The advantages of going paperless reach far beyond reducing paper documentation; digitization directly affects company productivity, training, worker safety, and many other aspects of a manufacturing operation.
A significant number of companies today, particularly small to mid-sized manufacturers, are still functioning with 20th-century “job travelers”– paper documentation that travels with a job throughout an entire manufacturing process. Once a step forward from handwritten or verbal job orders, they now have become a drag on productivity, internal tracking of orders, and the assurance of quality.
In addition, companies that use written work orders often still use written documentation for other important aspects of their operations. This includes training, safety guidelines, work instructions, and management/worker relationships. Continuing to rely solely on written documents and communications makes the inefficiency of an operation much harder to change and puts limits on accessible data for management to make educated business decisions.
Investing in digitizing work orders can produce positive benefits in all areas across a company: for workers, managers, overall operations, and the business’s bottom line.
The Digital Advantage
Paper documents are fixed; if changed circumstances affect an individual work order or a company-wide policy, those documents instantly become out-of-date. Digital documents are living things; when circumstances change, documents are instantly updated and sent out to every employee and department that needs the updated information. This may be a single worker producing a product for which the specs have changed or the entire company workforce being impacted by a policy change. With Notiphy, when there is an emergency, warnings and actionable instructions can be instantly distributed to alert workers and potentially save lives.
Digital communications are also interactive: a worker with a question about the details of work instructions or an order can immediately use the workstation tablet to ask for clarification rather than leaving the area to find a manager. A worker who suffers an accident can instantly call for help and alert the entire company rather than yelling for or trying to find help.
Consider the relative benefit to the company of training based on a printed manual versus digitized material available on a tablet, consisting of directions that enable the worker to answer their own questions with helpful images and videos to view when more detail is required.
Benefits for Employees: A Paperless Workflow & Safety
Traditional paperwork documents travel with a project. If documentation becomes separated from a project or becomes unreadable, confusion results. New orders have to be generated, wasting valuable time. Digitizing each work order enables it to be sent electronically to a tablet at the worker’s workstation. If the worker needs help, those queries can be instantly sent to management for answers.
As these communications come directly to the worker at the workstation, they eliminate most of the distractions and loss of focus that result from leaving the workstation to take work-related questions to managers. With Notiphy, the worker can now remain focused on the project, which results in higher productivity.
Working within a company-wide digital network, a worker will have access to information about his or her project, as well as to answers to any questions, training videos, and tutorials when needed. There is no longer any reason to leave the workstation to get additional information; information about every aspect of an ongoing project is now in the hands of the worker.
This gives each worker increased control over workstation productivity. It also creates a safer work environment. There are no longer distractions caused by disconnecting from work to find answers or additional project data. Any company-wide safety alerts arrive instantly on the worker’s tablet rather than via an alarm or loudspeaker, meaning hearing instruction clearly and taking appropriate action is more likely.
Benefits for Managers: Training & Productivity
With a digital system in place, managers accustomed to walking the plant floor to check on work progress and employee activity can now monitor these things without leaving the office. This benefits managers by freeing up more of their time for higher-level tasks, and simultaneously makes workers more accountable for asking questions and reporting work-related problems.
The digital system also transmits continuous input about each worker’s activities and productivity, reducing the need for managers to directly supervise workers. Now managers can focus more closely–and find out more quickly–which workers may need closer supervision or more training and which may be ready to take on more demanding tasks.
With Notiphy, training now can be more focused on individual worker’s needs and delivered efficiently to each worker via online tutorials, videos, and photos of specific challenges and solutions. Because training is online, workers can ask questions or deliver feedback as needed, where they might not feel as free to do so in a classroom setting.
Another key benefit both to responsible managers and to the company as a whole is the ability of the digital system to produce production data, both for individual workstations and the entire production operation. This ongoing flow of data can give instantaneous insight into bottlenecks in the production stream and possible causes. Are materials slow in reaching production sites? Is one workstation backed up while an adjacent one is waiting for work to arrive? These insights can result in quick solutions that will maintain healthy productivity.
The interactive flow of data across the digital network will also be able to alert managers to potential problems with specific workers, tasks, or jobs. A worker whose production begins to slow may be distracted by a family issue or impaired by a substance abuse problem. While the system cannot detect which, it can alert the worker’s manager to the fact that something is affecting a previously reliable worker–something that needs closer investigation and possibly some therapeutic help.
Essentially, a digital system of documentation and communication can enable managers to focus more on management and less on being hands-on supervisors.
Benefits for the Company: Workforce Advantage for the Future
At the company management level, a digital documentation and communication system enables company leaders to be continually in touch with how the company as a whole is doing. Is productivity at our expected level? Do we need more skilled employees? Are orders being met in line with promised delivery dates?
These are critical questions. Without the digital system’s capability to answer them, reams of paper documentation would have to be produced and reviewed. Appraisals of company health and productivity would routinely be out of sync with reality. With the instantly accessible data produced through the digital system, timely assessments can become routine.
This data, as it accumulates over time, then becomes the foundation for a company planning for future growth, projections of the need for new equipment, ordering materials, and increased hiring. With Notiphy, it can also, in the form of reports and analyses of the company’s condition become a source of valuable communications to prospective customers and to investors.
An indirect, but no less valuable benefit of investing in digitizing documentation will be an increase in the ability of the company to attract and retain younger, better-trained employees who are already familiar with working on digital documents and new technology. Where current older workers may need to “unlearn” traditional work methods and then learn how beneficial digital documents can be, which can affect their productivity, younger workers are already familiar with these documents and immediately be able to produce when hired.
Lastly, a company-wide digitized communication system can instantly deliver news, information, and alerts to all employees and to individual employees when necessary. Whether there is an approaching tornado and everyone needs to take shelter, or one worker’s family has an emergency and needs his or her help at home, the company can quickly care for its employees.
Return on Investment
Companies that have invested in the digitization of their documents and communications have seen increased productivity across work areas, quicker time to market for their products, and a reduction of potentially productive time lost to working with and moving paperwork.
Improved training leads to both higher worker productivity and fewer new hires as workers become more accomplished, a double cost saving. Reducing accidents and enabling quicker response to emergencies reduces worker downtime, another saving. Identifying and providing assistance to impaired or distressed workers keeps trained workers productive.
Companies have also found that being able to keep employees fully informed, both in emergencies and of positive news about the company, helps employees feel more valued. As older skilled workers retire or are promoted to management, being able to attract more productive replacements can in itself be a significant return on investment.
New productivity and efficiencies, improved training methods, better worker relations, higher worker productivity, reduced accident, and distress downtime–all of these benefits will quickly deliver significant returns on the investment into digitization.
Manufacturing companies are planning their 2021 investments in digital transformation right now. Many of whom are your competitors looking to capture the proven savings that are achievable. Connect with us at @Notiphy and let us show you how easy and affordable it is to get started!