Enfield, Conn.-based Phoenix Manufacturing pays a great deal of attention to its documents. The company, which started out as a two-man machine shop in 1989, now has 50 employees that create machined component parts for the aircraft, automotive, defense and other industries in its 25,000-sq. ft. plant.

Each aspect of production has to be documented: the source of raw materials, the associated blueprints and photographs, and every step in the manufacturing process. Although making a small part may involve just a few pages, major aircraft parts might require hundreds of pages of documents. The company often generates more than 100 packets of documents per week.

These documents have to be kept safe in case something happens. Paperwork for standard parts must be kept for ten years. "Flight safety" parts, which could cause the plane to crash if they failed, must be kept for 40 years. The documents from more than twenty years of operation are stored in rows of filing cabinets, taking up valuable space on the shop floor. During that time, Phoenix employees had to file each paper in the proper packet to make sure they could find it when necessary. And when they needed to retrieve a particular piece of paperwork, they had to stop what they were doing and go digging through the file cabinets.

The job of coming up with a more efficient filing system was given to 25-year-old Martha Paluch, who joined her father, mother and brother in running the family business. The company invests in a number of productivity initiatives and lean manufacturing techniques, including value stream mapping, critical-path time, and set-up reduction.

Paluch hired on locally-based IP Systems to help her install the Laserfiche system and purchase the necessary scanners. Soon afterwards, she hired a college student to scan new packets into the system at a rate of 500 pages per week.

The new system has dramatically reduced staff time spent filing and retrieving paperwork, while eliminating lost or missing files. Instead of going through a time-consuming filing process, employees now put all their documents in a box, and let the software do most of the work. When they need to find a document, they can pull it up on their PCs without breaking stride. The system also allows the company to keep better control over who has access to what document.

Paluch is now planning to automate the company's accounts payable and human resource files. For the time being, the rows of filing cabinets full of old documents are staying put.  Although she wishes she could get rid of all of the company's paper, she is happy to move to electronic documents at a methodical pace.

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