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Different ways of being Digital

Business   /   Oct 8th, 2019   /  A+ | a-
Many methods are used in manufacturing when it comes to creating work instructions. The industry is generically split between ‘Paper’ and ‘Digital’. Paper work instructions typically will be a created by Word/Powerpoint/Excel, possibly attached to an engineering print, and maybe will include some QA sign-offs. This method is grossly flawed: difficult to control revisioning, provides minimal benefit to operators, zero production data is collected, and the sign-offs built in require obscene amounts of data-entry labor. Due to paper’s shortcomings, let’s assume management decides to dump paper and become a digital factory. 

What does Digital Work Instructions mean?

Rather than break down all of the facets involved, I’ll dive into 2 major differences:

Version 1: Taking Baby Steps

In this example, every workstation has a computer that has access to a company server. Your IT department creates a centralized server and connects all workstation computers to it. The documentation team creates instructions using Word/Excel/Powerpoint and converts them to PDF. Operators can then access these PDF instructions at their workstation and perform their tasks as they have done before with paper. Congratulations, you are officially ‘Digital’! Or so you think…..
A major problem with this route is that you have a powerful computer doing no computing. There is no data capture, no internal communication, nothing but revision control has been improved. You have upgraded from a piece of paper to a thousand dollar device - making it quite the challenge to achieve an ROI.

When management wants to display KPIs, you still have to have manual data capture/entry. The day your company upgrades your equipment to include Smart Tools or Test Equipment your operators will still have to engage with the tools manually, leaving them susceptible to human error. What is even worse, when the realization sets in that your ‘Digital’ decision was incorrect, there is no easy way to import your old instructions into a smart platform.

Version 2: Use Work Instruction Software Immediately

A much better alternative is to use work instruction software specifically made for manufacturers. In this example, the workstations are still equipped with a computer, but now their instructions are interactive, walking operators through each task step-by-step. Not only are the work instructions more useful, the software can also collect exceptional production data. Gone are the days of stop watches, time studies, and excessive paperwork. Some work instruction software can even be integrated with your test equipment or tools to verify quality in live-time. The best part of using work instruction software, is that you aren’t required to use every feature the software provides, but you can choose to use the features that are most advantageous for your organization.

Not only does this route provide so many cost avoidances and productivity gains to expedite that ROI, when management wants to display those same KPIs - you can deliver with no additional software to purchase. The day you upgrade to smart technology, just update your tool libraries. Maybe you want to sync your instructions to your ERP, that can be done too!
 
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