Better data visibility and control can help lift production across the whole manufacturing supply chain, writes Kevin Corne, global services director at Lexmark UK & Ireland
The pressure is on in the manufacturing sector to reduce supply chain costs. Visibility and control have never been more important, but manufacturers often struggle to achieve this in what is a heavily paper-intensive business.
Relying on manual input to bring data into a business is time consuming and error prone. Manual document handling, storage, copying and routing admin, all create small inefficiencies that quickly add up. This creates a gap between the people within the business and critical information, which can lead to decreased employee productivity and customer service.
An effective supply chain needs routine processes, but these can cause bottlenecks. It’s nearly impossible for a manufacturer to get a full picture of its operations if it lacks real-time visibility of information. With control over information, a manufacturer can respond to change on either side of the supply chain and solve problems quickly and effectively.
Take Cummins as an example. The global leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of service engines and related technologies, implemented managed print services to manage, monitor and maintain its entire global fleet of output devices, which support 40,000 employees and operations in 190 countries and territories.
Within the first-year, Cummins saw monthly expenses drop by 62 per cent, pages cut by 36 million and achieved annual savings of approximately $2 million.
Start with an intelligent capture solution
A distributed intelligent capture solution is the starting point for greater productivity in logistics workflow. It enables production companies to eliminate manual steps and errors, as information is captured digitally at the beginning of every process. It takes processes with unstructured data and turns them into a flexible, optimised freight claims workflow that integrates easily with the company’s existing systems.
This reduces the need for manual data entry, providing a fast, efficient way to capture the information needed to transform costly, error-prone business processes into streamlined, revenue-generating and value-added operations.
By harnessing advanced features like intelligent data extraction, context sharing and collaborative storage, an organisation can rapidly process even the most complex documents.
Involve your customers and distributors on the data journey
Of course, manufacturing is just one part of the business. Products then have to be shipped to customers or distributors. As such, another core element for manufacturers is the pre-printed bill of lading (BOL) forms. They incur higher printing costs, lack flexibility and the data must usually be rekeyed to enter the digital business processes at both ends of the shipment. Ensuring that everyone uses current forms takes vigilance, and off-site document storage and expensive scanning services can delay access to shipping documents.
As before, automating and digitising these processes can solve a lot of the challenges, especially if the solution easily drops into existing shipping document processes. For the foreseeable future there will always be a requirement for some physical form to accompany a shipment, but with this approach, instead of costly multi-page forms, there is just a single-page, laser-printed form that is ready for signatures. This eliminates the manual steps of separating, mailing, faxing and filing and can transform outbound logistics by bringing new efficiency, accessibility and simplicity to BOL workflow.
Connect the dots with a cohesive content management system
The final piece of the puzzle is to implement the same technology within admin centres. Even with integrating paper and digital content into daily business routines, many manufacturers still spend too much time reconciling discrepancies and locating information spread across multiple servers, hard drives and mobile devices. As a result, what should be a simple case of authorising a payment, preparing a shipment or onboarding a new employee turns into a string of emails, endless phone tag, and stacks of photocopies shuffled between offices.
Well implemented content management software, combined with thorough processes, makes it possible to streamline all the admin around invoices, procurement documents, travel and expense receipts, inventory records, shipping paperwork, contracts and more.
These intelligent solutions increase throughput by extracting data with superior accuracy, while ensuring confidential or sensitive information remains secure. This allows admin staff to get more done in less time, using fewer resources, and allows them to quickly find what they need for audit and compliance requests.
By abandoning paper-intensive practices, the manufacturing industry has a lot to gain, by improving efficiencies, reducing costs and generating revenue.