Paperless Manufacturing Software

Digital technologies connect your people, parts, equipment, and processes related to the shop floor.


What Is Paperless Manufacturing?

Paperless manufacturing uses digital technology to connect all the people, parts, equipment, and processes related to the shop floor. Instead of exchanging paper, emails, and spreadsheets, everyone involved uses an integrated software application that makes communication virtually automatic and instantaneous across operations.

Digital Work Environment

From digital work instructions on the production line, to real-time reports in the executive office, a paperless shop floor system breaks down silos and provides the information people need when they need it. It improves the speed and accuracy of everything a manufacturer does.

With the right platform, paperless systems can be extended across the value chain to include suppliers, partners, and even customers.

The State of Paper-Based Manufacturing

Managing production processes with paper is as old as manufacturing itself, so it’s no surprise that many manufacturers are still using paper (or emails) to perform critical steps like issuing work instructions, process planning, and producing reports for management.

But what used to be acceptable no longer is. Paper is costly, slow, cumbersome, and prone to error. Meanwhile, the pace of change in the world keeps accelerating. Manufacturers are going paperless to solve a host of problems caused by outdated paper systems.

Which Manufacturers Can Go Paperless?

Until recently, paperless manufacturing software was only practical for large manufacturers because of the costs and resources needed to support it. That’s no longer true, as modern technologies and cloud-based software are making paperless manufacturing a reality for companies of all sizes, from a single plant to a global enterprise.


Common Disadvantages of Paper-Based Operations

Supply Chain Weakness

Supply chains that operate on paper and emails are slow to adjust yet supply chain disruptions are a regular occurrence for many firms.

Losing Talent

Paper-based companies are at a disadvantage. The younger workforce has grown up with digital technology and prefer companies that use it.

Compliance Risks

Compliance is a complex task for manufacturers. Paper-based manufacturing is prone to error that can lead to non-compliance issues.

Lost Paperwork

Delayed or lost paperwork can lead to a number of issues, including production problems downstream.

Change Delays

Changes are slow and costly with paper. Simple work order edits can take hours/days to execute, as partners and suppliers must be notified.

Human Error

Paperwork required for manufacturing means human error is unavoidable. In regulated and critical industries, this risk is not acceptable.

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Unleashing Shop Floor Excellence Through Paperless Manufacturing


The True Cost Of Paper Is Crippling Manufacturers

The real cost of paper is not just the money spent, but the opportunities lost. The average company spends one to three percent of its revenue on printing costs alone. (Gartner)

Paper Slows Down Business

It’s estimated that a business loses or misplaces 1 in 20 documents on any given day due to human error, and knowledge workers spend hours out of every week looking for information.

Paper Has “Blind Spots”

Paper systems never show you what’s happening now, only what happened last week or last month. Without proper visibility into the shop floor, businesses have blind spots and struggle to improve performance.

Paper Is Not Secure

Paper systems do not have the security that a properly designed digital system can have. The likelihood of a data or privacy breach is much higher in a paper-based environment.

Paper Systems Reduce Your Revenue

Every minute spent by employees handling paper is time that could have been spent producing revenue. Failure to respond quickly to a change order, waiting for a supplier change to take effect, and lacking visibility into production lines are all examples of lost revenue.

What Does Paperless Manufacturing Software Do?

What exactly does paperless manufacturing do? Essentially, paperless manufacturing provides a unified software application for planning, executing, monitoring, and reporting on every step of production.

To do all of this, paperless manufacturing provides at least three essential functions.

Manufacturing Execution System (MES)

MES is the central nervous system of a paperless operation. It executes and monitors all work-in-process on the shop floor and provides real-time visibility of production activities. It tracks and documents the transformation of raw materials through finished goods, coordinates activities such as scheduling and dispatching, and integrates with other corporate systems like PLM and ERP.

MES should also provide real-time manufacturing intelligence for decision-makers. Unlike the information in paper systems, digital information can be instantly gathered, analyzed, and delivered to whoever needs it.

Digital Process Planning

Transitioning from engineering to manufacturing BoM is an error-prone process. Digital process planning ensures your shop floor instructions are updated to all engineering changes. The result is more consistent results from your production lines by ensuring everyone in your company is designing and producing based on the same information.

Digital Work Instructions

Digital work instructions make sure that everyone in the plant gets the latest work instructions. These instructions can include engineering drawings, photographs, videos, or any other documentation. It’s all distributed instantly to every workstation, where the MES can verify that the instructions are received and enforced.

Adding MRO and SQM

iBase-t also goes a step further by offering paperless Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) and Supplier Quality Management (SQM) to its integrated suite of solutions, enabling manufacturers to connect more of their operations. Our MES, MRO, and SQM solutions can stand alone, but the benefits are amplified when they are used together, providing a more complete picture of operations.

  • SQM – Are your suppliers hurting your business or enabling its success? Digital SQM helps manufacturers answer that question by providing a systematic way to measure and validate supplier quality. 
  • MRO – Digital MRO schedules and manages repairs in a consistent, repeatable way to minimize risk and downtime. It increases visibility, control, and efficiency of your MRO operations.

Benefits of Paperless Manufacturing

Better Control Over Production

Increase your ability to respond to changes during production, avoid compliance issues, and enforce best practices.

Traceability and Employee Accountability

Motivate employees, identify areas for training, reward performance, and help workers be more productive and effective.

Manage Engineering Change Orders

Quickly distribute change orders to all affected parties including suppliers, warehouses, and plants. Ensure revised work instructions are distributed, received, and enforced.

Fewer Defects and Higher Quality

A digital record provides granular data on process, materials, and actions during production. Reduce scrap and rework; avoid recalls or other downstream problems.

Increase Productivity

Identify productivity opportunities through business-specific KPIs, reduce training burden with digital work instructions, and keep the plant operating instead of looking for paper.

Document Institutional Knowledge

Create a single digital source for the collective knowledge and experience of your company, making that knowledge readily available to guide current and future programs.

Specific Personnel Sign-Offs with User-Based Permissions

Signatures are critical to information security and production accuracy. Electronic signatures ensure accuracy and save time.

Attract the Next Generation of Workers

The modern workforce expects a digital work experience, and that trend is only going to grow.

By 2024, half of factory work will be performed remotely as manufacturers search for new ways to innovate.


What Can You Expect From Paperless Manufacturing?

Faster NPI

Digital software such as MES enables a smooth and organized launch process. You have historical data to help improve each new product, planning tools to ensure effective processes, and visibility into everything so you can quickly course correct and keep the project on track.

Closed-loop Manufacturing

Use data generated by digital processes to feed information back to the design team, creating a continuous loop of product and process improvement.

Cheaper and Quicker Document Compliance

Manage all compliance data in one centralized repository that is standardized, accurate, and controlled. Track compliance issues 24/7. Produce compliance reports on demand.

Real-time Data for Informed Decision-making

Gain visibility into production, quality, and supplier performance. View real-time reports from the shop floor. Analyze business-specific KPIs, look at general performance indicators like cycle time or Defective Parts Per Million (DPPM).

Manufacturing Intelligence

For many manufacturers, information is the single greatest unused resource. MES combined with Manufacturing Intelligence software unlocks that resource, providing knowledge and insights that are impossible to gain from paper-based systems.

Complete As-built Histories

Production doesn’t always go according to plan. Digital manufacturing collects and stores a central record of every production step, including dates and times, personnel, materials used, inspections performed, and more.

Foundation for Digital Thread and Industry 4.0

Manufacturers can use paperless systems to improve operations today while also laying the foundation for bigger steps that are coming in the future.

Replace Barcoded Paper Travelers, Work Instructions and Inspection Sheets

These functions are perfect for automating. An online solution saves time and improves accuracy, with all changes made to one central document.

How to Deploy Paperless In Manufacturing

There are many paths to paperless manufacturing, from buying and operating your own hardware and software, to subscribing to the capabilities you need over the cloud. Whatever the technology path chosen, manufacturers can pursue it in stages.


Large enterprises with deep IT resources may host manufacturing software on their own servers with an on-premise solution.

Public Cloud

This is the most affordable and scalable solution, using providers like AWS to host applications and connect users. This approach is often used by medium and smaller companies to limit their upfront capital costs and reduce the IT burden.

Private Cloud

Manufacturers with special security or control concerns can choose a private cloud, in which the servers and software are hosted by an outside firm but are used exclusively for that client alone.


A hybrid approach is a combination of any two of the above. For example, you might want to manage and store sensitive data on-premise and use the public cloud for less sensitive applications.


What Do the Industry Analysts Say?


Total revenue and profits come from new products (McKinsey)

1 – 3%

Average printing spend

Next Steps

Whatever the technology path chosen, manufacturers can pursue it in stages. Your vendors should be able to help you identify and address the areas that are easiest to implement and fastest to create profits. By addressing those first and building value as you go, paperless systems can pay for themselves.

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