Paperless manufacturing and the digital shop floor are changing manufacturing for the better, but there are still companies reluctant to embrace the future.

By Tony Cuilwik, CEO of CIMx Software

You will implement a paperless solution on your shop floor. It will happen. Manufacturing, the market and technology are changing too quickly to continue supporting old, inefficient paper-based processes. The move to paperless will save money and improve your competitive position. So why not make the move now? What are you waiting for?

Every company that has moved from a paper-driven environment to a carefully planned paperless one has saved money, improved worker morale, improved productivity and increased quality. Paperless manufacturing delivers shop floor visibility and manufacturing control like no other product. Companies eliminate errors, increase productivity and increase profitability with a paperless system. Even purchasing a simple system with limited functionality is better than relying on error-prone paper. One aerospace manufacturing company executive remarked that the purchase of a paperless solution was the best return on his money in many years of shop floor purchases.

As obvious as the choice may be for us, there are legitimate reasons for waiting and “making it work” with paper for a little longer. I understand that, but let’s take a look at some of the reasons:


Money (or the loss of money) is a good reason for any company to wait on implementing a project. But, a good paperless system will deliver an ROI in less than 9 months. Some companies report an ROI in less than 3 months after implementation. The positive return on a paperless solution ranges from 3 to 10 times the initial cost annually. As you research paperless solutions, keep these numbers in mind. As long as you find a solution that makes sense financially, the project will pay for itself.


Any capital project carries a risk, and for many paperless manufacturing is an even greater risk because it impacts the profit driver of a manufacturing business – the shop floor. There is a risk with any project. For example, the promised or expected benefits won’t materialize, the project is never finished, and the money is wasted. This is a valid concern, because in overly complex projects, projects with a massive requirement list, or a custom system, project cost and schedule overruns are common, and many companies end the project early to cut their losses.

On the other hand, many times the company will discover more benefit than initially envisioned. They will expand the use of the technology into all corners of the plant. The key to mitigating risk and ensuring benefit is to manage the choice of solution carefully. Roll the project out in smaller phases, and initially focus on fewer requirements – ensuring you tackle the key project drivers before rolling out nice-to-have items. Large, complex, and expensive solutions are a much greater risk, regardless from who they are purchased, because there are many more factors to manage in the project and heavy costs for any small change.


Fear is closely related to risk, and with good reason. Moving to paperless manufacturing is a big decision, and it will impact your business. If you are the one tasked with making a decision, the wrong decision could be embarrassing or worse. Software solutions are being sold with inflated promises, and when you don’t achieve the desired results, even a successful project can look like a failure.

Once again, you can minimize fear with a simple phased project utilizing small, inexpensive phases to meet bigger goals. Rather than create a massive requirement list, make a focused list with clearly measurable ROI benefits after each step. With a phased project, you have more control. After each phase, evaluate the results and make changes as needed. Look for a vendor willing to offer guarantees on price, schedule and results to further eliminate the source of fear, risk or hesitation.

Getting started on your paperless manufacturing project

Paper-based manufacturing processes are error-prone, inefficient, needlessly expensive and aren’t suited to meet the demands of modern manufacturing. As more and more shop floors move to a paperless system, paperless manufacturing will be the new standard. But, there are risks to moving to paperless, and as of now there are many still unwilling to implement a project. We understand that.

But, if you’re ready, there are a few simple steps you can take to overcome fear, lower the cost and reduce the risk. If a positive financial outcome can be shown and the expected project results can be documented and guaranteed, then “why not now?” Why wait? Every day you delay making a decision is another day your shop floor loses money, struggles with errors, and works to overcome an inefficient system. Make the move to paperless manufacturing or at least research your options.

Want to know more or talk about how paperless manufacturing can help you? Give us a call or leave us a message, and let’s see what we can do for you.