Nowadays our electricity bills, bank statements, and even government systems like Medicare are becoming paperless. It seems everyone is pushing for a paperless world, and the benefits extend far beyond the positive environmental impact, especially for industrial companies, according to SAGE Automation.
The company indicates that manufacturing, utilities, transport, energy and defence sectors are increasingly seeking out paperless digital solutions that will improve their asset management and operational ability.
But while many Australian companies are considering or implementing their own digitisation programs, many still rely on paper and Excel to design and review products, run production orders, and carry out quality processes.
SAGE Automation explains there is still a long way to go in the journey to “lights out manufacturing”.
Kim Fiddaman, a senior consultant for Australian digital transformation company Nukon agrees that kind of transformation doesn’t happen overnight.
“But there are some valuable tools out there that will progress companies along the digital maturity scale,” he said.
Fiddaman said the paperless improvement solutions being used by clients now can:
- Run repetitive processes automatically (automated workflow),
- Store and retire all documentation electronically,
- Enforce electronic data entry and storage.
The benefits include:
- Improved response time on faults, quality systems including right first time, data integrity and traceability,
- Time savings on searching for information, both for management, on the shop floor or on site,
- Faster data entry, and
accessible data quality for improved decision making and continuous improvement.
Paperless processes using workflow automation
“A common problem we see is that data captured on the line – whether that be quality data or maintenance records – is low quality because data formats and limits cannot be enforced, and paper is prone to damage or getting misplaced,” said Fiddaman.
“Paperless systems that use workflow automation can remove entry error and speed up the process, for example operators can receive and complete tasks via their mobile device, minimising process variation and increasing data quality.
“In such a system the maintenance team could be automatically alerted to a machine alarm event, rather than waiting for an operator to notice the problem, then walk to find someone and inform them.
“The obvious benefits are reduced downtime and even failure prevention through condition monitoring alerts,” said Fiddaman.
While workflow automation is suited to manufacturers that have a basic level of IT infrastructure, other technologies such as paperless documentation storage offer less digitally mature operations some valuable low hanging fruit.
SAGE Automation control systems support project lead Andrew O’Regan said electronic documentation can drastically reduce downtime by having the right equipment information available at the right time and place.
Documentation and drawing availability is a major determiner of companies’ ability to respond to faults quickly, and often documentation is kept as paper.
“We frequently have breakdown calls where the documentation has been lost, damaged or non-existent, so this adds to the time it takes to fault find and solve the issues,” he said.
“We’ve just launched an app that has a paperless documentation library feature to solve this problem for clients. You can take photos, upload product manuals and drawing documentation and save it to the library.”
O’Regan said this service is already being used by manufacturing, utilities and transport clients, who have a QR code on every roadside control panel that links to the associated documentation so maintenance teams can access it then and there at the site.