Robots and printing: You’ve innovated your manufacturing centers, why not your offices?


All the way back to the innovation of the assembly line by Henry Ford, business process automation and efficiency on the production floor has been a hallmark of industrial development. From the construction of the Model T by workers focused on an organized series of small tasks to robots building the latest truck frames, the goal is still the same. Production must be better, faster, and more cost-effective.

The methods have changed, but the motivations have not.

In 2017, there is more advancement than ever before in robotics, and not just the ones that Skynet might use to take over the world. Global sales of industrial robots are expected to almost double in volume by 2018, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

This type of investment in manufacturing has paid off. As an example, the United Kingdom has reported a 10-year high in automobile manufacturing after an average of increasing industrial robot installations 24 percent per year from 2010 – 2014, according to an article by Industry Europe.

As a global market, Factory Automation and Industrial Controls is expected to reach $125 Billion by 2018, according to SBWire. Manufacturers both in the United States and abroad are investing in this type of technology now and will continue to do so in the future.

Why? Streamlined production is good for the bottom line. And companies that don’t innovate find themselves falling behind the competition or out of the market altogether.

What’s good for the floor is good for the office

But where is this type of automation drive in the offices of these manufacturers? If automation and technology are great on the shop floor, why not in accounting and human resources office?

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article titled, “Why the Paperless Office Is Finally on Its Way,” bringing to light that there is still a paper problem in our administrative offices today. The metrics about the paper in today’s offices are staggering. Office workers print or copy approximately One TRILLION pieces of paper each year.

When you add utility bills, invoices, and other business documents, that number rises to 1.6 Trillion, or a physical stack that is 18,000 times higher than Mount Everest.

But perhaps the most intriguing metric mentioned in the article is that only 60 percent of the printing that happens in the workplace is necessary. That means 40 percent of the printing – and the associated cost of the paper, printers, ink, and power consumption of the devices – is entirely avoidable.

There’s no way leaders would tolerate that kind of waste on a production floor, so why do they tolerate it in the office? Making matters worse, the WSJ article cites the reason for the 40 percent unnecessary printing was simply because people “like paper.”

For industries laser focused on ROI, that’s counterintuitive.

Break free from the constraints, costs, and risks of paper

When you look around your office, or even just your desk, how much paper is there? How often do you have to get up to go to the printer just to grab an invoice for approval or a resume for review? Think about how long it takes for you to type out a purchase request and then watch it sit in someone’s inbox tray for days and weeks at a time. How long does it take you to review items in your collections process or when negotiating contracts?

Now think about this. What if there is an enterprise information platform that uses enterprise content management (ECM) to take all of the things you like about sticky notes, highlights, and revisions of documents from the physical format to an electronic one? What if when reviewing a purchase request you could see, in real time and without switching screens or applications, anything else related to that transaction?

Imagine how much faster and more effective you could be with that tool. The slowdowns and inefficiencies mentioned previously would never be permitted to last very long on your production floor, so why allow them to grind the operations of your business to a halt in your shared services departments?

In addition to the costs involved in paper usage mentioned above, there are even bigger costs like storing and shipping all that paper. Not to mention the security risks, because paper is vulnerable to loss, theft, or damage.

When you compare paper processing to ECM, it isn’t even a fair fight, especially since Accounts Payable departments are seeing more invoices than ever before and spending 49 percent of their time simply processing transactions.

And what about human resources staff overwhelmed by a manual HR onboarding process? This is especially important when you take into consideration the average job tenure for Millennials is just three years, organizations typically spend 6 – 10 percent of an employee’s annual salary trying to replace them, and it can take eight months for new hires to reach full productivity.

Follow the leaders

So now you’re convinced and ready to make the leap into the paperless world, but you need to prove it to senior management. Just show them how a leading retailer modernized its document management capabilities while integrating with its SAP system.

Or show them how a food manufacturer added $1.5 million to its cash flow. Or how a manufacturer tripled in size while reducing Accounts Payable expenses by nearly $3 million.

So why not innovate in your office the way you’ve already done with your manufacturing centers? Henry Ford would do it.

* This blog post was originally published on Pulse.

Joe Russo is a strategic account manager at Hyland. Currently, Joe also writes for Factory of Sadness, a Cleveland sports website operated by Fansided, and The OnBase and Hyland Blogs. His work has also appeared on and The Fraternity Advisor.
Joe Russo

Joe Russo

Joe Russo is a strategic account manager at Hyland. Currently, Joe also writes for Factory of Sadness, a Cleveland sports website operated by Fansided, and The OnBase and Hyland Blogs.... read more about: Joe Russo