The Move Towards Paperless Manufacturing

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Over the years business has vastly increased efficiencies through elimination of unnecessary processes and reduction in costs and waste.  Manufacturers looking to become lean must look at all facets of their business including a review of the handling of paper usage – perhaps an odd message considering the digital society that we live in.  The love for printed reports still exists for some manufacturers – but if the benefits of paperless manufacturing could be conveyed, perhaps it would change their minds.


Printing an invoice, folding it, stuffing it into an envelope, applying postage, waiting for the mail is a costly process that is still frequently carried out in manufacturing.  Replace this process with an electronic invoice that can be sent via email in a standard PDF file format.

Benefits:  Accounting staff time savings, reduction in paper and printing waste, mailing cost savings, quicker receipt of invoice by customer, improved tracking of sent invoices.

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)

Similar to mailing invoices, printing a cheque, stuffing it into an envelope and applying postage is also a costly process – and it requires the additional purchase of costly preprinted cheques. Sending a deposit directly to your vendor’s bank account and then emailing a statement is a far better solution.

Benefits: Accounting staff time savings, cost savings in eliminating mailing and preprinted cheque costs, no cheque printing templates to create, improved security – less fraud opportunities with EFT, and on a lighter note we never have to encounter accounting staff struggling with cheque printing issues again.


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Download our 7 Software Selection Mistakes That Spell Failure


Work Orders

Production work orders no longer need to be printed; replace printouts with touch screen devices at each workstation.

Benefits:  There are many benefits in moving to electronic work orders other than the expected paper cost and manual work order distribution efficiency savings:

  • Ability to easily submit changes – like quantity – to the work order any time before the production process.  In a print environment, work orders are typically printed and supplied to the shop floor long before production, making last minute work order changes a challenge.
  • Eliminate the work and confusion involved in expediting an order. Schedules are based on the dates on the printed work orders making a lot of manual work to find the work order, replace it, and change the schedule. Electronically, you simply change the date, and when the operator finishes the current work order they start the next one in sequence on the display.
  • Operator notes can be collected and easily viewed against the work order’s production process.  For complex processing this can be a huge benefit.
  • Special instructions can be added at a moment’s notice.
  • Downtime reasons can be recorded, and using the magic of electronic work orders, the order can quickly be reassigned to a different workstation for completion.

Taking a closer look at an Electronic Work Order Application

As intriguing as the possibilities of paperless manufacturing are, putting it into practice, especially for work orders, can be a larger challenge.  Let’s take a closer look at how electronic work orders are brought to life with software.

The image below (Figure 1) illustrates a screen on a handheld scanner.  It is displaying one of the many software warehouse functions that are available through this web-based tool designed by BDO.  Web based applications are advantageous as one update at the server provides updates to all scanners.

Through the scanner interface, work orders are issued manually or by back flushing depending on the part.

Figure 1: Handheld Scanner Display
Figure 1: Handheld Scanner Display



The operator would use the handheld scanner to scan a barcode on an electronic work order screen displayed from a tablet or similar device. The field data for part, quantity left to receive, description, standard pallet quantity, machine, current date and time are retrieved.  If required, some fields can be overridden. An operator note can also be added.

The operator clicks RECEIVE and the parts are back flushed for the quantity specified and the work order is received.  If any of the back flush parts have lot identification numbers, the oldest is consumed first. A label is printed with the pallet Lot ID on a wireless printer. The LOT ID and PART ID have bar codes to aid in inventory and shipping.

Imagine having your receiver doing all these steps in the standard manufacturing screens. The custom results in exactly the same database changes but with a lot less work.

So really, it’s not simply the cost of the paper that is the savings. It is the processes associated with the paper that is the issue. Replacing the paper with streamlined processes is the key. This type of change typically happens over a few years; each step easier and more rewarding.


Russ Baird, P.Eng.
Solutions Consultant

Russ has over 30 years of experience in customizing manufacturing and ERP software packages to improve and meet the unique needs of clients through the use of Windows and Web-based applications.


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