The use of paper in industrial manufacturing environments can lead to a number of problems, such as damage to documents, costly preparation and post-processing of paper documents, and manual archiving. Digitizing processes and documents in manufacturing can solve these problems and contribute towards improved efficiency.
In this post, we will look at the topic of the paperless shopfloor and why companies in the industry are digitizing their processes. We are also going to show how companies can achieve paperless manufacturing in 120 days and what role Testify can play in this.
In today’s digitized world, paperless processes are already standard in many areas of production. Even at the shopfloor, the area of an industrial plant where manufacturing takes place, the use of paper is more and more being dispensed and digital technologies are being used instead.
The paperless shopfloor offers many advantages, such as higher efficiency, less error-proneness and a more environmentally friendly administration.
Why a paperless Shopfloor?
The use of paper in industrial manufacturing environments involves an effort that should not be underestimated. At first glance, going to the printer or distributing paper checklists doesn’t seem like much of an effort. However, it is worth taking a second look. After all, it’s not enough just to do one thing. Paper has to be ordered, the paper has to be stored, documents have to be printed, distributed and collected again, the data has to be digitized, filed, archived and, last but not least, shredded.
In addition to the handling effort, there are several other disadvantages: Paper is vulnerable to damage and can be easily lost. On average, between 2-5% of all documents are misfiled or lost every day. In addition, paper is exposed to heavy dirt and dust, especially in industrial environments, which can severely impact the readability of the documents… Also, as far as the content of the paper is concerned, it is only possible to evaluate data at a later stage and thus gain insight into relevant company processes. As a result, errors or variances are only noticed afterwards, which in turn is associated with major additional costs.
The digitization of processes and documents in manufacturing can solve these problems and contribute to improved efficiency:
- The entire handling such as printing, distributing, collecting, digitizing and filing is completely eliminated
- Data can be recorded in a structured manner, thus ensuring a high degree of standardization and drastically reducing the likelihood of errors.
- Information and documentation of processes can be retrieved quickly, with the result that employee satisfaction is measurably increased.
How can companies achieve a paperless shopfloor in 120 days?
The path to a paperless shopfloor can be divided into the following steps:
- Define a goal
- Create a task force
- Identify use cases and workflows
- Select a tool
- Start a pilot project
The largest part of this schedule is taken up by the implementation of the pilot project or proof of concept, which takes about 2 months depending on the scope of the project.
1. Define a goal.
An important first step in implementing a paperless shopfloor is to define goals. These goals should be formulated in a clear and measurable way to ensure that the company knows what it wants to achieve.
Examples for possible goals:
- Reduction of the failure rate
- Increase employee satisfaction
- Reduce cycle time
- Increase process conformity
- Reduce default resolution time
Having a clear picture of goals and motivation helps in later steps such as selecting a software solution.
2. Create a task force.
The right team is one of the most important points in a change management project. The team should consist of executives, internal process experts and ideally digitization experts who know the workflows and have the digital affinity to efficiently implement a digitization project of this scale. If needed, an external implementation consultant would be equally helpful to assess the feasibility of the project from a different perspective and provide support to maintain focus.
It must be ensured that each participating department has a right to speak and that the goals are aligned with each other. Often stakeholders pursue their own interests, which leads to problems in the long run.
3. Follow the paper trail: Identify use cases and workflows.
Once the goal of a paperless shopfloor has been defined, the next step is to identify specific use cases and workflows that are to be digitized. A good approach is to first get an overview of all current paper-based processes and documentation on the shopfloor. The goal is to take a close look at the current processes. What does a classic use journey look like? What are the limiting factors? What are the biggest painpoints? The important thing here is that everyone involved has the same understanding.
Start by going through the entire process:
- What initiates the process? A note, an e-mail, an order in the ERP system?
- Who is involved in this process step?
- What information is documented?
- How is the information documented?
- Where does the information go afterwards?
- Who is notified about it? Who must approve the document?
- Where is the document filed?
- How can the document be retrieved afterwards?
Feedback from employees can also be very helpful in this regard to better identify problems.
Common use cases and workflows include, for example:
- Work instructions in assembly
- Quality controls
- Quality assurance during production
- Instructions for audits
- Machine maintenance and servicing
- Checklists for on-site inspections or safety checks
- Machine loading
- Controls for incoming and outgoing goods
- and many more.
Once all current use cases and workflows have been identified, they can be prioritized by importance and effectiveness. This way, you know which processes are best to start with in order to achieve the greatest benefits from digitization.
4. Select a tool.
Take enough time to define the business processes you want to digitize. The more preparation that goes into this phase, the more efficient the subsequent project steps will be.
Once the goal and the use cases for digitization on the store floor have been identified, the next step is to select the appropriate tool. No-code platforms are a recommended option.
No-code tools have the great advantage that processes can be adapted to the company’s own processes independently and without programming knowledge. This itself saves time resources and costs. For example, they can be used to quickly test initial use cases without having to dedicate a lot of resources.
It is important that the selected tool is easy to use, that the workflows can be mapped well within it and that it can be integrated into the existing system landscape. Once the suitable tool has been found that meets the company’s requirements and budget, this phase is complete.
5. Start a pilot project.
Once the goal, the use cases and the appropriate tool for the paperless store floor have been determined, the next step is to launch a pilot project. The pilot project, also known as proof of concept, is of great importance as it serves to test and evaluate the selected tool and the new digital process in a controlled environment.
Through the pilot project, companies can test digitization on a small scale and ensure that it is successful before embarking on a broader rollout. The time required for a pilot project can vary depending on the size and complexity of the company, but it usually takes at least 2 months.
During this phase, you will gain a lot of valuable experience. It is also a good time to get feedback from your employees.
Once the pilot project has been successfully completed, the project can move into live operation.
In this phase, the digital solution is rolled out from the pilot project to the entire shopfloor and replaces the paper-based documentation. It is important that all employees are trained and informed so that they feel confident in using the new software solution.
However, the introduction of paperless workflows on the store floor is not the end of the journey. This is where monitoring and analysis come into play. Ideally, the digital tool has a reporting & analytics function to record and clearly present parameters such as throughput times, process conformities and the number of processes, etc. Based on these results, further optimization potential can be identified and implemented immediately.
Get to know Testify.
The shopfloor management platform that helps you optimize processes and increase efficiency.
These companies have already introduced paperless processes:
All the latest news on digitization
directly to your inbox.