As governmental regulations increase, and outsourcing and collaboration become a necessity, it’s a time of transformation and modernization for manufacturers. Optimizing information management is more important than ever, yet surprisingly, documents and other information assets can bottleneck even the most well-oiled supply chain processes.
Today’s manufacturers are finding that the business case for digitizing paper is strong as it enables them to remove error-prone and costly manual steps, reduce labor costs and increase logistical efficiency. Unfortunately, many manufacturers still struggle with the transition from paper to digital. In its Information Governance Industry Watch, the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) states, “for 42 percent of organizations, progress toward the paperless office is slow.”
Many manufacturers are beginning to overcome digitization hurdles. These obstacles come in many forms—for some, it may be handling required signatures on documents like materials certificates, while for others, it may be enabling employees’ access to information from their mobile devices. However, what often happens is that manufacturers mirror the same folder-based, manual and error-prone processes after digitizing their paper files. This is unfortunate since this approach limits them from realizing the true potential of modern document and information management systems. While the benefits may vary by manufacturer type, here are a few to consider:
Mobile Capture Improves Accuracy in Logistics
Mobile apps are an innovative solution to the aforementioned impediment of digital signatures and off-site information access. Leading information management solutions feature mobile apps that support both digital signatures and offline access. Next-generation information management mobile apps can also leverage the camera and GPS of smart devices, helping employees to easily capture critical real-time information. For example, faulty parts shipped from a subcontractor can be reported more rapidly and accurately if the logistics personnel can report the incident on site by attaching photos taken from their device and appending them to the report via their mobile app. Valuable details about these types of incidents can be forgotten if employees must remember the incident until they return to the office to write the report.
Workflows Streamline Processes and Improve Quality
Supply chain management revolves largely around pre-defined business processes in which documents and checklists make up the component processes and drive output. An excellent way to speed up these sub-processes is to implement automated workflows for reviewing and approving documents, and tracking assignments. Additionally, the reporting capabilities of digital workflows allow bottlenecks to be easily identified. Finally, regulatory mandates and quality standards can be more easily adhered to because the information management system can verify that specific processes were followed and verified with electronic signatures, and that only authorized individuals have access to certain classes and types of content.
Metadata Helps to Reveal Information that Is Managed and Missing
In the paper era (and, unfortunately, still too often in the digital era), documents were categorized into dossiers, folders and cabinets. This caused problems because documents were often copied over and over—some without changes, some with changes—making it difficult to verify which version was the current and correct one. For example, multiple copies of computer-aided design (CAD) drawings were stored in various locations—however, each copy was a different version of the same drawing—making it difficult to determine which version was current. For many manufacturers, these versioning problems caused quality control issues that were difficult to rectify.
Metadata-driven information management systems allows the classification of information by what it is: For example, a material certificate for customer X, related to project Y, dated on January 5, 2016 and concerning material ID 123. Categorizing information this way improves its discoverability as the certificate can be retrieved by any of its properties: customer, date, material ID or project. Moreover, integrating metadata with business intelligence tools allows manufacturers to configure dashboards so they can identify if there’s any materials certificates missing from project Y. This is easily automated by running query from the aforementioned dashboard for a list of all deliverables shipping next week where the material certificate is not yet available. The ability that information management provides to systemize and ensure all documentation is in place is invaluable for the modern manufacturer.
Effective information management goes far beyond just digitizing paper documents. Dynamic organization of data and content with metadata, and automating business processes that were previously manual—and often paper-based—increases efficiency, improves quality control and accuracy, and ensures regulatory compliance. Manufacturers can directly profit from information management as automation directly translates to fewer risks and deviations, lower operational costs and increased productivity.
Mika Javanainen is the senior director of product management at M-Files Corporation. Javanainen is in charge of managing and developing M-Files’ product portfolio, roadmaps and pricing globally. Prior to his executive roles, Javanainen worked as a systems specialist, integrating document management systems with ERP and CRM applications. A published author, Javanainen has an executive MBA in international business and marketing. Follow Mika on Twitter at @mikajava.