What lean manufacturing means given today’s technologies may shock you. It’s no longer a process strictly belong to traditional lean manufacturing processes, but also the technologies that facilitate it in creative ways—document management systems included.

Wherever manufacturing companies face challenges, they face opportunities of equal import, and as a top-contending technology for turning these challenges into opportunities, document management software (DMS) can provide manufacturing companies with the competitive edge they need to survive.

The recent advances in technology and the changes in the population have led to large-scale changes in the manufacturing industry, many of which pose the following challenges to manufacturing companies:

Overcoming High Stakes Competition

What lean manufacturing means today cannot be examined independent of companies investigating bleeding 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 give them a competitive advantage, and DMS facilitates this.

Finding Creative Ways to Improve Workers’ Skillset

Skilled manufacturing workers are becoming an increasingly scarce commodity. Due to this phenomenon, the challenge for manufacturing companies has become coming up with their own ways to train and increase the skills of the workers themselves.

One of the ways 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 most simply on utilizing documentation technologies to improve workflow, including document management software. This is an example of getting creative with lean manufacturing concepts, and can easily be achieved in 2017.

Although a lack of skilled workers is cited as a common issue in the manufacturing industry, a creative way to resolve this issue is to free up the resources necessary for manufacturing companies to provide employees with the training they need to become skilled.

Not only is this a creative way to impact ROI, it fosters a sense of employee loyalty to the company, reducing 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 in the lean manufacturing process.

Document management software provides the organizational bandwidth manufacturing companies need to keep documentation straight and prevent things like routing mistakes and document duplication errors, an essential staple of lean manufacturing in 2017.

Better Information Management as a Way to Achieve Lean Manufacturing

Data and the insight it contains are now a common by-product of all business transactions. The trick for most manufacturing companies is finding a way to efficiently leverage this information, 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 lean manufacturing process.

To mitigate the time this takes, manufacturing companies 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 Technology

Eric Auschitzky, Markus Hammer, and Agesan Rajagopaul with McKinsey & Company have stated, “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 properly manage all of the big data coming through the manufacturing industry, it is important for them 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 and establish themselves as thought leaders in lean manufacturing.

Other Benefits of DMS

DMS provides a variety of benefits for businesses in the manufacturing industry, including streamlining work processes, increasing workflow, and enabling employees to reduce their frustration and work more effectively and efficiently.

DMS digitizes and organizes files, allowing employees to easily find the documents they need 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 process 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 are also available to help employees easily replicate and mass apply document storage structures across various points of the system. Altogether, DMS allows employees to reduce their workload and tend to other needed tasks. It’s truly an innovative way to solve the most common office problems manufacturing companies face.

Choosing a DMS Solution

When choosing the right DMS solution, there are a few essential features to look for.

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 should also enable employees to work collaboratively and share and access files and documents. The best DMS solutions will offer these key tools to improve lean manufacturing processes.

A cloud-based DMS system is also 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 smoothly integrate with existing software programs that the business already uses. Because manufacturers often use a variety of programs, it is essential that the DMS system works with them.