Here, technical departments are also concerned. Even though they are often the last link in the chain, they need to modernise if they are to take part in an Industry 4.0 approach.
The steps involved
To make these changes, several steps are involved:
– Going paperless, first of all, which means digitising paper documents
– Making sure these documents are durable using tools that can handle digitised documents, since a technical document often needs to be modified during its life cycle (e.g. for a maintenance department, diagrams need to be vectorised before they are modified, but ideally without them being redrawn from scratch using CAD software, so that the focus is only on the change itself).
– Moving to paperless communications, with media providing more fluid communication, despite distances or time differences (e.g. teams working in shifts)
– Changing to paperless work processes, providing a tool for greater reliability and productivity for the various departments in a plant (e.g. setting up workflow validation)
Why should companies go paperless?
Faced with the quantity of documents needed for a production site to work correctly, going paperless is a solution guaranteed to optimise performance.
The main advantages are:
Saving time: it is reckoned that co-workers spend at least 20% of their time looking for information. Unlike with paper documents, employees can archive, process, share and read digital content, at any time and any place, without going to the archives. When combined with a document-management tool, it is easy to find any document using a key-word search in the title or in the document itself, and even to use a search filter with an equipment code or reference, or to search for a specific type of document, etc.
Saving space and reducing costs: Storing paper archives over several years often requires a whole room filled with cabinets and folders. Going paperless reduces storage costs and lowers processing costs.
Reduced risk: Paper archives are far from reliable. There is a risk of losing documents, duplicating documents (e.g. several copies of a document, with each version having specific changes and no copy that is accurate and up to date), mixing up documents, badly filed or mislaid documents and even destruction (rodents, fire, stains, etc.). Events like these can be very costly.
The ecological aspect should also be taken into account, since the carbon footprint with digital technology, although not zero, is far below the level caused by paper. Digitisation also boosts sustainable development.
Productivity at the core of the approach
It is obvious that digitisation of technical documents cannot improve the productivity of a department alone. Archiving documents with a tree view of files stored on a server will help free up physical space, but not necessarily make fast access to information easier.
Management of documents used on a daily basis needs to be improved. For technical departments, a technical DMS (Document Management System), incorporated into your I.T. system, will help centralise and make available documents created internally or provided by outside contributors, control the access and distribution of documents, and manage the authorisation to modify, delete or validate documents. A technical DMS makes information processing much faster, more accurate and efficient.
Efficient access to documentation: as well as the time saved in the process of searching and reading, almost instant access to the information you are looking for leads to productivity gains. When you are no longer interrupted in a task by a time-consuming search for documents, you can avoid, for example, a loss of concentration or stress, and thus improve the quality of performance (1 co-worker out of 5 devotes all of his or her time to looking for the right information). Finding content easily and in a user-friendly way in just a few seconds is now essential.
Portability accentuates this aspect with guaranteed support (with or without an internet connection) and instant access to the document you are looking for. This kind of mobile application soon becomes a vital companion for technicians during a job, since it transmits the right information at the right moment, and they can focus on the task in hand and solve the problem faster (e.g. during the breakdown of the production line in a plant, since the stoppage will inevitably have repercussions on the site’s productivity, it is vital to find a solution as quickly as possible).
Easy information access: unlike for paper formats, data can be consulted by several people at the same time, if necessary, with a simple network connection and login, irrespective of their location.
To sum up: going paperless and managing technical documentation are an integral part of the transformation involved in the plant of the future. They are inseparable and vital for optimising the productivity of technical services. Pooling knowledge helps to pass on a company’s memory and knowledge and make them more durable.