3 min read

Paperless Manufacturing Made Simple

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Many people are reluctant to investigate MES because they think it’s difficult to use, and their shop floor can’t manage the complexity. Truth is, paperless manufacturing is even easier to use than paper-based systems.


The other day I sat through a product demo for a document management system. The software promised, “Instant cloud access to all your most important documents, and collaboration tools to improve productivity.”

That sounds good to me. I like instant access, and collaboration is always welcome. Improving productivity sounds even better!

Problem was, the software UI was a confusing mass of drop down menus. It required me to constantly track the “document state” of everything I worked on. Saving the document in one state would send the document to a different database, which modified the massive set of menus. Making any change was a multi-step process that required at least 4 menus, 8 mouse clicks, a drag and drop, and a rigorous confirmation process… By the time I finally made the change, I prayed I hadn’t made a mistake which would add another 10+ minutes of work finding the error and correcting it.

Why Build Complexity in an MES?

Truth is, there are MES systems like this, especially systems that try to integrate multiple software systems (often from an entirely separate company) to create a “wholly functional” master system. You start twisting your UI (User Interface) to accommodate all those disparate parts, and you’ll end up with some Frankenstein-like piece of monster-software.

If you try mixing the functionality of an ERP with your MES, or cramming the tools of a PLM into a paperless manufacturing system, then something’s going to break. More than likely it will be the users’ patience, in addition to the simplicity and clean usability everyone wants in their software tools. You just can’t seamlessly slip the functions, tools and processes used in one software system into another. It’s going to get messy.

This messiness manifests as extra steps in the workflow, additional menus to navigate, document “states” to be managed, and an overall impression the software isn’t working the way it should for the users. Simply hiding the messiness behind menus or a slick dashboard doesn’t fix it, it becomes the annoying complexity that saps productivity and results in processes and tools not being used.

Focus on Productivity for Manufacturing

But with a modern, paperless manufacturing system, you get all the functionality of an advanced MES without the pain and complexity. The software enhances your productivity as quickly and efficiently as possible, and doesn’t struggle getting pieces of the software to work together. The processes, tools and functionality are streamlined and logical. Complete work in as few steps as possible, letting you and your team focus on productivity, not serving the needs of your software system.

If you want to add a PLM, then connect the systems to share data, because that’s really all you need. Let the MES focus on being an MES, enhancing productivity and managing manufacturing execution. Let the PLM manage documents and the product lifecycle. Don’t cram everything together under one (very crowded) functional umbrella. If you do, don’t be surprised when nothing works like it should. 

There are cases where the excess functionality added to a PLM or ERP actually reduce the productivity and effectiveness of the shop floor.  In cases like this, companies actually pay MORE for the complexity that reduces shop floor productivity Many times, this is justified by business leaders to create what they determine are essential records or reports for regulators or the legal department. The right Paperless Manufacturing solution will create those same records and reports while increasing productivity and effectiveness.

If you want to learn more, or see how you can enhance the productivity and efficiency of your manufacturing team, then contact CIMx today for a free assessment of your shop floor. We’re confident our software can dramatically improve your operations and deliver an ROI in less than 4 months – learn how by contacting us today.