Happy Earth Day!
As a member of the plastics industry, Westminster Tool is committed to reducing our carbon footprint and contributing to more sustainable business practices inside and outside our facility. One of the ways that we’ve started doing that is our latest initiative to go entirely paperless.
Starting last year, we took small steps to making this initiative a reality. That began with turning all of our purchasing and supply chain processing online. We did this by integrating what used to be printed reports into digital forms that we house on our internal server. All forms used for shop purchases, supplies and OP work shifted to this digital format. Since implementing this transformation, the shop has reduced its paper usage by around 10 lbs. per year. Aside from adding value from an efficiency standpoint, this new practice is another way for us to take small steps to reduce waste.
The next step on our path to paperless operations was eliminating waste on the machine shop floor. Our team evaluated how much paper was used in day-to-day communications and sharing design blueprints, with some projects resulting in hundreds of reams of paper for blueprints alone. After completing an internal pilot with our design engineers and CNC operators, the shop will be ready to go fully paperless by May 10th.
“We used to print large blueprints on plotter paper, sometimes 10-20 prints per job and that’s a lot of paper. We also had a bunch of physically copies of all our job processing information,” says Ed Walsh, Operations Manager. “We had all of these copies stored in a job folder that would get passed around the shop.”
Now, all blueprints and documents are saved on a secured internal hard drive and the team is developing a digital workbook that stores all manufacturing information, including blueprints and job processing sheets, in one centralized, digital location.
“This has been a goal of ours for a long time but it’s a major project, so we wanted to make sure we did it right.” The team started by generating a DMAIC, a data driven process improvement tool that is used to analyze, improve, and optimize operations. The team is currently working on the “I” Implement phase of the acronym now.
The Measurement “M” and Analyze “A” phase of the DMAIC showed that not only could paperless operations reduce waste but could dramatically improve efficiencies on the shop floor. “There were so many other challenges we didn’t anticipate, like employees running around trying to find the folder and trying to control the most up-to-date versions of the files,” Walsh says.
The taskforce working on the paperless project then began drafting solutions. These included adding mobile workstations, so every machine had a computer readily available to access files, and we updated all MOPs and SOPs to reflect the new process. Next step is training around the company as the transition continues.
Digitizing the largest operational area of the shop is expected to reduce paper usage by an estimated 100 lbs. of paper each year! Westminster Tool is committed to continuously finding ways to improve our processes and reduce waste.