Perhaps one of the more significant breakthroughs in manufacturing was the adaption of lean principles. Many companies have applied these principles to reduce cost and improve cycle time. Lean thinking is the process of identifying and eliminating waste in a process. The definition of waste is any activity that does not directly add value to the product.
This is a significantly different way of looking at cost reduction than it was 30 to 40 years ago when the primary focus of cost reduction was direct labor. Companies were literally focused on reducing labor time by seconds, while ignoring thousands of dollars of costs in overhead. The definition of waste back then was operator or machine idle time. For many businesses, direct labor was less than 10% of the total cost, but consumed virtually 100% of the cost reduction effort.
By redefining “waste”, an entire new world opened up in terms of cost reduction opportunities. By adapting lean principles, companies started to review an entire range of activities for cost reduction such as inventory practices, packaging, travel time, batch size, and inspection practices.
Document handling, storage and retrieval are areas that would fall in the category of “waste”. Many businesses still generate travelers for each work order that consists of a stack of prints, instructions, specification and pictures that specify how the product is built. These documents get transported along with the product where operators record or log transactions and fill out applicable quality records. When the job is complete the stack of paper is either manually stored, or is scanned into a digital format and archived in the company server.
Many companies are eliminating significant waste by going “paperless”. In a paperless system, the work instructions are pulled up on a local computer screen and read by the operator. Once the operation is complete, the required information is entered in by keying or scanning, thereby allowing access to the manufacturing information real time. When the job is completed, there is no stack of paper to scan or file. All the manufacturing data is in the system and can be easily stored, retrieved or analyzed.
Most manufacturers have their manufacturing and quality documents in electronic format. Usually the electronic documents are compatible with paperless system. There are manufacturers that have many of their specifications and prints in non-digital format such as microfilm, microfiche, aperture cards or even paper. Manufacturers of military equipment and aviation equipment are often manufacturing spare parts for equipment that are over 40 years old. While the US military is normally equipped with modern equipment, some of the US’s third world allies are relying on very old used military equipment for their armed forces. They rely on US manufacturers to supply them with spare parts on a regular basis. The most common format for prints and specs for old military equipment are aperture cards.
At one time, aperture cards, which have embedded micro film and punched holes for coded id was a compact way to store drawings. When needed, the aperture card was be run through a “reader” that magnified the image and created a copy on paper. Today aperture cards are very inefficient when compared to digital and are prime candidates for lean manufacturing efforts.
Fortunately aperture cards can be scanned and indexed into an electronic format for just a few cents a card. There are companies such as Microfacs that have high speed, high resolution equipment that can rapidly scan aperture cards. If needed they can be formatted into searchable PDF OCR (Optical Character Recognition). This allows the content of a PDF to be electronically searched. You can view a video of aperture cards being processed here.
Many times content on the aperture card can be considered sensitive. Microfacs has several options for such cases. We have secured areas in our facility with limited/ controlled access that ensures the security of documents. The second option is that Microfacs can bring its equipment into your facility and scan the cards without them leaving your facility. This gives maximum control for security. The cost of scanning aperture cards to digital is probably much less than you think. The cost savings could be significant when you think about the time it takes to manage, store, retrieve and edit non-digital mediums such as microfilm and aperture cards.