Using Industrial Forms for Reducing Paper

By David Wilt, Manufacturing Solutions Architect, InSource Solutions

This blog will discuss how utilizing electronic Industrial Forms reduces paperwork and improves access to actionable intelligence within any manufacturing or industrial facility.

Those who work in industry are likely aware of the paperwork that is generated daily from those working in the plant.  Paperwork comes in many forms and from many departments:

  • Material handling
  • Maintenance
  • Production
  • Quality
  • Environmental Health and Safety
  • Shipping
  • Scheduling

All of these departments produce paperwork of one sort or another to communicate something; inventory, quality levels, production output, maintenance work, etc. This method of communicating though written word has been around for centuries (think Gutenberg press!)

The transition from relying solely on paper to utilizing computer software to track and distribute information has been going on now for over 50 years and the pace of transfer is increasing. Unfortunately, human nature tends to resist change, and migrating away from paper data collection (the way it’s probably been done for years or decades) can be difficult.  A common phrase used in industry is “don’t fix it if it’s not broke.”  While this does have a bit of truth, when it comes to paperwork being replaced by computer programs the modern version of knowledge capture wins. You may ask how does it win? Glad you asked!

Details to consider:

  • Paper documents often get “pencil whipped” but you can make your electronic forms less likely to have that issue through an electronic approval methodology
  • Often, the data that operators are manually transcribing onto paper logs is available electronically, so it’s worth investigating whether that data can be captured automatically. In addition, you may want to enforce that someone is reviewing the numbers for reasonableness
  • Paper documents are often changed resulting in multiple versions being used (older versions and new version on the floor at the same time); a solution with version control is preferred to make sure that you are always the latest version
  • Paper documents need to be stored for posterity (sometimes for 10 years!); electronic forms do not need to be printed out therefore eliminating the need for physical storage
  • Paper documents get lost on the floor (wind blows, coffee spill, clipboard left somewhere unknown, etc); but electronic forms reside on a local server making it almost impossible to “lose documents”
  • Access to the data written on paper can be very time consuming and tedious, whereas electronic data is recorded to a database, greatly enhancing your access to that data for analysis.

As you can see from the above list electronic forms systems handle most of the problems associated with relying on paper documents. Paper documents had their place in the sun but it is now time for them to be in the sunset!

One tool I have used for this purpose is j5’s IndustraForm®.  Let’s look at a few details. The j5 IndustraForm® Designer utilizes Integrated Development Environment (IDE) whereby forms are created and managed by an assigned person. An advantage of utilizing the IndustraForm® Designer is that this person does not need to be a programmer. The IndustraForm® Designer can be created by anyone who would normally be associated with document control at a plant.  With j5 IndustraForm® Designer you can start from scratch and create a new form in the software (rather Excel like) or you can import in an existing form already in use. When a form is created you can include levels of approval if desired to further enhance the accountability and reinforcement of local business practices. Once the forms are completed they will synchronize with the local host/website (front end) where configuration takes place. Typically, forms are created to be used for a specific purpose and/or within a specific timeframe.

Below is a simple diagram demonstrating how Industrial Forms move from the creation process within the IndustraForm® Designer to being accessed by the end users on the floor.

As we can see, j5 IndustraForm® meets the needs of the 21st century whereby they

  1. Reduce paperwork and the associated administrative work
  2. Improve documentation routine
  3. Facilitate management of operator and supervisor work routines

(AND j5 integrates with Wonderware System Platform and Wonderware Historian, bringing real-time and historical data into the j5 Operations Management Software suite.)

Important to remember; we do not reduce paperwork just for the sake of reducing paperwork but to improve the entire cycle of work the paperwork represents!

Learn more about the benefits of reducing paperwork for your business by watching these overview videos.