Paperless. Many people talk it. Very few people implement it. Paperless manufacturing isn’t just removing paper on your shop floor; it’s a state of mind. Becoming a paperless manufacturing company requires commitment from the top down, lots of process redesign, and one helluva good communication plan.
Let’s breakdown the process of moving to a paperless culture into three steps.
1. Determine why there is so much paper.
2. Record the problems from having the paper.
3. Establish a roadmap to the paperless shop floor.
Why is there so much paper?
Often we lean on paper because it is the tangible form of data that everyone can reference. Right or wrong, it’s in print… therefore its truth. But look at it deeper. Why do you have to have the truth on paper? It’s most likely because the real data is spread across multiple systems. Look at your shop floor. You are probably using some electronic systems but the data necessary for the technician to do their job does not have a ‘single source of truth.’ Where does the technician review their work instruction, the referenced drawings, collect data, record component numbers, create non-conformance, and certify their work? If the answer to each of these elements is not a single system – then you have your answer. We print because we have to move information from one source to another. An additional factor is our love affair with paper. Paper is romantic, just like opening a bottle of wine, although it’s proven to be better, no one wants to unscrew a metal cap when you can hear the pop of the cork! Paper is not a best practice, but no one wants to use an impersonal computer when you can write or stamp your results for everyone to see!
What problems exist because of the paper?
This isn’t just about the cost of materials (which could be a problem). This is all of the time that is being wasted on your shop floor because of the paper. Stand in a work center for one hour. In that hour, record how much time the technician is spending on actual work of manufacturing and how much time is spent on administrative tasks such as paperwork. The result may shock you. A recent statement from a manufacturing director said; ‘For every hour of work, there is three hours of paperwork.’ Folks, that is money going out the door. I don’t know of a single executive that would not want to change that statistic. Other problems, that exist because of paper… inaccurate data capture, duplicate data entry, skipped requirements, unreported defects, and erroneous metrics, all of which have a significant ‘soft’ cost.
As I mentioned before, going paperless is not just a task. It’s a state of mind. For every decision that is made, the question should be asked… is this going to generate a piece of paper? If the answer is yes, then it’s not the right decision. Going paperless is finding that balance of having the right electronic systems (not too many, mind you – but that’s a blog for another day), the right tools (not everyone needs a tablet), and the right information to do the job. New hardware – strategically placed- is almost always necessary in going paperless, but more importantly is communicating the ‘to-be’ life without the paper. Communicating to the masses on acceptable paper use (and storage) is key, but listening to what is needed from the users to facilitate the paperless life is more important. Does your staff need training? Is the information secure and accessible in only one or two clicks so they aren’t forced to write it down, is it simple to use – are all questions that should be addressed. When the users feel the electronic information will be secure, easy to locate, and faster to report, then you have made the paperless transition roadmap.
Download our eBook to learn more about how you can become paperless with a Manufacturing Execution System (MES).
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