For anyone who wonders if paperless manufacturing is a viable solution to their shop floor troubles, a lesson in social history provides the answer.
By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software
A few months ago, I spent some time at a bed and breakfast deep in the Appalachian Mountains – far from the urban sprawl. There was one power line; phone access consisted of a satellite phone and a single cliff was the only location with decent cell reception.
The first night was nice. The scenery was gorgeous and the quiet serenity absolutely relaxing. The next day was… disconcerting. With only one TV, most of the news came via a morning paper. It felt old and outdated. There was no internet access, no cell reception, and no way to touch the world or even reliably communicate.
Without the Internet, I had no visibility. I felt like I had no control. To get any real time facts, reliable information, or make a phone call, I had to drive 30+ minutes. It reminded me of the world before the Internet, or life on a shop floor without paperless manufacturing.
Did I get your attention? Consider this – many production environments have disconnected islands of automation, with information scattered across several media. Real-time information requires you to be there. Accessing information, collating data, and even communicating within your organization is a struggle. Many companies have limited ability to analyze and improve the work flow process – sounds a lot like life before the Internet.
Everyone has their own unique view and definition of the Internet (including the late Senator Ted Stevens who was sure it wasn’t a big truck, but a series of tubes). If you look beyond the conveniences at the true value of the Internet, it has become a vehicle to collect, consolidate and communicate information between people anytime and anywhere. The Internet has removed geographic distance as a limitation on human endeavor. It gives everyone access to a single, convenient source of information. The Internet gives us visibility and control, which many shop floors are still struggling to find.
The goal of paperless manufacturing is to bring the power and convenience of the Internet to manufacturing. Paperless manufacturing collects, consolidates, sorts and communicates information between people in the company anytime and anywhere. It collects and preserves production data while providing instant access to each element of the work flow. Paperless manufacturing saves historical data to help shape the future of the company. It eliminates the “silos” of knowledge. No more disconnected reports with information 2+ weeks old, missing data, unreliable analytics, reactive quality control, or bits of information hiding in multiple formats.
No more disconnected (but stunningly beautiful) information-vacuum-like bed and breakfast sitting inside your company and holding you back.
This does not mean you are opening your company up to the horrors of the Internet (and I will admit, there are horrors out there). Paperless manufacturing uses the concept of the Internet to provide you with the tools and power connectedness – a rich reservoir of information at your fingertips all the time and instantly available. It gives your team a location to store all the data they accumulate, and an easy way to access it when you need to. You have the security of firewalls and encryption, but the convenience of an enterprise Internet you control.
The Internet has made a dramatic difference in our lives, and paperless manufacturing can potentially make an equally dramatic difference for your shop floor. I can remember many arguments against the Internet (including a neighbor who swore robots were spying on her through the Internet), but the power of technology has shaped our world, ultimately for the better. Paperless Manufacturing is here – what are you waiting for?