Wherever manufacturers face challenges they face opportunities, too. Changing and emerging technologies are frequently the sources of manufacturing challenges, but one technology providing the means for turning challenges into opportunities is document management software (DMS.) For some manufacturers, it may provide the competitive edge they need to survive.
Documentation is a critical part of doing business for manufacturers, and as electronic documents are now the standard, document management systems are designed to organize and manage those documents —with software that provides users with the ability to access, modify, and centrally store the documents. Document management software handles basic, but tedious tasks like archiving, distribution, and creation of documents.
At the same time, advances in technology and the changes in the population have led to fundamental changes in manufacturing, which are the source of numerous challenges to manufacturing companies:
Overcoming high-stakes competition — Manufacturing companies are investigating cutting-edge methods of gaining control over their competitors, because the industry is full of competitive uncertainties. This makes it difficult to implement data-informed decisions that will work for the organization. Any way a manufacturing company can find to reduce the amount of time it spends on processes and reduce the number of steps in its document workflow will provide a competitive advantage, and DMS facilitates this.
Finding ways to improve workers’ skills — Skilled manufacturing workers are becoming increasingly scarce. As a consequence, the challenge for manufacturing companies now is to come up with their own ways to train and increase the skills of their workers.
One way that manufacturing companies can devote more time and money to training employees is by finding more efficient ways to manage their information—a concept that hinges on using documentation technologies to improve workflow, including document management software.
Although a lack of skilled workers is cited as a common problem for manufacturers, a creative way to address it is to free up the resources necessary for companies to provide the training that workers need to become skilled. Not only is this a creative way to impact ROI, it fosters a sense of employee loyalty and reduces the likelihood he or she will be lured to a new opportunity with a competing company.
Mistakes with inventory reports — Inventory discrepancies and keeping documentation straight are always a challenge for paper-based manufacturing companies, no matter how great the attempts to organize the inventories. Document management software provides the organizational bandwidth manufacturing companies need to keep documentation straight and prevent things like routing mistakes and document duplication errors.
Toward better information management — Data, and the insight it contains, now are a common by-product of all business transactions. The trick for most manufacturers is finding to find a way to leverage this information efficiently, because there’s a lot of it. Sales statistics, demographic information, geographical sales numbers, cost of transportation, cost of materials, and employee information make for a lot of paper-based throughput in the manufacturing process.
To mitigate the time this requires, manufacturers can automate paper-based processes through a document management system to increase efficiency and more effectively direct the labor of workers.
In addition to mitigating opportunity costs, there are some very real security risks manufacturing companies can address through a document management system.
The need for DMS — McKinsey & Co.’s Eric Auschitzky, Markus Hammer, and Agesan Rajagopaul state: “Most manufacturing companies collect vast troves of process data but typically use them only for tracking purposes, not as a basis for improving operations. For these players, the challenge is to invest in the systems and skill sets that will allow them to optimize their use of existing process information—for instance, centralizing or indexing data from multiple sources so they can be analyzed more easily.”
In order to manage properly all of the Big Data coming through their organizations, it is important for manufacturers to invest in a good system that can properly organize, analyze, and present the information in a usable format. This is likely the best way for manufacturing companies to get ahead of the curve.
Other benefits of DMS — DMS provides a range of benefits to manufacturing businesses, including streamlining work processes, increasing workflow, and enabling employees to reduce their frustration and work more effectively and efficiently.
DMS digitizes and organizes files, allows employees to find the documents they need easily, with a few simple keystrokes, and to a much greater extent than one could leverage with a typical Windows folder structure. It also automates many redundant processes at the document level, such as inputting similar information, and it saves time by functioning as a records manager you can keep off the payroll.
Templates also are available to help employees replicate easily and apply document storage structures widely, across various points of the system. Altogether, DMS allows employees to reduce their workload and tend to other necessary tasks. It’s an innovative way to solve the most common office problems manufacturing companies face.
Choosing a DMS solution — When choosing a DMS solution, there are a few essential features to identify.
DMS should help manufacturing companies comply with regulations in their industry, as well as with internal policies, by providing audit tracking and reporting, user-access controls, and document-retention policies. It also should enable employees to work collaboratively and share and access files and documents. The best DMS solutions will offer these core functional tools.
Also, a cloud-based DMS system is beneficial and allows users to access and share files and documents no matter the location, which is particularly useful for businesses with multiple locations and offices. Lastly, the system should integrate smoothly with a business’s existing software programs. Because manufacturers often use a variety of programs, it is essential that the DMS system works with them.