturing system offers more than just a single solution or capability.  With the right system, you have workflow control and complete shop floor visibility.  As you consider a system for your shop floor, take a look at the six capabilities that provide the foundation of any paperless system.

1)      Track, measure, record and dynamically manage work flow.

Every manufacturer must track and manage workflow – it’s the key to a production system.  The methods used to manage work vary between manufacturers, and can lead to vastly different results.

With paperless systems, work flow is digitized, allowing automated tracking and recording of work.  Management of the work flow is made possible with instantaneous communication and error-free work instructions.

2)      Create production plans with approved, accurate work instructions.

Operations benefit from standards, best practices, and process improvement plans such as Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma only when they are implemented in production.

Using a paperless manufacturing system, procedural enforcement ensures the productions team incorporates best practices on the shop floor.  Planners use only the most recent and approved plans.   A library of approved work plans, best practices and standards ensures your team completes planning in less time and with better work instructions.

3)      Collect data on all production operations.

Data is a valuable commodity.  Unfortunately for many manufacturers, the age and inaccuracy of collected data significantly limits its usefulness.

A successful paperless system collects real-time data at each work station.  The system automatically verifies specified quality metrics fall within acceptable ranges.  The collected data becomes a valuable tool for manufacturers.

4)      Create a complete, accurate production record for all products.

The production record includes every action taken, every specification read, every training module referred to, every log in and out on a job, and every measurement taken on a product.

Most (if not all) manufacturers monitor shop floor activity, but an effective paperless solution automatically creates a comprehensive production record used to verify all actions were completed accurately.  This unified record, compliant with all regulatory body or key customer standards, provides a rich source of accurate data for future use.

5)      Have a continuous real-time view of all open work orders.

In the past, a real-time view of production meant walking around the shop floor asking questions.

With a paperless system, manufacturers can get a comprehensive, real-time view of production.  Current work can be seen in the context of actual work flow order at each moment.  This real time view is invaluable to plant management and quality assurance, helping proactively solve problems and ensure smooth production.  It is a major component of business intelligence.

6)      Enable seamless communication across the enterprise from a single source of truth about production.

Many companies struggle with data coming from multiple locations with no coordination, and often communication focuses on building consensus rather than manufacturing.

Paperless manufacturing is built around the concept of a single source of truth about the product.  Everyone works from the same data and toward the same goal.  The solution has the flexibility to manage, record, and distribute information from multiple sources, eliminating mistakes from faulty information while managing WIP all the time.

Delivering Benefits and ROI with Paperless Manufacturing

Process Improvement graph.

No other shop floor solution addresses so many production challenges, or offers a bigger benefit. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

With paperless manufacturing, companies reduce quality defects, eliminate human error, minimize waste and scrap, and increase productivity.  The system delivers shop floor control and visibility like no other product on the market.

Current trends in manufacturing are pushing companies to adopt paperless solutions.  Customers demand more customization and quicker turnaround times through smaller production runs.  They expect real-time information on the status of their orders.  Paperless manufacturing offers a clear advantage over paper-driven processes in delivering these goals.

Want to learn more, or to see what paperless manufacturing can do for you, then contact CIMx today.  We’re happy to help.

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Will You Survive the Imminent Demise of Paper-Based Manufacturing?

Still reluctant to explore paperless manufacturing on your shop floor?  Change is happening, and the decisions you make now will shape your future.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Sometimes you can see global change happening from miles away.  The first time I logged onto the Internet I knew there was so much more to this new world than text-based games and discussion forums.

tombstone-black-whiteAnd sometimes global change can surprise you.  I’ll admit, the tablet-craze was a shock.  It couldn’t fit in my pocket, and it didn’t have nearly the functionality of a laptop, yet it’s a craze that doesn’t seem to be fading.  Reality TV was another surprise.  Honestly, how can we explain the Kardashians?

That said, are you ready for the demise of paper-based manufacturing?  Are you surprised that paper travelers and paper build books are gasping for breath and struggling to survive?  How will you respond when the market demands you move to paperless manufacturing?

Still in denial (which, in this case, is not the river in Egypt), then consider this:

  • Customers are demanding more custom manufacturing and small runs.  Their business needs more control over the manufacturing you provide.  The market is moving away from traditional manufacturing.  It doesn’t provide the control and visibility custom manufacturing requires.  Sure, paper works, but it provides diminishing returns that cut into your bottom line.
  • Big data is here.  You’re going to see more tools to convert that data into responses that benefit your business.  Process improvement, for example.  You need data and process control to implement Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing.  Paper-based manufacturing is a glaring hole in big data.  It doesn’t provide adequate support for analytics.
  • Manufacturing needs stronger information tools than paper can provide.  For example, visual information and multi-lingual work instructions aren’t easily supported on paper.  Complex manufacturing drives paper toward bigger and bigger build books, creating more errors and more problems, while a paperless solution provides scalable tools for the work.
  • Quality is improved with paperless manufacturing, and quality was recently cited in studies as more important to profitability in manufacturing than productivity.  Paper is the source of many quality escapes in manufacturing (lost information, and lack of revision control, for example), while paperless manufacturing directly addresses many of these problems.
  • Technology has eliminated many of the concerns potential customers have with paperless manufacturing and MES.  For example, with Quantum, CIMx can install a paperless manufacturing system in a few weeks.  Training for the system can be completed days.  With a phased implementation, the customer is in complete control of the installation and gains production benefits quickly.
Prepare for the future and improve production with paperless manufacturing. Image by www.colourbox.com

Prepare for the future and improve production with paperless manufacturing. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

I will admit, even with the clear benefits of paperless manufacturing there will be shop floors that cling to paper, fearing change.  They may be profitable, in spite of themselves, but it is hard to deny the market is moving (rapidly) toward paperless manufacturing.  In 2013, manufacturers spent $5 billion on paperless manufacturing systems.  That’s a LOT of money to be spent without a clear ROI and benefit.

The world is changing, are you ready?  Will the market drive change on your shop floor, or will you control the change, ensuring maximum benefit for your business?  Or will you be stuck carrying a giant phone book tethered to the wall by a rotary phone while your competitors are using a smart phone?

Want to learn more, or are you ready to make a change.  Contact CIMx today to learn how we can help, or sign up for our free webinar.

Make Your Shop Floor Data Work for You

Smart businesses have discovered data is a valuable asset, but struggle to deliver shop floor visibility, letting manufacturing data slip away.

 By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Don't let shop floor data, one of your most valuable commodities, slip away.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Don’t let shop floor data, one of your most valuable commodities, slip away. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Last week I went to the grocery store and bought dog food and lunchmeat.  The next day I received e-coupons for new dog food brands, sandwich bread, and condiments.  You know what… I ended up buying that sandwich bread.  It looked good, the coupon had value, and the bread was healthier than what I had.  The grocery store turned my shopping data into another sale.

The fact is – data is a valuable asset!  Businesses realize this, and are putting in place new systems to capture, store and use data.  Amazon.com is a MASTER of using data to tailor the online shopping experience.  Using data (the user’s online searches, previous purchases, and online habits), Amazon can customize the shopping experience for each user, and that drives sales and profit for Amazon.  None of that would be possible without quality data.

Even with the obvious benefits of business data, many manufacturers haven’t made an effort to capture shop floor manufacturing data.  They build a robust CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system or put in an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), but haven’t implemented the shop floor visibility offered by an MES (Manufacturing Execution System) or Paperless Manufacturing.  They still see manufacturing as a place where orders go in and products come out.  Manufacturing data is valuable in a number of areas, such as:

  • Process Improvement.  Quality data collection is necessary for shop floor process improvement plans such as Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma.  Quality data will allow the shop floor to make the smart process adjustments necessary for improvement.  As for benefit, manufacturers with real time quality data have shown a reduction in cycle time of 60% or more, and a reduction in rework as much as 90%.
  • Accurate Estimates and better sales.   Without accurate production data – understanding who did what and for how long – it is difficult to build an accurate estimate for sales.  How can you accurately price a product for a customer if you don’t have visibility into your shop floor processes?
  • Successful regulatory audits.  Audits are a way of life in regulated industries.  Many manufacturers spend time and energy responding to audits, when successful data collection and storage would ease audit preparation and provide many of the records needed during an audit.
  • Customer responsiveness.  Customers have come to expect instant customer service.  They want access to their data, and they want a vendor to be responsive.  Access to quality data helps build a relationship with your customers and shows responsiveness.

61% of businesses in a recent Forbes survey reported, “… suffering from flawed information.”  Are you suffering from flawed data?  Do you have complete visibility of your manufacturing processes?  Manufacturing is the heart of your business, and manufacturing data is one of the most important assets you own.  Make sure you’re not letting the data slip away with an inefficient shop floor system.

Fix Your Shop Floor Processes Now

Don’t fall into the “If it ain’t broke…” trap.  Sometimes your biggest mistake is in not doing anything.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I don’t know where I first heard the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” but it’s become the rallying cry of procrastinators everywhere.  Unfortunately, it’s a rallying cry that ends up a funeral dirge or death knell…

Case in point… my neighbor had a rattle in the car engine.  It sounded like an engine wheeze – metal on metal.  “No big deal,” my neighbor said. “It’s just something loose and the car’s working fine.  I’ll get to it before vacation.”

Does your shop floor run like a well-oiled machine, or a wheezing engine?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Does your shop floor run like a well-oiled machine, or a wheezing engine? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Vacation passed and the rattle continued.  Other priorities and expenses came up, so why bother with a rattle that wasn’t hurting anything?  That is, until he destroyed the engine on his way to a business meeting.   The car overheated, the head gasket blew and it completely ruined the engine.  My neighbor missed his meeting, spent more than $4,000 fixing his car, enjoyed a night on the side of the highway waiting for a tow truck, and was forced to coordinate rides to work and trips to the grocery store while the car was fixed.

Lesson of the story… a simple belt replacement ended up costing him thousands in repairs, plus lost time, missed meetings, and endless aggravation.

Choices and options.

How will you handle broken and inefficient processes on your shop floor? Photo from http://www.colourbox.com.

It’s a lesson not all manufacturers understand.  Software Advice recently released a survey (found here) detailing manufacturing software buyer trends. The report, by Software Advice’s analyst Derek Singleton, identifies paper and spreadsheets as the primary method of tracking manufacturing processes for many of the manufacturers taking the survey.  Research by Oracle has shown paper-driven processes increase costs, introduce errors, add complexity and create compliance issues.  In fact, 75.9% of companies reported significant business risks due to inefficient document-driven processes, including paper-based processes.  So why do so many companies continue to use paper-driven processes to control the shop floor (the heart of manufacturing)?

Because if it ain’t broke, why fix it?  If all your shop floor knows is inefficiency and is comfortable with it, then why change?

More than increasing risk, paper-driven processes significantly increase costs for businesses.  As reported by Oracle, a study by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) found businesses, “spend $20 in labor to file a document, $120 in labor to find a misfiled document, and $220 in labor to reproduce a lost document,” (www.aiim.org).  The money has to come from somewhere, so these costs are either eaten by the manufacturer or passed along to the customers.  So why are companies throwing away money on paper?

I go back to my neighbor and the months he spent with a rattle in his engine.  He knew he should do something, but other priorities came up and the engine never seemed that bad.  “It’s more work to fix than deal with it”, he told me once.

What steps can you take to increase shop floor efficiency?  What steps are your competition taking?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

What steps can you take to increase shop floor efficiency? What steps are your competition taking? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

For manufacturers operating in a paper-driven environment, going paperless would mean buying and installing a new system (which takes valuable IT resources), integrating a new process, and training the shop floor.  It feels like a lot of work for some nebulous, paperless return.  If the decision-maker isn’t a shop floor employee, it is even more difficult to justify the cost since you don’t feel the paper-based shop floor pain on a daily basis… and so, life under, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” goes on.

But there is a danger to the, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” mentality, and the grinding noise in my neighbor’s engine perfectly illustrates it…  We recently worked with a manufacturer that repeatedly failed audits due to paper-based record-keeping.  In less than a month, we were able to install a system on the shop floor and begin collecting audit-worthy as-built records.  Another manufacturer lost a major client because they couldn’t guarantee timely change orders – a simple function in paperless manufacturing and MES.  Waiting to fix shop floor challenges isn’t a solution, it means disaster hasn’t struck yet.  Worse yet is failing to recognize there is a problem and it needs fixing.

So what does this mean for you and your shop floor?

Another section of the Software Advice study identifies improving or automating processes as the top reason manufacturers purchase new manufacturing software.  Other reasons include updating or modernizing their software, additional features and functionality, and company growth.  Another part of the study identified improving efficiency as the primary reason companies seek to replace existing manufacturing software.  We are seeing a consistent drive to improve the shop floor, and the beginning of a movement away from the “If it ain’t broke…” mentality because people are starting to realize “It is broke”.

Companies are beginning to take control of their own destiny and take action proactively, rather than reactively.  The manufacturing marketplace is tightening, and proactive process and efficiency improvements are a competitive advantage for many companies.   More and more companies are turning every day to paperless manufacturing and manufacturing software for an advantage.

“If it ain’t broke…” isn’t a recipe for success in modern manufacturing.  Take a lesson from my neighbor – if you hear a grinding engine wheeze in your shop floor, get it fixed or you might be stuck waiting while your competition moves ahead.  Are there problems you are waiting to solve on your shop floor?  Are there problems you don’t even recognize on your shop floor?  Are your work processes a victim of the, “it ain’t broke…” mentality?  If so, let us know.  The solution may be much closer, easier to solve, and less expensive, than you might think.

Manufacturing Innovation Waits For No One

Additive Manufacturing, Paperless Manufacturing, Cloud Computing, Mobile Manufacturing… the future of manufacturing is here, but many of us are letting it pass us by.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

How will manufacturing innovation help your business?

How will manufacturing innovation help your business? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

A few days ago, I came across an article on Yahoo News – 3D-Printed Rocket Engine Part Passes Key NASA Test.  I was eating a sandwich and waiting for a phone call, so I didn’t read it.  I planned to look it up later.  I thought if it was REALLY important, it would be on the news or the magic social media fairies would flood my Facebook page with the hundreds of ways I should feel about it.

In retrospect, that’s not the way the world or innovation works.  Here was innovation… a swift kick from the future of manufacturing!  And I decided to eat a sandwich… It wasn’t even a good sandwich.

We are all searching for innovation, and we all know that success in manufacturing is dependent on smart decisions, empowered employees, and delivering higher quality for lower cost.  We know success is dependent on working smarter, faster, and more cheaply.  Innovation is the key!

But how many of us are actually taking the steps to innovate?

How many of us are so focused on the next crisis, we don’t innovate?  No one has time to innovate, we are too busy working reactively to put out emergencies to think proactively.  Someone else will do it, or tell us to do it.  Until “innovation” becomes a critical emergency (such as a process no longer works, or a customer demands it, or something is broken and needs fixing), innovation isn’t a priority.

Take control of your business, and don't fall victim to the crisis of the moment. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Take control of your business, and don’t fall victim to the crisis of the moment. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

But the future isn’t waiting.  Its passing us by, and even Yahoo News can see it.  Innovation works.  Innovation created our industry… just ask Henry Ford and his assembly line.  So I decided to do something about it.  When a friend mentioned the, “Printed rocket thing that NASA did,” I realized I didn’t have anything intelligent to add.  I wasn’t innovating, only spinning my wheels making excuses.

Now, I get my coffee in the morning and take a look at industry news.  I think about how I work and where I spend too much time because the current tools aren’t working, and look for a solution.  I come up with plans and make innovation a priority.  I make sure I’m spending at least 10 minutes on innovation each day.  I even set a clock

After two weeks, I’m already seeing results… I’d like to congratulate Aerospace Rocketdyne on a successful test, and told my friend about it.  I’m going paperless and using the OneNote Web App to take notes and keep my calendar.  Integrating OneNote with the voice record on my smart phone was genius.  I also set up a filing system for my computer desktop, and can find a file in less than a minute.

Maybe I’m an idealist, but the results speak for themselves.  Innovation should never be the child of an emergency.  Once you make the promise to yourself to be proactive in your innovation, even if it’s 10 minutes every morning, you’ll find fewer emergencies that require your undivided attention.  Solve problems before they become an emergency.

Manufacturing thrives with innovation, a fact I believe many of us have forgotten.  So what steps have you taken to innovate?  How do you plan for the future in your business?  Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

How to Get the Paperless Manufacturing System You Want

There are numerous options for companies researching MES and paperless manufacturing, we take a close look and evaluate two of those options.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications at CIMx Software

Ensure your paperless manufacturing solution solves problems, and doesn't create them. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Ensure your paperless manufacturing solution solves problems, and doesn’t create them. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

It is much more difficult to build a car than buy one.  So, even though I’m annoyed by side view mirror controls that dig into my wrist, and I bang my head when I put my daughter in the car seat, I won’t re-engineer the work involved in current car designs to build my own (even though a robot vacuum to clean up after the kids is simply brilliant).

Build versus buy is not only a question in cars, but also MES and paperless manufacturing.  As businesses research the benefits to production, quality, and data collection found in paperless manufacturing, each must decide whether to build their own system, or buy from a vendor.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each option.  For this blog, we’ll look at points to consider as you make your own evaluation.

Design

The ability to design a paperless manufacturing system and control the final product is often the primary reason a company will build rather than buy.  Every manufacturer is different, with different processes and unique needs.  Incorporating internal processes and needs at the beginning of development helps ensure a better product.

Ensure your paperless manufacturing project isn't one best left to the experts. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Ensure your paperless manufacturing project isn’t one best left to the experts. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

To successfully build your own system, you must understand those processes and needs before you begin.  Determining the system requirements can take 2 months or more, and requires significant input from the manufacturing team (pulling them from the shop floor), and management.  You should also assume some slippage in the project timeline.  No matter how much planning is done, you can’t plan for everything once the code begins flowing.

Any items not included from the initial system requirements will exponentially increase the cost in time and resources for the project.  You also need to consider that every requirement you identify for the system will add to the cost.  If you have the stomach for the time and money it will take to complete the system, you’ll have the system you want.

Making changes to a system you bought can also be costly.  A risk companies run into is creating a “custom” system that will be more difficult to support.  When purchasing, make sure to do your research and ask for demos using your current work instructions to see how the installed system will work on your shop floor.

Implementation

Implementation involves taking the initial design and writing code for it, then installing it on the shop floor.

A system built internally begins with the 2+ months to determine the system requirements before programming and development begins.  In addition to programmers, the project requires an expert in User Interface to eliminate unnecessary complexity, and a Data Base Administrator (DBA).  Specifications will also affect the final cost of the system.  Consider the database and platform, and plan for a product that will work not only now, but in the future for your business.

There are ways to lower cost, such as removing functionality, minimizing testing, or utilizing internal resources, but there are costs associated with these measures, and could affect the long term viability of the system.  Evaluate the return and cost for each decision before making choices you may regret.

System integration is another point to consider.  Manufacturers and businesses use a number of different software systems and databases.  Ensuring those systems work together smoothly is often overlooked in planning. 

How much risk and cost can your business manage for a paperless manufacturing .

How much risk and cost can your business manage for a paperless manufacturing .

Purchased systems offer a much lower cost for implementation.  Today, there are paperless manufacturing systems that can be installed and integrated in less than two weeks with no disruption of shop floor processes.  However, you will not have the design control you have in a built system.

Configuring, adapting, and integrating the system can take longer.  Also, beware of systems that require that your shop floor processes adapt to the software, which can significantly increase implementation.  Look for MES or paperless manufacturing systems which can reuse your existing work instructions and processes to reduce implementation time and training.

Reliability

A paperless manufacturing system is only useful if it is up, running, and secure.  The long-term reliability and maintainability of the system must be considered in planning.

Every system requires maintenance and upkeep, especially in an industry such as manufacturing where changes in technology and processes are common.

Evaluate the ROI of a home built MES, then work with a software provider to go over the ROI for their system. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Evaluate the ROI of a home built MES, then work with a software provider to go over the ROI for their system. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

With a system built internally, evaluate how much time and resources you will assign to the maintenance.  Will you have access to the team that originally built the software?  They are best positioned to maintain the system.  How will you handle bugs?  How much time in testing, both integration and regression testing, will you accept to repair bugs and flaws in the system.  If you see maintainability as a low priority, are you and your team willing to accept temporary patches, flaws, and workarounds in addition to a slow slide toward software obsolescence?  Is there a plan to upgrade the system? Considering these issues early in the planning process will help eliminate future surprises, and determine the lifetime cost of the system.  

The truth is, many businesses significantly underestimate the resources necessary to successfully maintain a system.  Most times they won’t intentionally underestimate to work required for maintenance, but once they better understand the requirements, they’ll be forced to make sacrifices and the solution will no longer be optimized.

Almost all home built software become “legacy” once the project is complete.  If the team that built the system isn’t on staff, the product cannot be tested and is therefore legacy software.  Future modifications will be exponentially more expensive.

Reliability and support for a purchased system will depend on the vendor supplying the software.  Many vendors offer an inexpensive system initially, and then charge higher fees for service and maintenance.  For example, a consultant will often install a base system very quickly, and then require further services to ensure the system works as promised. 

Look at the product support before making a purchase.  A system with a large support staff will expect customers to help pay for the staff through service charges.  Are there fees for upgrades or patches?  How is the product maintained? 

Many software systems require a license fee, which often includes product support.  Most purchased systems have been installed and used countless times, which can be seen as continual product testing, ensuring a more reliable and error free platform.  The total cost of the software and maintainability is shared by all the customers. 

Reliability in the system helps build the ROI, so take time to make an informed decision.

______________________

As you evaluate paperless manufacturing options, keep in mind a company specializing in manufacturing software systems rely on years of expertise in both manufacturing and software development. They will be marketing the product for years, and will continue maintenance and testing, to ensure the system works.

Choices and options.

Take a close look at the resource requirements necessary for maintainability. Photo from http://www.colourbox.com.

But, building a system internally allows a level of customization and control a purchased system can’t match.  Your evaluation comes down to a simple question – is the benefit of increased customization and control (or other motives driving you toward the solution) worth the increased cost in time, resources, and risk?  Look at not just the initial product, but the long-term investment.  Have a plan in place for continuing to maintain the system and ensuring the design of the system isn’t trapped in an information silo.

There is also risk and cost in purchasing a system.  Some vendors sell systems that aren’t well maintained or supported, or have hidden costs.  paperless manufacturing in the Cloud has associated risks.  You may not have all the functionality you wanted with the system, since it wasn’t designed internally, but you benefit from lower cost and lower risk for your shop floor.

There are advantages and disadvantages to building and purchasing an MES or paperless manufacturing system, and each company must evaluate the options with internal criteria before making a decision.  When building a system, you can get what you want if you are willing to spend the money and resources necessary, and you can mitigate the risk of potential failure.  You also need to be aware that a paperless manufacturing system is not a “one and done” project. It requires ongoing maintenance to continue to meet the needs of your business.

Success requires willingness to pay, a stomach for risk, and a devotion to maintainability. Which is why my brilliant robot vacuum is still a dream, and there are still crumbs in the backseat of my car.

Paperless Manufacturing Is Changing Our Industry, Are You Ready?

Our world is going paperless, the question is who will drive the change when it reaches your shop floor?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I recently got an eye-opening wake-up call to the paperless future.

It was finally time to retire my 16-year old air conditioner and upgrade to a high-efficiency system.  I did my research and price-checked estimates before choosing a company.  I called up the sales rep to select a system, schedule the installation and sign the paperwork… then things got interesting.

“Paperwork?” the rep said. “No need… we can do everything online.”

Isn't it time to free yourself from paper by looking at the benefits of paperless manufacturing?   Photo by www.colourbox.com

Isn’t it time to free yourself from paper by looking at the benefits of paperless manufacturing? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

And he was right.  He worked in his office while I sat on my couch with a laptop.  We spoke via the Web.  I filled out an online questionnaire while he pulled up data on my house.  It took him 45 seconds to send over three choices for my new system, incorporating the questionnaire and data.  I looked over the options while the rep finished credit approval.  A choice was made and he emailed a contract. I e-signed and he chose an installation team.  The entire process took 15 minutes.  I never left the couch, and even ate a sandwich while we worked.  The secure computer system efficiently managed the details, integrating all the pieces.

Honestly, why did I feel the need to “sign” paperwork?  I assumed that’s the way it was done, and inefficient travel and paper-based errors were the cost of business.  In retrospect, my misgivings could have torpedoed the process.

The Future Is Here, and It’s Paperless

Face it… the world is going paperless, and we are all better for it.  Digital systems connect people and businesses with machines and processes like never before, adding value and improving productivity.  Many industries and companies have made the move, including:

  • Paperless house closings through Ellie Mae;
  • Paperless shopping through Amazon and online retailers;
  • Paperless medical records;
  • Paperless accounting and recordkeeping;
  • Paperless service industries, including HVAC and Mechanic shops;
  • Paperless college education through University of Phoenix.

The digital revolution is impacting manufacturing in ways we are only now beginning to understand.  Paperless manufacturing, the process of adopting paperless work instructions to manage information and work flow on the shop floor, is changing the industry.  For example, 3D Printing, or Additive Manufacturing, requires a digital design and work instruction, not a paper-driven one.  A new Standard Interchange File Format, developed by ASTM International, will allow a seamless transition from design to physical printed object, but only if the shop floor has made the conversion to digital.

Paperless Manufacturing Solutions

As an industry, manufacturing is moving toward paperless processes.  Look at the latest trends in manufacturing such as mobile manufacturing, 3D printing, on-demand manufacturing, and customer-centric manufacturing.  Utilizing real-time information on the shop floor will require paperless systems.  Even contemporary process improvement initiatives in manufacturing, such as Lean, Six-Sigma and agile manufacturing all rely on the functionality offered by paperless manufacturing.

The future of manufacturing isn't paper build books. Photo credit www.colourbox.com

The future of manufacturing isn’t paper build books. Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

Many manufacturers believe moving to paperless manufacturing requires a significant investment of time, energy and resources.  This may have been true in the past, but new technology and processes have made it possible for more companies to make the transition to paperless manufacturing, reducing the cost and minimizing the risk.  No longer is paperless manufacturing and MES solutions reserved for the largest corporations or complex discrete manufacturing.  Manufacturers of all sizes and in all industries will find workflow process control benefits with paperless manufacturing.

As more industries adopt paperless systems, manufacturers that cling to paper will discover their business isolated as they find it increasingly difficult to integrate with paperless systems.  The cost of duplicate work will increase, and processes will continue to grow more inefficient.  These companies will have fewer options and less opportunity.

To be honest, I installed my new AC less than two months ago, and I can’t imagine going back to a paper-based system.  Change is coming, so ask yourself, who will drive the change to paperless manufacturing on your shop floor?  New paperless manufacturing and manufacturing solution systems are lowering risk, reducing cost, and minimizing the pain of installation, implementation and training.  CIMx offers a system that incorporates your current processes and work instructions, making implementation even more efficient.  Want to look over options or learn more about paperless manufacturing, contact CIMx Software today.