Eliminating Paper – The paperless industry

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If you are a subscriber of a magazine or newspaper, your subscription probably also offers access to the same content through your tablet or smartphone, and if you are one of those who prefers contact with paper, you better get used to the idea of consuming content in the digital form. 

You can be sure: the use of paper is diminishing in our daily lives – and also in industries. 

 

The manufacturing industry already recognizes the gains made by eliminating paper and digitalizing the system. Considering the nature of the factory floor and the number of people who need to collaborate and share information, the idea of a paperless manufacturing extends the benefits to various areas of industry, bringing essential transformation in operations. 

The paperless industry has become popularized over the past few years. Inserting manual data into computers or spreadsheets in the manufacturing process can result in failures such as inaccuracy and latency, which can compromise the quality of a product. The large companies and technology companies already avoid the use of paper in the assembly lines, obtaining better quality index, ectiveness in innovation and quick update of the procedures of the processes. However, many of them still use paper and may lose market by becoming less competitive, as this is a trend among industries. 

The big challenge then is to make the transition from the current model to the paperless. However, it is not easy to redo a stable process that has been working for years. It would be a mistake to think that simply converting documents into PDF files is the solution to operate in paperless mode. Changing paper for a computer screen does not define paperless manufacturing mode of operation. Turning everything into digital is just the beginning of the complete solution. 

There are gains in several aspects through the elimination of paper in industry: 

Cost reduction 

The diminishing or elimination of paper use is the basis of the context. But in practice the effects are even greater than they seem to be. In a manufacturing multinational, think about the amount of paper that accumulates among work orders, reports, machine instructions, etc., without even considering having to deal with the storage of that content. Significant gains are made by reducing paper purchase costs, storage space, disposal costs and indirectly by document management. Speaking of document management, understand that employees need to print and distribute work instructions throughout the factory in a continuous and dynamic manner. In addition to overloading employees with low return tasks, the risk of error is increased due to the frequent updating of the document version. 

Flexibility and speed 

Manufacturing dynamics depend on customer demand, availability of equipment and machines. Actions can be taken quickly in a systematized environment, either by updating the work procedures, rules of operation or purchase of material. Real-time information enables faster decision making as it slows the process down after eliminating paper-based reporting. This is also widespread when we think that the same manufacturing information can be made available remotely to engineers and stakeholders. 

Analyzing the current scenario, where processes tend to become leaner and with new regulations, the speed of decision making becomes a reduction of costs or losses. Consider a scenario in which a product is recalled. Quick data analysis minimizes the damage by locating defective batches, root cause search, and process / quality correction. 

Efficiency and productivity 

The factory floor information used in production planning does not depend on the completion of work orders in progress. Production reports are immediate and automated. Any additional information can be found in the database with no need to search on piles of paper. The time saved in these situations can be used in higher value-added activities. The performance of an operator is optimized by the time spent in the manufacturing, testing and assembly stages of products, rather than by time looking for process information in documents. 

Risk and safety reduction 

In a paperless environment, there is no competition risk for documents with different or out of order reviews. Production instruction, guides, work order and list of materials are made available correctly during the process, eliminating the current model of keeping paperwork in viewed order. In this work model, the risk of failure in audits is reduced and the operators are guaranteed the correct instruction of the process, which then turns results in a lower rework rate and scrap generation. 

What is the challenge in eliminating the role of paper in manufacturing? 

The elimination of paper can be seen as challenging and laborious. Many entrepreneurs may see the need for a costly maneuver to achieve the stated goal, but the good news is that the process can be broken into stages. Instead of applying great resource in the update of the assembly line at once, you can implement the system in phases, modifying the production line gradually. The gradual implementation of the project ensures greater control and reduction of risks. 

The basis for a paperless business ecosystem is to have data captured automatically through scanners, sensors, and cameras. The insertion of touchscreen screens next to the automation systems contribute to speed the manufacturing process. It also includes the insertion of monitors that display data in real time and consolidated data of the operation. An important step is to ensure that data that has already been entered once will be re-used anywhere in the production chain, whether in manufacturing, administrative or financial. 

To manage the process and ensure the flow of information, a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is recommended. This system is able to microscopically manage all the data generated by the process and enables the integration of information from the shop floor to the production management system – among them ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). 

The interface with the operator must also be modified. No more paper. For that, the content type should be analyzed. The information portal should be able to present interactive content through 3D images, list of materials, review control, operation guide and best practices. The data visualization needs to be configurable to allow a macro or micro view of the process through a few touches on the screen. Any question about the manufacturing of an item can be answered through the navigable drawing on the touch screen. The operator is also allowed to submit engineering feedback with corrections or suggestions for improvement. 

From the engineering point of view, where product and process changes often occur, document updating is performed more efficiently. With the implementation of an automated procedure update system on the shop floor, reviewing control becomes fast and secure. The changes are made in a few clicks and make it easier for employees to find and remove old documents. As mentioned earlier, there is also the benefit of engineers being warned by operators with feedback from current procedures. 

The integration of new products becomes more reliable in this environment. Digital approval signatures simplify manufacturing procedure and prevent incorrect data from corrupting the shop floor system. All this generates traceability throughout the process chain. 

All the investment made in the improvement of the productive chain is also reflected in the final consumer. The guarantee of a product being manufactured with quality and with fast launch in the market, strenghten ties with the client. This increases satisfaction and improves consumer retention. 

 

The improvement in the production process of an industry generates benefits for clients and investors. Eliminating paper from the process is one of the great opportunities. For this there must be a commitment of management and employees to implement and guarantee this change. An entirely paperless manufacture is much more than just scanning process documents and displaying on a screen. Managing industry data from instruction sheets to product shipping is the way to eliminate paper, thereby reducing the overhead of engineers and operators, and making the production process more reliable. In the 4.0, industry era, eliminating paper is just the first step to becoming a smart industry. 

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