There’s no doubt that the digital transformation of manufacturing is changing the face of the industry, and many companies are feeling pressure to evolve into a “factory of the future.” It’s an exciting time that promises significant efficiency and productivity gains, yet the prospect of transitioning to digital records, tools and processes is daunting for many manufacturing businesses. That’s why the best place to start might be surprising: paper. To improve your records management process, begin with your paper records.
Start With Low-Tech Records and Work Your Way Up
It might seem counterintuitive to start a digital transformation by getting a better handle on paper records, but the approach makes good business sense. New digital systems and applications such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and the Internet of Things (IoT) have the potential to actually multiply the amount of data and records that manufacturers have today, compounding any records management challenges that already exist.
That’s why it’s vital to organize your lowest-technology records systems first by tackling paper records before you work your way up to records of increasing levels of technological complexity.
During and after transitioning to digital tools and processes, business leaders still need access to paper records and the important information these documents contain. Consider how your company would respond to a request for I-9 documents for an immigration audit, or how quickly you could produce documentation having to do with a legal action or customer inquiry.
Here are some ways to improve records management starting with paper records, while you’re on the road to a fully digitized manufacturing environment:
- Scan paper records and do it the right way: Paper records take up valuable factory floor and storage space, not to mention employees’ time. A study by PwC found that searching for documents wastes close to 20 percent of employees’ time and costs companies an average of $122 per document. The solution is to scan documents digitally, but to do it in a way that they can be consistently classified and indexed so they can be found quickly. Retrieving and sharing documents digitally not only reduces costs but also improves the security of information.
- Establish information governance policies and procedures: When creating any new system, consistency is key. That’s why the scanning process is a great time to establish new information governance policies that ensure all data conforms to a set of standards for applying metadata and indexing that will be the same for existing documents as for the new documents that digital systems and tools will bring. Many manufacturers look to consultants to help them craft an information governance model that often incorporates a technology solution to automate assigning unique identities to documents, as well as policies and procedures that ensure information governance becomes part of the “new normal” workflow for departments across the organization.
- Utilize records management software to increase efficiency while reducing cost and risk: Scanned records can be stored most efficiently in a records management software solution, which ensures that information is contained in a centralized location that is easy for authorized employees to access and is secure. Documents can be encrypted both at rest and in transit, and you can control whether the imaged documents can be edited, printed or downloaded. Today’s sophisticated records management software also offers robust password requirements and two-factor authentication to protect your most valuable and sensitive information, while also providing an auditable chain of access and ownership.
There are a host of other reasons to focus on shoring up (or creating new) records management processes as you integrate more digital tools and technologies into your manufacturing business.
From compliance with increasingly complex regulations, to reducing exposure to risk from audits, to meeting requirements around record retention and destruction, to losing paper records to natural and other disasters, the time to improve your records management starting with paper records is now. While it may not seem as exciting as the latest Artificial Intelligence application to hit the factory floor, the dividends it pays are just as valuable to your business in the long run.
Brian Quinn is vice president of Strategic Business Development at Access.