IIM for Manufacturers: How to Conquer Compliance, Elevate Efficiency, and Enhance Customer Service

Manufacturer lifting document with crane

Hectic audits, inefficient back-office processes, and difficult-to-fulfill customer requests are all familiar challenges for Manufacturing plants, most of which stem from information management challenges. As a manufacturer, how do you ensure convenient yet secure access to this information for more streamlined operations?

Intelligent information management for manufacturing takes advantage of ECM, OCR, web forms, and workflow automation to facilitate the flow of information within your plant for simplified audits, enhanced customer service, and more efficient processes. Here’s how:

Enhanced Customer Service

To ensure the quality of the goods they receive, many buyers of components or raw materials for manufacturing will request documents such as metal trace reports and inspection forms from the plants producing them.

This means that these producers must be able to easily find and provide these records, which can be an increasingly time-consuming task as documentation for each new batch continues to compound.

To improve this customer service in manufacturing, an enterprise content management solution can ensure these documents are captured and fast to reference by searching through index fields or the full text. This builds stronger vendor relationships, opening up opportunities down the line.

These records can be captured using optical character recognition or with web forms for more frequently updated documents such as inspection reports and job travelers, saving additional time on scanning and printing and offering financial savings on printing costs.

Increased Compliance

Manufacturing plants have various unique compliance needs, often leading to lengthy document retention periods. These needs often stem from quality assurance standards varying from industry to industry.

Highly regulated manufacturing industries must often adhere to strict document retention standards and audits from regulatory bodies. 

Aerospace manufacturing compliance, for example, requires adherence to AS9100 standards, which require process validation results records, traceability records, customer property records, and records of process changes to be retained indefinitely.

Even less regulated industries have levels of quality they wish to retain and will seek certification from bodies such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Through this body, records such as inspection reports, engineering manuals, and job travelers must be retained for 3-7 years, depending on the document type.

These retention requirements often result in a buildup of documents, making it difficult to find what’s needed during an audit. What’s more, maintaining documents past their mandated retention period is an active liability, as any potential errors documented within can still be held against the plant.

Enterprise Content Management solutions can automate the document retention process, allowing these records to be easily searched for and retrieved during audits. Once the record’s mandated retention period is up, a notification can be sent, prompting the user to decide whether to destroy or continue to retain the record.

Improved Backoffice Efficiency

Manufacturing plants often receive numerous shipments from vendors and sell large amounts of products to customers. What’s more, much of this business is done on credit, meaning that streamlining accounts payable and receivable in manufacturing is absolutely essential to strong vendor relationships and prompt revenue recognition.

Accounts Payable

Invoices for raw materials, components, equipment, and other vendor purchases must be checked against purchase orders and packing slips, approved by management, archived, and entered into a financial system for payable invoice generation and general ledger coding.

The sheer volume of these invoices can often lead to challenges in scaling accounts payables departments and bottlenecks in the approval process, leading to further delays.

With workflow-based enterprise content management, invoices are automatically matched and routed to approvers, who are notified via email that an invoice needs attention. If a set response time elapses, these invoices can even be routed to a different approver.

AI-assisted capture also reduces solution set-up costs that result from numerous vendors while ensuring line item data is captured for plants that use invoices to manage inventory.

Accounts Receivable

Accounts receivable departments face similar challenges in efficiency but for slightly different reasons.

For example, invoice payments are often met with effortful follow-ups to customers to collect revenue after goods are sold.

Customers may also need help with their own document challenges, further slowing the revenue collection process as they try to figure out if the goods were ever delivered.

What’s more, sales orders must also be entered into a financial system, which, when done manually, can take tremendous amounts of time and cause slow days of outstanding sales.

Using enterprise content management streamlines the management of delivery tickets and invoices, ensuring your plant can prove that goods were delivered. This document access also ensures visibility into customer payment status to easily see if a payment reminder needs to be sent.

These documents can even be digitally checked for this payment status to prompt automatic reminders, saving further time.

All of these documents can be captured through OCR or web forms so that the data can be effortlessly shared with the plan’s financial management system.

IIM for Manufacturers 

Intelligent information management acts as a strategic step towards a more efficient, compliant, and customer-centric manufacturing operation. By leveraging ECM, OCR, web forms, and workflow automation, your plant will be empowered to navigate audits, delight customers, and optimize back-office functions. 

How Square 9 Can Help

Square 9 Softworks is an industry-leading provider of an AI-powered intelligent document processing platform that takes the paper out of manufacturing and makes it easier to get things done. By combining the best in enterprise content management for simplified compliance and customer service with back-office automation tools like invoice matching and routing and OCR technology that saves time and prevents costly errors, Square 9 offers intuitive, scalable solutions that will empower your organization for years to come.

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