Advancements in technology has been eradicating the need for paper documentation for businesses across many industries.
Going ‘green’ and ‘lean’ are clichés in their own right, but the changes have become more and more apparent in recent past. We have already seen the publishing industry make the plunge to predominantly digital.
However, in the manufacturing sector, many documents are still processed the traditional way by being printed out. In most organizations, 63 percent of the paper being printed out are due to the need for signatures.
For example, when an EMS provider manufactures goods for say, a medical device company (or other companies in industries with specific protocols and laws), there is a large paper trail related to compliance and engineering specs that requires several signatures. By the time the process is closed, multiple printouts of the document (which could be over 50 pages if it has engineering drawings) have been signed, scanned and circulated to multiple people, possibly in distant locations.
This results in an abundance of paper records, which end up costing companies a significant amount of space, time, money, and in terms of the environment, trees.
The boxes and cabinets necessary to store all the physical documents not only take up space, but they are also inefficient. Locating files manually could take drastically longer than tracking the document electronically.
Manufacturers also have to factor in the time wasted in signing a document, scanning it and having to circulate to another person in a remote location to do the exact same thing. This is not even taking into account if there are revisions to the document.
The financial implications tied to physical documentation are higher than you might think. The average employee who has signing authority signs an average of 250 documents a year, which adds roughly $1,350 in annual paper-related costs. For large companies, this figure can easily exceed $100,000 per year.
Cost and Resource Reduction
Transitioning to paperless manufacturing lowers the cost of doing business for companies. It eliminates paper and ink expenses, it allows employees to focus on other tasks, and it frees up physical storage space that can be used more productively.
One of the ways manufacturers are going paperless is through digital signatures. Using services that allow companies to sign, file and distribute electronically can reduce the $1,350 per signer annual cost to under $100. It can also decrease paper consumption by over 50 percent, which is hugely beneficial for “green” companies looking to not only reduce overhead expenses but lessen their environmental impact.
However, going paperless can be a challenge for manufacturers. With a lot of industries like medical and security typically having strict protocols related to documentation, making sure that digital signing complies with regulatory standards can present some barriers. As a result, there are still companies and organizations that only accept ink-based signatures.
There are also costs to invest in the technology, including hiring somebody to run and implement it. Making the transition can also take time, as you migrate over from your past protocols. For some organizations, this can take up to a few years to fully integrate.
Eventually, all manufacturing facilities will operate 100 percent paperless, it just takes planning and the proper sign-off.