Eight common excuses for using paper-based data collection on the shop floor

Our recent survey of UK manufacturers revealed that an astonishing 46% of you are still using pieces of paper to collect critical information from your shop floor.

You’re using paper-based approaches for works order tickets, operator timesheets, machine maintenance records, machine utilisation, quality … it’s everywhere.

The use of paper on the shop floor is killing manufacturing productivity. It wastes operators’ time; it’s inaccurate and error-prone; the information you collect is immediately out of date and so it’s useless for troubleshooting and not that useful for production planning either. Paper gets lost; it’s slow and expensive to archive and recall; it wastes supervisors’ time and, in our experience, few manufacturers actually do anything useful with the information they collect anyway – even after it’s been re-entered in a spreadsheet. Paper might keep your HR department happy, but it delivers no visibility or analysis capabilities to improve manufacturing productivity.

In this digital age, and with so many drawbacks, why are almost half of UK manufacturers still chasing paper?

  • We didn’t know there was a better way

That’s a fair excuse. When we demo our software solution for paperless shop-floor data collection and analytics, we often get comments like: “I didn’t know this kind of thing was available”. Well, now you know, so no more excuses.

  • It’s the way we’ve always worked

This is not a fair excuse. If you don’t adapt to change, you probably won’t be in business in five years’ time. Industry 4.0 is here and your competitors are embracing it.

  • We tried ERP on the shop floor, it doesn’t work

Fundamentally, ERP systems are not designed for the shop floor. ERP systems bring together information from some of your business activities to inform management decisions for departments including Finance and Procurement – but do nothing to optimise your production processes. Will your ERP system enable you to pinpoint production bottlenecks as they happen, or reveal dips in labour productivity? Probably not, because few ERP systems are capable of collecting information at the level of detail to enable a proper analysis of manufacturing productivity.

  • We have ERP, it uses paper

Your ERP system may well provide works order tickets that you print and allocate on the factory floor, but this is not the only way. Our system can talk to your ERP electronically, taking the works order information and enabling you to allocate it to the right team or individual operator without the need for a print out. We also feed information back to your ERP – electronically, with no manual data re-entry.

  • Electronic systems are too hard for our operators to use

This is also a fair excuse. To be honest, we’ve seen competitors’ factory floor systems that take months to set up and require 25 key strokes for the operator to get to the stage where he/she is ready to start doing something useful.

Our system setup time is typically 10 days. Operators can start work within seconds simply by scanning their badges and touching a button to bring up their ‘work to’ list. Our system knows the queue of work and production schedule. It’s also context-sensitive, so it provides instructions and collects information using touch-screens that are relevant to the specific task in hand. We understand how important it is to provide user-friendly solutions on the shop floor.

  • We can’t afford to install a more modern data collection solution
    Many manufacturing businesses don’t have huge capital budgets to spend on modernising their factories – they need their working capital for stock and to pay the wage bill. That’s why we make our software available on a subscription basis with no up-front costs, which simply scales with the number of terminals you need on the factory floor.
  • We’re a regulated industry and we need a paper-based audit trail

Sorry, but this is a myth. Electronic data is perfectly good for most regulatory bodies. In fact, an electronic record will provide a far more detailed audit trail than you can ever capture on paper.

  • It makes individuals accountable

We can’t disagree with this excuse. Paper-based data collection allows operators to hide behind its inaccuracies. Installing our solution introduces transparency and will make everyone accountable. In fact, many of our customers are astonished at the immediate, positive impact this makes on productivity. We typically see a 20% transformation of operator utilisation overnight. It’s the first step in a journey towards building a performance culture.

If the thought of transparency worries your workforce, think about what the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, said in his recent Autumn Statement:

“It takes a German worker 4 days to produce what we make in 5; which means, in turn, that too many British workers work longer hours for lower pay than their counterparts!”

No more excuses

Replacing the use of paper and spreadsheets with our affordable, software-based factory floor data collection system is the fastest way to transform productivity in a labour-intensive manufacturing environment. No excuses.

To request a demo, contact us today or call +44 (0)1344 535 120.