The manufacturing industry is moving toward the “factory of the future” through Industry 4.0, transitioning from traditional machine-based assembly lines to smart factories powered by robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, and augmented reality (AR). This transformation heavily relies on fast-evolving digital technologies to streamline operations and be highly efficient, including records management processes.

However, transitioning to paperless manufacturing is more complex than it may seem and requires a well-thought-out strategy, especially when implementing paperless office solutions. While paperless manufacturing has many benefits, finding a trusted partner that offers innovative and scalable solutions is a crucial piece to the digital transformation puzzle.

Continue reading to learn how a digital-first records management system benefits the manufacturing industry and what steps to take when leaving the filing cabinets behind.

What is Paperless Manufacturing?

Industry research firm Gartner, Inc. estimates that companies spend up to 3% of their revenue on paper, printing, filing, storing, and managing files. Managing paper records is not only expensive but also challenging due to issues with accessibility, organization, and maintenance. Paper records are also highly susceptible to errors, loss, and damage, which adds to their complexity.

Paperless manufacturing optimizes workflows, improves quality, and ensures regulatory compliance by replacing traditional paper-based methods with efficient electronic systems. Making the transition to digital-first records management processes has many benefits, such as:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity; when employees aren’t spending hours locating a file, valuable time is freed up and can be spent on other tasks.
  • Significant cost savings in administrative time spent searching for files—that may or may not exist—and real estate expenses to store paper files.
  • Achieving regulatory compliance and meeting information governance requirements and global data privacy regulations.
  • Accessibility of data whenever a document is needed, from anywhere in the world.
  • Environmental sustainability: less paper means more trees, less waste, and reduced carbon emissions.
  • Business continuity in case of natural disaster or power outage.
  • Scalability to handle and fulfill multiple requests at one time without getting bogged down.

Transitioning from Paper-Based to Digital-First Processes

Once you’ve decided to shift to digital-first processes and move away from paper-based systems, a clear strategy is crucial for a smooth transition that enhances workflow and everyday operations. To overcome challenges when implementing a digitization strategy, it is essential to identify which departments have the greatest needs and are most willing to utilize new technology. Here are eight steps you should take when transitioning to digital-first processes.

Step 1: Understand Your Current State

Before you can transition to digital-first, take a thorough assessment of how you capture, store, and access your files. For example, how are you using and storing spreadsheets, work order forms, timesheets, and quality check reports? And how easily accessible are these files when you need to retrieve them quickly? Before fully transitioning to digital-first processes, you must understand how your current paper-based processes are used.

Step 2: Set Objectives for Digitization

Determine what you want to achieve through digitization. For example, are you looking to improve data security and operational efficiencies? Or are you looking to reduce costs?

For American Seafood Group, the objective of digitization was to expand the strategic contributions of the HR team and reduce the time HR and employees devoted to administrative functions such as employee paperwork, compliance, and crew orientation. The result of digitizing files proved to be highly beneficial. The HR team allocated more than 35% of its previous time spent on managing paperwork toward more strategically aligned projects.

Step 3: Gather Stakeholders

Identify who should be involved in the digitization initiative and create a team of stakeholders from across the organization, including HR, IT, finance, and operations. Representatives from various departments will bring a unique perspective to the planning, strategy, execution, and measurement of the digitization project.

Step 4: Identify a Partner

Outsourcing the management of your digitized records means more than just getting rid of paper. It means establishing a document management system that facilitates smarter, more efficient workflows. Do your research and find a trusted partner who can help digitize files that are currently paper-based and will need to be accessed during the new digital process.

Access Unify™ | Active File Service is such a solution that starts with your most active paper documents and delivers them to you digitally when needed, aiding employees with day-to-day operations and offering a clear path to digital transformation. Additionally, Access Unify™ | Active File Service features indexing and metadata application and a fixed monthly fee.

Step 5: Develop an Implementation Plan

Start with a detailed plan. Outline your transition strategy to paperless manufacturing, including timing, migration strategies, employee training, monitoring, and evaluation. Determine where to start and prioritize easy wins to build momentum.

Step 6: Train Your Teams on the New Processes

To avoid overwhelming employees, roll out the new processes in a phased approach. Start with simple changes first before moving on to more complex processes. Identify your champions for the new process and engage them early on, seeking their feedback along the way. Involving those who are enthusiastic about new processes can be a game-changer in driving adoption and success within your organization.

Step 7: Pilot Project

Think big, but start small! To prepare for implementing digital-first processes, initiate a pilot project first. This approach enables you to address any potential issues on a smaller scale before expanding to the entire organization.

Step 8: Roll Out the New Process to the Entire Organization

After completing a successful pilot project and addressing any issues, it’s go time! When rolling out the new processes to the organization, make sure to keep a close eye on how things are going, identify issues or areas for improvement, as well as regularly collect employee feedback. After all, happy employees improve productivity!

Get Started

It’s time for digital transformation! Transitioning to digital-first records management in the manufacturing industry is an undertaking, so partnering with a reputable vendor may be the solution you need to help reduce workflow inefficiencies. The sooner you implement paperless manufacturing, the quicker you’ll support your employees and revolutionize day-to-day operations.

To help you screen potential partners and find the right one to support your digital transformation initiative, download our eBook, From Vendor to Partner: How the Right Records and Information Management Provider Can Transform Your Program.

Download the eBook Now!