Chirag Yadav

Chirag Yadav

October 3, 2023 16 minutes to read

Paperless Manufacturing: The Definitive Guide

Paperless Manufacturing: The Definitive Guide

In 2021, 408 million tons of paper was used. This is a massive amount of paper considering that to complete the paper demand of the US, 1 billion trees had to lose their life. Don’t you think it’s time to go paperless in everything you do today? When everyone from an individual to an industry contributes, the combined effort can have a positive effect. 

In global paper usage, manufacturers are not behind. They use paper for almost everything, from noting down important information to scribbling their thoughts to preparing reports, invoices, and whatnot. The fact that all this can be replaced with more convenient and progressive technologies is why we are writing this excerpt on paperless manufacturing. Read on to learn what paperless manufacturing is and how can it be implemented on your factory floor.

What is Paperless Manufacturing?

Paperless manufacturing is a digital approach that eliminates the need for physical paper documentation in the production process.  It includes replacing physical documents with digital ones, using paperless machines, digital methods to read, share, and publish information, and using automation devices to reduce crucial information to and fro. 

You might be using paper right now in your unit to take notes, share process steps, note down daily employee progress, take attendance, etc. But all these functions can be done without using a pen and paper. 

Essentially, all the paper you are using right now will be replaced by smart software. Imagine searching for a piece of paper from mountains of files and storage racks. Now replace this with a single-click file search option from a digital device like a mobile phone or computer. Isn’t the second option better?

Benefits of Paperless Manufacturing

In a manufacturing process, the use of paper may seem mandatory as you have to share loads of information across the vertical and horizontal hierarchy. However, in paperless manufacturing, we propose that you use digital solutions to share all the information. The benefits of taking this approach are numerous. 

  • Cost Reduction

Offices in the USA use 1.6 billion paper reams every year for their work, which turns out to be 4 million tons of paper being used and practically wasted. Along with this, money is also going down the drain. 

One paper ream costs between $6 to $15; some might cost more. Taking $10 per ream as an average, these offices are spending close to $16 billion on paper alone. Imagine all the money saved and reinvested into the business by going paperless. In this, we are not including the cost of ink, storage, and other materials required to manage all the paper you use. 

  • Higher Productivity

Manufacturing as it is a complex task, and when you add to it by noting everything on paper and then keeping it safe, the work only gets more complicated. But replacing paper with a tablet consisting of all the steps and checklists will overhaul how you manage and run the manufacturing plant. 

Sharing notes, giving instructions, setting reminders, and a lot of other things can be automated and scheduled with a digital system. With this in mind, we have created Plutomen Workflow, which will assist manufacturers in keeping track of every manufacturing process. 

  • Data Accuracy and Real-Time Monitoring

Imagine noting down every parameter of your machine in the plant at regular intervals and then comparing the machine’s health. Won’t it be cumbersome and not to mention counter-productive? 

As you go paperless, digital solutions and software will take care of these aspects and let you share information in real time as the solution does the calculations for you. Using real-time information, floor managers and supervisors can make quick decisions. 

  • Better Workforce Collaboration

Going paperless means all the workers and employees in the plant can communicate and share information without using paper travelers. In other words, when everyone is connected via a digital system, one person feeding the data can be viewed by everyone involved in the process. Employees from different departments can communicate and work together without any friction. 

Paperless Manufacturing Process: How Exactly it Works?

First, understand that paperless manufacturing does not hinder the manufacturing process. Instead, it empowers your existing process to become more efficient, productive, and fast. Going paperless in manufacturing means you will have real-time information about the production. 

The paperless manufacturing process works by eliminating the need to carry physical paper documents and streamline operations through digital tools and technologies. In this form of manufacturing, electronic systems take over the manual work, which gives higher accuracy, the capability to take quick action and to implement mitigating solutions quickly. During the production process, you can feed information about a machine, product, and their workings in the system. The best part is that all the operations are integrated into and connected with a dedicated high-level system. Using this data repository, managers, supervisors, and the top leadership can take a bird’s eye view of the manufacturing process. 

Here’s a general overview of how paperless manufacturing process works:

  • Digital Work Instructions: Paperless manufacturing relies on digital work instructions rather than printed manuals or paper-based work instructions. These manuals are produced and saved in electronic formats, frequently as PDF files, web-based documents, or files made using specialized software.
  • Real-time Data Capture: As the production process progresses, employees access and adhere to digital work instructions using tablets, cellphones, or dedicated terminals. They capture parameters, measurements, and location timestamps in real-time.
  • Quality Control: Paperless systems often incorporate quality management checks at various stages of production. Workers can document quality checks digitally, and the system can flag any deviations from predefined quality standards. This allows for rapid corrective actions.
  • Task Allocation: Managers and supervisors can use software tools to allocate tasks to specific workers or workstations. This ensures efficient resource utilization and helps in meeting production schedules.
  • Remote Collaboration: Collaboration among team members, departments, and even geographically dispersed facilities is enhanced through tools like AR powered remote collaboration. Messages, comments, and notifications can be sent and received instantly.

Imagine you are into manufacturing chips. From when your raw material is delivered to when a packaged product goes out of the manufacturing plant, everything will be recorded and stored in a centralized data repository. The concerned entities in the manufacturing plant will receive a notification about the arrival of the raw materials. 

All the machines in the plant are digitized to the extent that any new activity in the machine is logged. Hence, when the raw material is processed and treated for the next stage, the concerned employees will get a notification. 

Similarly, with the help of connected devices, every concerned manager, supervisor, and employee will get notifications about their work. They can also check the work progress at any point in time. 

Here are some of the functions manufacturing plants can enhance or improve by going paperless:

  • Invoicing
  • frontline training and assistance
  • Customer support
  • Reporting and auditing
  • Protocol management
  • Technical documentation and sharing
  • Work and on-the-job instructions
  • Access control and managing exit/entry process

Every aspect of the manufacturing process can be handled with better efficiency without using paper. In all aspects, Plutomen Assist and Plutomen Workflow can help build a paperless environment. Where Plutomen Assist can help get rid of instruction manuals with digital devices, it can reimagine on-time training with AR/ VR & 3D-visualization techniques

Plutomen Workflow, on the other hand, is meant to improve the work experience of frontline workers. From creating digital checklists and work instructions, it can also share standard operating procedures for the manufacturing process. 

Challenges Faced by Using Papers in Manufacturing

Paper is a crucial commodity in every industry and business. No matter what you are doing, you will need to use paper and pen at some point. It can be to note something down or share a joke, create financial reports, or submit the most important proposal of your life; paper is ubiquitous. 

But when we talk about a manufacturing plant, the same applies here as well, but it’s not without challenges. 

  • Time-Consuming: Compare the time required to fill in every box in the checklist and when an automated system fills in all the details automatically. Plus, how much paper can you handle in one go? Think about the time required to sort and organize every piece of paper. Isn’t it counterproductive? 

In addition to this, think about the time wastage when employees are transcribing information onto a paper. At the same time, when another person checks the same paper, they have to spend time finding the required information. 

Another area where time is wasted in using paper is locating physical files and documents. On the other hand, think how much time you will save if everything is done digitally. Saving documents digitally makes them easy to retrieve and find the required information. 

  • Need Extra Space and Printing: As much time as you spend on building the paper documentation; you will also need space to store them all. Imagine if a large manufacturing plant worked completely with paper; how much space they will need to store all the documents? Plus, there is a risk in storing paper, which can easily catch fire near the manufacturing plant. 

Moreover, you have to spend money on printing the papers required for the manufacturing process. Printing customized checklists, reports, and other documents consumes ink and electricity, not to mention the manpower required to carry everything from one place to another. 

  • Chances of Unauthorized Access: Confidential physical documents can be stolen or leaked without authorization and authentication. No one can stand guard on the paper vault or storage 24/7. But when using digital documentation, you can set bespoke access rights for each individual. This better protects the confidentiality of sensitive documents and information. Even if someone tries to access unauthorized documents, the concerned individuals will receive a notification about the breach attempt. 
  • Have to Deliver Documents Manually: Using paper means someone has to travel through the plant and deliver the right papers to the right hands. One mistake can lead to wasting time and resources. So, with a paperless approach, you can get rid of paper travelers and, more importantly, complete work with better precision and speed. 

As you can see, taking the paper-based approach is frustrating, time-consuming, and a money-wasting exercise. It’s the right time to go paperless and save a lot of work floor hassle along with saving money and mother nature. 

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Steps to Implement Paperless Manufacturing on the Shop Floor

  • Replace Paper-based Instructions With Digital Work Instructions

The first step in going paperless is to digitize all the physical work instructions and documentation. To ensure this, you must first consider your current paper storage and consumption capacity. 

Streamline the digitization process wherein you must migrate all the paper based documentation like SOPs, checklists, employee information, process information, financial information, etc., onto a digital medium. 

Once you transfer all the instruction documents, accessing all the documents will become convenient. Once you get a hold of things, you can implement automated solutions that will further streamline information processing and create a centralized database. 

Plutomen Workflow allows you to create checklists and SOPs, which can be shared across a secure network and help shop floor employees complete every process accurately. 

  • Facilitate a Knowledge Repository to Eliminate Back & Forth

Build a single repository for all the documentation and information related to the manufacturing plant. Within this, you can set access controls and permissions to choose who has access to which document or information. This sort of system will substantially reduce the back and forth to get the right document. 

With a digital system, employees can access an interactive and searchable (with filters) knowledge base. Anyone anywhere with access to the repository can get the required document and information with a few clicks. Plutomen Workflow can assist manufacturers in storing and sharing access to employees. 

  • Land Immersive Training to Manufacturers

Manufacturers and their stakeholders, more importantly, the frontline workers, can receive immersive training. For those who need on-the-job and off-the-job training, a digitized platform will allow manufacturers to deliver engaging and interactive training programs. 

Plutomen Assist is enabled with AR and VR capabilities that can make a manufacturer’s requirement to deliver immersive training possible. Employees and trainees can receive precision training to operate the machines, understand their parts, and much more. 

  • Automate Processes

One of the advanced stages of paperless manufacturing is automation. In this, a cohort of digital solutions work together in unison to deliver the final product with minimal human intervention. As a result, manufacturers can speed up the work and streamline the processes while saving time and money. 

As big manufacturers automate their assembly lines and operations, they can use the additional time to design and build better products personalized to the customer’s requirements. 

  • Invest in Connected Worker Technologies like AR/VR, AI, and IoT

Going forward, AR, VR, IoT, and AI will become an integral part of the manufacturing process. As manufacturers continue to integrate these technologies, their production capabilities, product quality, and work efficiency will increase. 

Paperless manufacturing is the first step in advancing to a modern manufacturing plant and leveraging the combined impact of all these technologies to deliver better results.

  • Cut expenses

Going paperless with regards to the future of manufacturing, can greatly reduce the cost associated with paper, printers, storage, and maintenance. While it may be difficult to completely eliminate paper, it is possible to greatly reduce the use of it. Though, in some cases, invoices and reports may still need to be printed due to requests from agencies and customers. However, even if some documents still need to be printed, the cost savings from reducing paper usage can still be significant. Additionally, reading physical documents can be beneficial for gaining a different perspective, however, with advancements in technology, digital documents can also provide that experience.

What are Some Trends in Paperless Manufacturing?

Paperless manufacturing is not a new concept, and numerous manufacturers are using this technology to gain higher productivity and streamline operations. As this concept is gaining traction, here are some of the latest trends you must consider while setting up your plant. 

  • Cloud-Based Document Storage: As opposed to dedicating resources, money, and space to have physical servers for storage, choose cloud-based storage solutions. Cloud systems provide users with flexibility and anytime, anywhere accessibility. As cloud storage solutions can be accessed from any location, work will continue irrespective of the employee’s location. 
  • Data Analytics with Paperless Manufacturing: Data analytics and paperless manufacturing can work together to give you real-time insights. Where the IoT-enabled machines record and feed data into dedicated software, data analytics solutions can take this data to provide recommendations and insights. Capabilities like predictive maintenance and automated sensors work through data analytics. 
  • Robotics in Paperless Manufacturing: Another important trend you need to look out for is integration of robotics in paperless manufacturing. Using robots, you can automate the manufacturing processes. At the same time, these robots are self-sufficient in recording, noting down, and storing information in their database. From there, they can send the required information to the centralized server for everyone to access. 

What is Paperless Manufacturing Software?

Going paperless is akin to taking a leap forward toward an advanced era of manufacturing. With plant owners and managers investing their time and resources in creating a better working environment, they are adding more capabilities and efficiencies to the work. Yes, there are challenges in paperless manufacturing, but manufacturers can use Paperless Manufacturing Softwares to implement this process faster and reduce the learning curve. 

These software tools eliminate traditional pen-and-paper processes, fostering efficiency, accuracy, and collaboration. Let’s delve into the process of using software to go paperless:

  • Identify Areas for Improvement: Assess existing paper-based workflows and documentation processes. Identify areas that can benefit from digitalization, such as inspection, troubleshooting, remote assistance, and training.
  • Select Suitable Software: Choose paperless manufacturing software that aligns with your specific needs and manufacturing requirements. Look for features like augmented reality, digital instructions, remote assistance, and immersive training capabilities.
  • Integration and Implementation: Integrate the chosen software seamlessly into your manufacturing ecosystem. Provide comprehensive training to employees to ensure they are familiar with the new digital tools and processes.
  • Enhance Collaboration: Enable remote experts to provide real-time assistance and support to on-site employees. This enhances knowledge sharing and problem-solving capabilities.
  • Digitize Workflows: Utilize paperless manufacturing software to digitize inspection and troubleshooting sequences. Create customized digital instructions for different user roles and skill levels, ensuring clarity and consistency.
  • Enable Remote Training: Implement solutions that allow remote workers to access learning resources and simulations from any location. This eliminates geographic limitations and enables efficient training across diverse locations.
  • Monitor Progress and Adapt: Regularly assess the effectiveness of the paperless software implementation. Gather feedback from employees and make necessary adjustments to optimize productivity and user experience.

Go Paperless with Plutomen’s Software Suite

Plutomen assists manufacturers in going paperless and replacing every need of paper, making them agile, efficient, and more productive. Plutomen’s suite of software solutions – Connect, Workflow, and Assist – offers manufacturers a comprehensive pathway to go paperless and revolutionize their operations. These innovative tools leverage cutting-edge technologies like augmented reality (AR) and digital instructions to create a seamless and efficient paperless manufacturing environment. Let’s explore the key features and benefits of each solution offered by Plutomen:

  • Plutomen Connect: This AR-powered remote assistance tool enables manufacturers to bridge the gap between on-site and off-site professionals. With Plutomen Connect, distant experts can provide real-time support and guidance to on-site employees. This eliminates the need for physical documentation and manual communication, fostering seamless knowledge transfer and problem-solving capabilities. By replacing conventional paper-based procedures with remote visual communication, manufacturers can significantly reduce paper usage and enhance the overall efficiency of their operations.
  • Plutomen Workflow: Digitizing inspection and troubleshooting sequences, Plutomen Workflow simplifies complex tasks for manufacturers. The software creates digital instructions customized to users’ roles, skill levels, and preferred languages, ensuring clarity and consistency. By replacing paper-based checklists and manuals with digital instructions, manufacturers can minimize the likelihood of errors and improve process efficiency. The paperless approach facilitated by Plutomen Workflow promotes standardized procedures and reduces the dependency on physical documentation.
  • Plutomen Assist: Plutomen Assist offers an immersive training solution that reduces the effort required to create digital training materials. Remote workers can access learning resources and simulations from any location, eliminating geographic limitations. By adopting Plutomen Assist, manufacturers can conduct frontline training sessions without the need for physical training materials and manuals. This reduces paper waste, while ensuring that frontline workers across different geographies receive consistent and effective training.

By implementing Plutomen’s paperless manufacturing solutions, manufacturers can optimize productivity, enhance data accuracy, foster collaboration, and demonstrate environmental responsibility. The transition to a paperless factory floor approach streamlines operations, minimizes paper waste, and empower manufacturers to adapt to the digital age, creating a more sustainable and efficient manufacturing environment.

Transform Your Factory Floor into Paperless Operations!

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It helps boost productivity, make faster decisions based on up-to-date data and accurate data, cut down costs, eliminates the need for manual logbooks and constant check-ins, allowing team members to fully focus on their roles and responsibilities.

By using digital tools and systems, manufacturers can track the progress of their production remotely. The workforce can focus on the task at hand, instead of filling up the logbooks. AR streamlines the production planning process and frees up time for teams to focus on improving the process.

With a paperless manufacturing system, data can be kept accurate and up-to-date in real-time. Plus the restrictions on type of data to be entered leads to a reliable way of managing data and information.

Paperless factories are a lean, integrated, and sustainable approach that supports business operations. By eliminating the requirement and dependence on papers, it directly promotes sustainability for an enterprise.
Chirag Yadav

Chirag Yadav

VP of Sales and Partnerships at Plutomen

Chirag brings with him 15+ Years of experience in Digital Transformation, and IT Leadership. At Plutomen, he holds deep experience in business with a track record of customer-centric approaches helping them build business transformation.

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