February 25, 2016
Is Paperless Manufacturing Right For Your Facility?
As we move further into the digital age, more and more institutions are beginning to turn away from printed systems toward paperless ones. The trend started with newspapers and other publications, but many industries have come to embrace the value of a paperless environment, particularly once digital storage steadily began to lower in cost, including the manufacturing sector. But is a paperless environment right for your organization?
You may have heard the phrase "paperless manufacturing," and odds are good that you might have scratched your head over it. What, exactly, does it mean to go paperless in such a setting, and why would your facility?
Essentially, paperless manufacturing means that you move toward the goal of eliminating all paper from your processes and converting to an all-digital environment. This means using a system, such as a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or other maintenance software, to keep track of the things you would normally store in a filing cabinet or folder, like vendor information, documentation, user manuals, time sheets, work orders, reports... the list goes on and on.
There are many benefits to creating a paperless manufacturing environment. For starters, you can greatly reduce the cost of printed goods. TWorld's no more need to print out heavy user manuals or reams of work orders. Instead, you store all of this data in a digital format that you can access from a desktop computer, tablet, or even mobile device. The cost of printing documents, especially those that require color, can add up to a pretty penny and is ultimately wasteful. Documents fade over time and need to be reprinted as employees spill coffee on them or just plain use them. With a digital system, you no longer have these problems.
Paperless manufacturing environments are also great for remote managers or employees who need to travel frequently. Instead of lugging around a ton of paperwork, you can easily access everything from your laptop or mobile phone, no matter how far away you are. What's more, depending on your security restrictions, you can also access these materials no matter what time of day it is. You can't do that with a paper setup.
Collaboration is another crucial element of paperless systems. Just as you can access documents and files remotely, so, too, can you share them with other team members or even the CEO. Likewise, if a machine breaks down and you need to send warranty information and past maintenance records to your vendor, there is no more need to fax or snail-mail them, which can eat up time and cost money. Instead, you simply send them in an email or provide access to the documents for that vendor and you are all set.
Not to be overlooked, both efficiency and productivity can be increased in a paperless facility. Imagine not scrambling around looking for a user manual or instructions on how to clean up a chemical spill. Instead of running across the warehouse to find this information or flipping through manuals, you can just pull the data up on the spot. It is also easier to search through your documents thanks to search features that come with a digital system.
There are, of course, some downsides to paperless manufacturing, but most of them are easily resolved. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is implementing a digital system. Converting documents and training employees require time and money, and justifying the initial, up-front investment may be hard in some instances. However, if you make the argument that the company will save money in the longer run and run more efficiently, the higher-ups should see that the benefits far outweigh any initial speed bumps.
Is a paperless manufacturing environment right for your facility? Only you can answer that question, and hopefully, I helped make the choice a little clearer for you today!