Now more than ever, it’s critical to examine and improve operations throughout the entire shop. Successful mold operators are finding ways to cut the costs of production by automating manual plant processes, or looking for technology to improve production planning. And there are other opportunities to lower costs, increase productivity and make more strategic use of time—particularly in the overlooked back office systems.
Traditional data management and file management software solutions are geared toward the large enterprise. Their hefty price tags and complex integration, which require a dedicated team of IT staff, have typically put such solutions out of reach for the small to mid-sized manufacturer. And as a result, smaller operators are left juggling a patchwork of manual processes—from overflowing filing cabinets to the all too common stacks of paper strewn across desks.
However, there are simple and affordable document management solutions that can have a powerful impact on a manufacturer’s bottom line. Keeping documents and files in order not only keeps the desk clean, but also eliminates the time wasted tracking down customer orders, vendor agreements, contact information, forecasts and more.
And these file management systems are far more than an electronic replacement for the filing cabinet. They do much more to promote collaboration among team members and to automate the flow of information throughout your operations.
So, what are the critical elements to consider when looking for document management software?
A paperless solution that captures, previews, converts and delivers your documents in an easy way.
First, it’s important to recognize that most mold shops deal with a wide variety of document types, including image files and Adobe PDF formats that are seen every day from orders and invoices to product specifications. There’s affordable software out there that can give you greater flexibility when dealing with PDF files. For example, document management software allows you to create, write and open PDF files, as well as split multiple page PDF files into separate files or merge several PDF files into one.
An intuitive workspace and file structure allows you to keep documents organized, whether you prefer to browse files by thumbnails, tree views or pallets. And your solution should also be able to handle multiple documents and file types with ease.
For example, you can stack (or group) related files, regardless of file types. Once stacked, these files will be like a single, multi-page document. So you can easily review, share or print all information related to a single project or customer—whether it’s a PDF, Word document, e-mail attachment or image.
Or similarly, you can build a temporary document pallet where you can drag files from different folders and then send them all to a folder, e-mail or application in your workflow—either in their original format or as a PDF.
You should also look for additional capabilities to further automate information flow and improve organization. One such feature is the ability to define document inboxes or catch-all folders for any incoming document—such as an e-mail attachment or scanned document. As a result, any incoming document—such as a purchase order or RFP—is automatically organized.
Without having to rely on employees to properly save files each time, you can be sure that all documents are stored and readily accessible, no matter how busy or short-staffed your shop may be.
Content and Information Management
A good document management system shouldn’t just organize the files, but also handle the content and information inside. Look for a solution with powerful OCR (Optical Character Recognition) that can detect and read text.
Some solutions even offer editing and auto-correct features, as well as the ability to compare text between multiple documents. With this powerful feature, you can instantly identify even the smallest change in contract terms, without the tedious task of manually analyzing lengthy documents. And when considering OCR functionality, it’s wise to make sure your solution can handle both horizontal and vertical style text, as well as support for any language you might encounter now or in the future.
To reap the maximum benefits, your document management solution should enable collaboration across your entire team by automating file sharing when applicable. Look for enhanced networking features, such as the ability to easily drag files to a shared network folder or automatically share any scanned documents with team members.
And finally, while not essential for every mold shop, you would want to consider solutions that feature SDK (software development kit) for easy integration with existing back office applications. By integrating your document management system with other applications, you’re able to extend the power of automation and document sharing throughout your organization.
Today’s document management solutions enable you to make a small investment that quickly yields a strong return. Productivity is increased through automation and better organization—less time is spent storing physical files or tracking down needed information. And throughout the manufacturing organization, team members can find, share, modify and use the files with ease, no matter the source or document type.