S O F T W A R E S A V V Y  
Practical Paperless Production?  
You Must Be Kidding!  
B Y A N D Y W O O D S  
bout 20 years ago, high-tech  
industries such as aerospace  
began using paperless manu-  
facturing. It was expensive, cumber-  
some and required specialized staff  
just to maintain it. None of us ever  
imagined using it for window man-  
ufacturing, but pricing and access to  
ever-more-powerful personal com-  
puters made everything change.  
Today we have reasonably priced  
computers, high-speed network con-  
nections and interfaces that move  
us closer and closer to closed-loop  
production. A closed-loop material  
requirements planning (MRP) system  
is software that helps manufacturers  
keep track of inventory and use that  
down and communication between  
work areas in the factory skyrockets.  
If you break a piece of glass or need  
to red-line an item for any reason, it is  
not a problem. Problems can be han-  
dled immediately, right at the worksta-  
tion. End-to-end traceability gives your  
management team the information  
it needs to identify bottlenecks and  
improve workflow. When a customer  
inquiries about the status of an order, it  
is right there—no more running to the  
factory floor to find out. Finally, you  
reduce the hassle of scheduling with a  
centralized electronic system.  
Getting Started  
Here are a few steps to  
help you plan for a move to  
paperless production:  
. Review current process  
a. Point out performance  
b. Recognize weak areas in  
c. Examine how information is  
d. Identify printing statistics  
. Single out information silos  
. Outline an ideal operational  
The Benefits  
The production values are certainly  
. Establish success benchmarks  
knowledge, along with other produc- about the added benefit of reducing there, but are there business benefits?  
tion variables, to adjust future manu- your printing expenses—machines, You bet. The ease of communica-  
facturing plans. machine supplies, upkeep, and of tion and improved efficiency on the  
Closed loops facilitate the transfor- course paper.  
mation from a flow economy to a cir-  
shop floor goes right to your bottom  
line. You can reduce, if not eliminate,  
the time spent printing, physical-  
cular one. This improves sustainabil- The Value  
ity and ultimately leads to improve-  
We have stated the obvious. Now ly running information, and dealing  
ments. Waste, energy consumption, let’s take a deeper look at the value with mistakes. Your quality-control  
transport processes and packaging proposition for moving to a paperless measures are based on real produc-  
can be reduced or eliminated in a environment. Invest a few hundred tion data, so you can take steps to  
closed–loop environment. But one dollars in each workstation and every improve them. Increased efficiency  
thing may still be missing, and it can one of them, at every step in the pro- reduces labor costs. And, let us not  
make the biggest difference in your cess, will get exactly the information forget the benefits of improved com-  
bottom line. I’m talking about mov- they need. No lost cut sheets, no cof- munication between the back office  
ing to a paperless production model. fee spills on paperwork, no missed and production workers, which is  
What does that really mean?  
Paperless production electronically it just can’t happen. The informa-  
delivery, no running out of printer ink always a sore subject in the factory.  
Just applying the items in the call-  
delivers the information you need to tion the operator needs is there, on out column to your situation will put  
the right place, at the right time and the workstation. If something goes you well on your way to identifying  
in the right order. Imagine informa- wrong with production, the order goes your specific bottlenecks and issues.  
tion flowing up- and down-stream to right back to be re-submitted, and Adding the benefits of reduced errors,  
every station in your manufacturing the next operator knows exactly what improvedqualitycontrolandincreased  
process. Imagine eliminating “travel- happened.  
customer satisfaction may be all it  
ing documents” including production One single scan of the barcode takes for you to look into paperless  
summary sheets, cutting reports and displays everything your production production.  
shop tickets because that information worker needs to know. What’s more,  
goes electronically to each worksta- the information is interactive and Andy Woods is the founder of Caliburn Inc.,  
tion. Let your mind go wild, and think searchable. Silos of information come the parent company of OpenJanela.  
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