SMEs that operate in the manufacturing sector will be hearing the term ‘industry 4.0’ more and more these days, but some may not understand exactly what it means. Simply put, Industry 4.0 refers to the digitisation of the factory and supply chain, and the introduction of intelligent automation and information management.
Going paperless and archiving information more intelligently has untold benefits for manufacturers, but many aren’t sure how to capitalise on the technological opportunities available to them in 2019. In fact, the Annual Manufacturing Report from 2017 states that only 25% of UK manufacturers feel that they have an adequate understanding of the opportunities of Industry 4.0.
One such opportunity is a complete transition to paperless operations using a full document management system. According to research by Gartner, the average professional spends 50% of their time searching for information, and it takes them around 18 minutes to locate a particular document. Naturally, this has a detrimental effect on productivity and efficiency. It isn’t just internal workings that are affected either – customer service and response time can suffer as a result which can also have a damaging impact on business. Equipping staff with devices will give them access to the information they need at the moment they need it, without them ever having to leave the manufacturing floor. Invoices and purchase orders can be generated and sent automatically, and all documents can be indexed and archived securely with access granted to those who need it. When it comes to the challenge of automation and streamlining on the factory floor, a well implemented paperless system can make all the difference.
One of the biggest challenges faced by manufacturing businesses in particular is the mitigation of errors. Errors can be costly on the manufacturing floor, resulting in costly reworks and scrapped assemblies during production. An automated document management system will all but eliminate the risk of error, putting less pressure on staff and maybe even reducing staff overheads. A paperless system will also allow line operators to optimise their performance, spending more time developing, testing and shipping instead of doing paperwork and filing. A 2016 report by PwC estimates that most manufacturers will see 30% increases in productivity through increased machine uptime and usage by using document management and automated systems.
Many manufacturers also have a vested interest in reducing their carbon footprint, not only to appease their customers but also to save money. Many companies already look for ways to cut back on utilities like water, gas and electricity, so why should printing be any different? Thousands could be saved on printers and printing supplies alone, not to mention the net saving in staff resources.
Despite the rapid change in the manufacturing supply chain when our team at Anota looked up some statistics around paper free work environments, we were shocked at what we found.
- Forty per cent of offices still use paper for filing “important” stuff.
- Twenty per cent say the amount of paper they are using is increasing.
- Nearly fifty per cent of documents scanned were originally digital (therefore no need to scan them at all)!
It is true that time equals money. So why is it that SME’s are lagging behind in their document management and not making the most of the technology out there to improve their productivity, customer service and capabilities? It is all well and good having the latest automated machine on the shop floor but if the back office and support systems are not updated at the same pace, companies will forever be playing catch up. We still won’t go as far as predicting a totally paper free office, but we do believe Industry 4.0 is bringing closer, faster, than most people think.