Digital natives have raised expectations when it comes to information management in the manufacturing sector

New data from M-Files suggests almost two-thirds of manufacturing staff struggle to find the right information, severely impacting productivity and retention rates.

The manufacturing sector has worked hard to digitally transform the production function, continuously making it more automated and efficient. However, what is happening on the production line is not being reflected in the administrative functions.

For an industry, which relies on huge amounts of documentation, poor information handling is likely to have severe ramifications, not only impacting productivity and operational efficiency, but more noticeably, the industry’s ability to attract and retain new talent.

New research from M-Files has revealed almost two thirds (64 per cent) of office workers in the manufacturing sector are struggling to search for and find the most recent version of a file or document. The findings are part of a study conducted by Vanson Bourne, on behalf of M-Files, to understand the key challenges impacting global office workers in the manufacturing sector when handling and managing information in the workplace. Commenting on these findings, Tim Waterton, VP of UK Business for M-Files, says:

“Manufacturing is in the midst of a transformation – from employing thousands of plant workers to perform manual, repetitive tasks on the production line – to more automated, digitally-focused environments, requiring a totally new skills set to operate effectively.

“Millennials coming into the workforce typically possess the digital skills to perform these roles. However, this generation often sees the manufacturing sector as slow when adopting new technologies, relying on outdated processes to manage and access information. To shift this perception and attract millennials from tempting careers in other sectors, manufacturers need to implement the tools to help millennials work as effectively as possibly in the way they choose. Our evidence suggests that, currently, this is not happening.”

Staff in the manufacturing sector have to manage and access vast amounts of information, including production plans, technical information and even staff schedules. It is also an industry prone to intense regulation, with large quantities of documentation often required to accompany manufactured goods across the supply chain.

With so much of this information managed manually, written out with pen and paper and stored in physical files, businesses across the sector don’t only face ‘content-chaos’ but are vulnerable to risk and non-compliance. The need for an effective, intelligent way of managing information has never been so pressing. Tim continued: “Digital natives have grown up attached to smartphones, iPads and computers, adapting instantly to new technologies to access the information they need; they don’t want to use clipboards and filing cabinets when they come into the workplace.

This outdated approach alienates the next generation of workers and is immensely inefficient, causing serious damage to productivity. Our research reflects this, showing when manufacturing staff are searching for documents or information, 41 per cent report documents aren’t labelled correctly, 38 per cent say information is stored in the wrong place and 25 per cent that information is lost.

“Manufacturers need to ensure they give staff, the right tools to easily and instantly find the information they need from any device, moving away from manual, ineffective information management processes. This flexibility is critical to attracting millennials into the workplace, providing them with the digital infrastructure they need to work as effectively and productively as possible,” Waterton concludes.

Failure to provide the necessary technological support will not only impact immediate considerations like productivity and therefore profitability, but long-term, manufacturers which neglect digitalisation will struggle to remain competitive, losing out on talent to more savvier rivals.

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