The Paperless Factory is an increasingly widespread trend in the industrial sector thanks to the presence of digital solutions on the market that allow the management of documentation and information exchange without the use of paper.
Very often, in fact, paper is still one of the main means of support for various activities. Here are just a few examples of everyday use:
- Standardized work instructions, such as equipment for machinery, plants
- Work orders that are associated with the batches being processed
- Technical drawings, printed by technicians and designers to share information
- Specifications and standards, often filed in folders
- Technical data sheets, used for example to indicate the machine parameters to be used for specific processes
- Final Inspection documentation, printed and archived during the certification phase
- Exchange of shift change information between machine operators
- Business dashboards to communicate performance
- Kanban cards to trace the flow of operations
However, such paper-based processes can be dangerous and inefficient activities. Why?
Here are some issues related to the use of paper supports:
- Content updating is not guaranteed. That is, the work instructions printed in the workshop or the technical standards are not always replaced when they are updated;
- Translation of documentation: especially in structured companies with an international presence, the documentation must be guaranteed in several languages. This requires additional translation costs, in addition to having to ensure alignment between the different revisions and languages;
- It is not possible to integrate tools such as, for example, videos or links, which are undoubtedly useful for the end user. For example, a video can be much more useful than a sequence of images to explain a working method (eg assembly of a component);
- The massive consumption of paper is expensive, and not environmentally sustainable, just think of the purchase of paper reams, printers and the necessary maintenance service, toner and related disposal, etc.
- Documentation can be lost. What happens if documentation is lost without making a copy first?
- The documentation may not be legible if the notes are written by hand
- Greater possibility of falsifying documentation. It is easier to forge a manual signature than an electronic signature
- More storage space: hard copies require folders and archives, often bulky;
- Greater chance of damaging documents due, for example, to oil stains
How to become a Paperless Factory?
The digital transformation we are witnessing provides a series of tools that allow you to get rid of paper supports, thus eliminating all the problems mentioned. Here are some solutions for a Paperless Factory:
- Digital work instructions: these solutions allow the creation and sharing of work instructions through digital media, for example using tablets. Among the main advantages we can mention the following:
- Traceability and automatic alignment of revisions: the platform ensures that all revisions are always aligned and that only the latest revision, for example, can be used;
- Automatic translation thanks to Machine Learning algorithms
- Use of Videos, Links and other digital media that enhance instructions
- More effective communication between corporate bodies, thanks to the ability to leave feedback to improve instructions or send e-mails in case of need
- More effective data collection through the use of appropriate fields
- Zero printing costs (paper, printer, toner, disposal)
- Use of wearable devices: digital documentation can be viewed through the use of a series of wearable devices, including tablets, smartwatches, smartphones and smart glasses. In particular, the smart glasses allow viewing of the documentation while keeping the hands free. Not only that: with integrated cameras, they allow you to provide your point of view to the technician in the event of remote assistance (less transport costs and greater responsiveness for customer service)
- Identification and Validation by tags: often every operation within a production process must be validated by the operator who carried it out. This is normally done through the use of stamps. However, through the use of tags, for example, this operation can be digitized. Not only that: it is possible to introduce automatic security mechanisms for which it is not possible to exchange tags, or to advance the details to the next operation if the previous operation has not been completed as required. However, the operation can be manually unlocked and this request is still tracked
- Data collection: one of the most time-consuming operations is undoubtedly that of data collection. The digital work instructions allow you to automatically enter the required measurement values, and in the case of out of tolerance, send feedback to the managers. In addition, there are a number of solutions that integrate wireless measurement tools and real-time analysis tools that process digitally collected data providing real-data-based decision support to operators.
- eKanban: with eKanban systems using RTLS it is no longer necessary to print Kanban tags. In fact, the RTLS systems are able to identify the position of the semi-finished products in real time, and then send the information upstream of the flow automatically.
- Digital drawings: using an MBD (Model Based Definition) approach, it is no longer necessary to print the layouts, as all the required information, including dimensions and tolerances, can be found directly in 3D format. Such formats can then be used in CMM machines for comparison.
Manage complexity through technology scouting and pilot projects
Implementing a Paperless Factory is not easy. In fact, it requires the integration of solutions of a different nature, the management of different protocols to ensure that the collection and exchange of information takes place seamlessly. Furthermore, we have mentioned a series of solutions of a different technological nature, but which technology and which solution is the one that is right for us?
The safest way and the most immediate results is to identify the solution that most aligns with the business requirements by means of a structured technology scouting process, followed by the implementation of pilot projects on small scale, able to verify the expected benefits in a short period of time, while reducing the associated risks.
Where to start?
The implementation of a Paperless Factory requires knowledge of industrial processes and at the same time of digital technologies capable of meeting business requirements.
For more info, contact us to discuss more details.