Medical Device Manufacturer Weans Itself From Paper

2 min read
  • Manufacturing
  • Sales

RMS Medical Products makes parts that need to work every time. The Minneapolis company manufactures custom bone screws, hip, knee and small joint parts to exacting standards. To prove their devices are made correctly, the company has to document every step taken in the manufacturing process. The company began using Laserfiche to help it improve business processes in its manufacturing plant.

In the past, documentation for each order was placed in a shop packet passed from station to station in the company's 155,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space.  Employees were constantly trying to track down missing packets as well as missing documents that went astray. The packet system also made it difficult to tell at what stage a particular order was in the manufacturing process.

The company's first step was to create an electronic version of the shop packet. Papers necessary to build a device – such as purchase orders, part designs, quotes, and manufacturing data — are scanned into the system, creating searchable electronic images. The workflow system then emails the necessary documents to each department as it passes from one stage of the manufacturing process to another.

Scanners installed at each workstation allow the work done on a particular part to be captured.  The system also generates device history records, which detail what work was performed on each device. In the past, the company sent the paperwork associated with a device to a vendor to be scanned and stored on CDs. Today, barcodes on each document enable the system to compile relevant documents for each device.

The company extended the system's capabilities by installing Laserfiche WebLink, a secure Web publishing tool that allows employees to get access to information from any location.  The feature distributes records to authorized users, but prevents them from altering, deleting, or tampering with them. It made the manufacturing process more efficient by giving the company's machinists access to engineering blueprints and specs. In the past, machinists had to wait for engineers to show them prints and specs for various parts.

The results? Order turnaround fell 8-10 weeks to 72 hours for repeat orders. The company estimates it saves $70,000 annually by not having to pay a vendor to create device history records. Altogether, RMS estimates that the savings associated with its manufacturing system total "ten of thousands" of dollars a year. And the savings compound each year as the company's operational efficiency keeps improving.

After completing the work on its manufacturing processes, the company applied the same technology to other departments. Today, RMS's manufacturing and back office is almost completely paperless.  Accounts payable uses barcodes to file each document electronically after scanning, and human resources has control over access to its sensitive personnel files.

Now the company is considering adding computer-aided design information to the system. RMS's success at tackling its business process management could inspire other medical device manufacturers – and specialized manufacturers of all types — to take a closer look at their own business processes.

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