By: John O’Kelly, CEO Newcastle Systems

As competition in the manufacturing industry increases, speed and accuracy have never been more important. Teams on the manufacturing floor must find efficient ways to improve accuracy and ensure products are processed and shipped as fast as possible. The need for speed has put a lot of pressure on workers— one of many reasons it’s become increasingly difficult to find and retain talent, leaving operations managers in a tough spot.

One step in the effort to continuously improve efficiencies on the manufacturing floor, and make it a more enjoyable workplace, is to dramatically reduce the use of paper. Paperless operations streamline the approach, reduce errors and speed up delivery.

Benefits of going paperless:

  • Reduced motion – Walking back and forth endlessly from product to printer is a great adversary to an efficient manufacturing process. In many cases, the wasted steps occur because workers on the floor need to walk to a printer or computer since most do not have direct access to the information they need to accurately compete their job. The shift to paperless processing reduces motion, and cuts-down on steps, improving productivity in a big way.
  • Improved accuracy – Errors are common when associates on the floor need to look at multiple pieces of paper—such as work instructions, packaging and labeling requirements or reference drawings, to complete their tasks. Unnecessary paper adds to the confusion and can make even the simplest of tasks take longer. Changes are quite common in manufacturing, and paperless techniques make it easy to update this important data accurately—ensuring version control and reducing copy errors.
  • Improved tracking – Tracking products, materials and shipments with paper is a tough task. Tracking techniques are vital for efficiency—it leads to increased productivity, and fewer errors, which can contribute to strengthened customer relations. Tracking is far more accurate when completed accessing real-time system data. Endless walking and busy workloads using paper can lead to potential tracking errors, while real-time data entry at the point of work increases efficiency.
  • Real-time data – When a step in the manufacturing operation is executed using a paperless procedure, managers and staff alike have full access to vital data in real-time. The ability to continuously monitor this data enables staff members on the floor to view, analyze and execute decisions leveraging the most accurate stats possible, thus improving decision making across the company. When paper is the primary information source on the floor, staffers are often working with outdated information. Gathering data is time consuming and takes a lot of work—as such, automation is key to improved efficiency.

The benefits are clear, but how do you implement a paperless methodology within your manufacturing facilities? Here are a few solutions that can be implemented.

How to go paperless:

  • Mobile power – Mobile-powered workstations provide floor associates with the mobility they need to complete their tasks efficiently. These workstations give staff members the information they need on computer screens, and “on the go”, as opposed to paper which slows everything down. By replacing paper and implementing mobile power, manufacturing facilities greatly reduce the amount of wasted motion happening on their floor. The elimination of waste quickly impacts the bottom line, see how with this ROI calculator.
  • Software – Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Manufacturing Execution System (MES) software helps manufacturing facilities reduce their use of paper, which improves productivity. The use of this software reduces errors and decreases part lead time. The software is best used when supported by, and included as, a part of a mobile-powered workstation. This gives staff on the floor a mobile solution with everything they will need to complete their tasks in an orderly way. The combination of mobile-power with MES or ERP software reduces the need for paper and drastically increases efficiency on the floor.
  • RF scanning and paperless picking – RF scanning, combined with ERP software, enables staff members with the ability to reduce their paper trail and complete their tasks in a timely manner. RF scanning allows staff to book production output directly, giving all staff members an easy way to track everything that leaves the floor—a huge efficiency benefit when tracking output stats and the status of projects. Implementing RF scanning also reduces the time needed to complete inventory checks, and gives everyone on the floor a clear understanding of inventory. Paperwork with tasks and lists cut into productivity, while RF scanning gives correct picking assignments faster, adding a layer of efficiency and accuracy.
  • Mobile applications – Mobile apps have revolutionized numerous industries, and manufacturing is no exception. Apps provide easily assessable information right in the staff’s pocket. Apps can help manage inventory, inspections, track wasted steps, view work orders and create/view checklists. When this information is in an app, it’s not on paper, saving time and improving productivity.

The manufacturing industry is fierce. Everyone is looking to be faster and more accurate, meaning that even the smallest improvements in efficiency—such as going paperless—can give you a leg-up on the competition. The transition doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time. However, the result is a more competent manufacturing process and an improved bottom line.

Going Paperless, Industry TodayJohn O’Kelly is the founder and CEO of Newcastle Systems, an innovator of workplace mobility solutions partnering with many of the world’s leading companies to enhance worker productivity, operational efficiency and organizational profitability. For more information visit http://www.newcastlesys.com/.

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