Cimlogic Solutions: Help! We’re drowning in paper

Post by Claire Healey on Tuesday 6th October

Author: Mark Renucci, MES Sales Consult, Cimlogic Ltd

Part 6 of 9 Cimlogic Solutions Blog Posts 

We have all seen how webpages, email and things like e-tickets have banished paper from many aspects of our life yet it still amazes me how many manufacturers in the UK still rely on old fashioned paper-based systems to control and manage their vital shop floor activities. The problem is that, very often nowadays, tried and trusted paper-based systems which may have been adequate for decades are fast becoming unfit for purpose. They just can’t cope with demands of modern manufacturing environments.

The move away from paper is not simply a case of using new technology for the sake of it. In many cases it has become a necessity.  Cost reduction is a key factor. Since the 2008 recession, UK manufacturers have been under unprecedented pressure to increase productivity. It has become a matter of survival. The rigidity of a paper-based system is often a hindrance to the implementation of continuous improvement and lean initiatives or anything requiring tweaks to the process. Numerous studies show that the rate of errors increases whenever paper-based processes are changed. This makes efficiency improvements very difficult.  Furthermore, I have seen Pharma companies scrap batches of perfectly good product because of paperwork errors or lost documents. Additionally, something that is often overlooked, is the actual cost of the physical paper itself. I visited one medical device manufacturer who was spending £300K per year with their stationery supplier on customised forms and archiving services.

Increasingly sophisticated customer demand delivers more headaches for paper-dependent shop floors.  A good example of this is SKU proliferation. The old Model-T days of one-size fits all are long gone and customers are demanding increasing product variety – be it size, flavour or promotional packs which can change on a weekly basis – whatever. I visited a drinks manufacturer who regularly turned away business specifically because the constraints of their paper-based manufacturing system made certain jobs unprofitable. Paperless systems enhance manufacturers’ flexibility to meet their customers’ ever-increasing demand for variety and customisation. The bar is rising all the time.

In addition to the above, manufacturers are facing increased regulation and are often required to traceability exercises at the drop of a hat. I visited a baker who had a full time admin assistant just to collate traceability files for increasingly stringent supermarket audits – and even then they occasionally failed due to missing or inaccurate paperwork.
I visit many manufacturers across the country and paperless manufacturing is always one of the key things which differentiates the leaders from the followers…

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