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A virtual filing system: Digitalization of the paper checklist

12 September 2018

Perhaps one of the few pre-digital hangovers is the handwritten paper checklist. It’s a sight seen in many industries, an employee with clipboard and pen, checking off each step with a well-known ‘x’ or tick. Manufacturing is no exception. Here, Alan Binning, Regional Sales Manager for industrial automation software expert, COPA-DATA UK examines a digital alternative to manufacturing checklists, the Smart Checklist. 

Checklists are an important part of any business. These repeatable set of steps, performed in a sequential manner, enables people and systems to achieve a unified goal. This could be validating a product through visual inspection or carrying out scheduled maintenance. Regardless of what the checklist is for, using paper makes it a time-consuming process that is prone to errors, with high risks of data loss.

Error avoidance

The Smart Checklist method replaces illegible piles of paperwork. Taking the traditional checklist into the digital realm results in fewer errors, increased efficiency and better flexibility for employees carrying out these repeatable checks. No longer can paperwork go missing or fields be incorrectly filled out, but instead every event is stored securely with the user that is logged, in a digital format.

Considering there is often a complex set of conditions, options and loops in every workflow, visualising this on a static piece of paper can be difficult. To make things easier, the Smart Checklist communicates the required workflow clearly, omitting certain actions from vision if previous checks deem them unnecessary.

For example, in a simplified example of inspecting a product, the user may be asked to use a colour detection device when validating an automotive part. If the colour is not to standards, the next step may be to wipe with a cloth and then repeat the colour analysis. At this point, the part may need to be sent back to the relevant department for correction. Once corrected, the part can be returned to the original checker to continue the next workflow stages. Obviously, this wouldn’t be as easy to keep track of with physical paperwork.

A digital checklist makes communicating these steps straightforward. The user only needs to see the options that are necessary for that particular application, rather than all possible outcomes. Similarly, the user must complete each step without skipping any — something easily missed on a physical list. Additionally, every Checklist can be started and ended with a signature, meaning without a valid username and password, a Checklist cannot be started or completed. This brings about huge benefits in security and traceability.

Wiring diagrams, documents or 3D models can all be appended to the checklist if required, to reduce processing time. Using this digital format, users wont need to reach for additional guides or images. Instead, they can have everything they need in the palm of their hand.

Compliance

Another advantage of the digital checklist is its simplification of compliance. Using this method, the user is guided through the list in accordance with pre-defined standards. For example, the ISA-88 standards. This makes it possible to prove CE conformity of a machine with the Smart Checklist.

The Smart Checklist offers further benefits when used on mobile devices. Subsequent data processing can flexibly take place on different workstations in different countries, coordinating multiple users carrying out the same workflow.

All data displayed can be set to the users preferred language and in the relevant country-specific units of measurements. This makes the technology an ideal aid for cooperating between sites in different countries.
It also helps that the Batch Control module, on which the Smart Checklist is based upon, is fully integrated with zenon. This means all modules, functionality and variables that can be used seamlessly with Batch Control are therefore also available for the Smart Checklist.

The common sight of clipboards and pens during checking procedures may soon be a thing of the past due to the digitalisation of workflows and checklists. Almost every industry is digitalising its processes and manufacturing must do the same. It’s time businesses put an end to data errors and illegible piles of paperwork by making the move to the Smart Checklist.

For more information, please contact:

COPA-DATA UK Ltd
15th Floor Brunel House
2 Fitzalan Road
Cardiff
CF24 0EB
Tel:  +44 (0) 29 2032 9175
Email: press@copadata.co.uk
Web:  www.copadata.com
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