Charles Corner, Managing Director of Malton Laser

Is there a place for paperless working environments in the manufacturing industry?

October 17, 2017

The manufacturing industry is forever experiencing significant advances in technology, with new equipment and machinery being released into the sector almost weekly, offering a host of different benefits for both manufacturers and their customers.

With clients becoming ever more conscious of a company’s environmental credentials, some of the latest technology to hit the market is paving the way for paperless manufacturing environments, but is there really space for such technology in an industry where paper-led processes have ruled for decades?

Charles Corner, managing director at full service sheet metalwork manufacturer, Fresh Metal, discusses the emergence of this technology and how it could revolutionise industrial work spaces and processes.

Paperless technology is slowly emerging across more and more industries – whether it be a magazine subscription or utility bills, almost all of us will now use paperless technology in some form. The ever-growing popularity of these systems proves that paper is slowly being phased out of our daily lives and processes.

But is there a place for paperless technology in manufacturing environments? Industrial work places are often very dynamic – with a number of engineers having to collaborate and share information in order for the department to run successfully – and increasing numbers of manufacturers are beginning to acknowledge the value that removing paper-led processes and moving to digital systems can deliver.

Thanks to the ever-changing demands of an industrial work space – from customer requirements and material shortages to production challenges – engineers often need to be able to access up-to-date, accurate project details in order to take decisive action quickly.

Utilising electronic tablets rather than relying on paper-led processes means that real-time data is available immediately via digital displays, speeding up the flow of information from engineer to engineer as well as eliminating the need to produce and share paper reports.

In the strict, process-reliant environment that is a manufacturing work space, the speed in which valuable information can be accessed can directly translate to cost savings, or the lack thereof. For example, should a product recall situation arise, having the ability to access product traceability information via a digital system could quickly isolate the bad batch concerned, as oppose to having to search through a paper filing system to find the required information.

This is a prime example of how the rapid rate of response that a paperless system boasts is crucial to minimising the amount of product and money lost.

Another important consideration to bear in mind when it comes to paperless technology is how easy these systems make sharing and collaborating documents between numerous employees.

Having a platform for employees across a number of departments to share documentation, access real-time data and have the ability to edit and share ideas ensures the smooth flow of information and departmental processes.

It’s clear that these benefits are closely related, however, there are a number of additional advantages to implementing paperless systems in a manufacturing environments that should also be considered.

By utilising a paperless process, managers are able to plan for the next shift, generate status reports immediately via an automated system and identify documents by a searchable database rather than sifting through stacks of paper.

Information associated with a particular production process can be captured digitally, so no additional time or errors occur by having to update log books.

By eliminating all of the various maintenance, planning and production steps that require manual actions within paper-based systems, all of this free time from workers across the business is now freed-up to focus on more important activities.

Paperless systems are also beneficial when numerous pieces of confidential information need to be stored securely.

Rather than having to house bulky filing cabinets to store important documents, paperless technology allows for virtual storage of information, freeing-up valuable floor space and allowing the materials to be stored for longer periods of time.

Here at Fresh Metal we’re always on the lookout for ways in which we can streamline our in-house processes, enabling us to pass on valuable cost savings to our customers.

We recently trialled the Panasonic Tough Pad FX-G1 system in our pressing department and the results were unprecedented.

Having previously relied heavily on paper-led processes, not only has the Panasonic paperless system significantly reduced our paper consumption, but has also enabled our engineers to save time.

The system allows the team to pull up the specification of any job at the touch of a button. Another major benefit we’ve experienced is the amount of free space we’ve gained by doing away with our printing equipment, enabling more pressing and rolling equipment to be housed in the pressing department.

And it isn’t just engineers, managers and company owners that recognise the importance of paper reduction, customers are now more conscious of a company’s environmental credentials than ever before.

When you consider the amount of paper that can accumulate between orders, reports, rotas and instructions, paperless systems seem an obvious choice for reducing this waste.

By removing all but necessary paper, a company can not only improve its organisation, but also significantly cut the cost of paper purchasing and disposal, ultimately resulting in reduced energy consumption.

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