Most factory operations will likely never become 100% paperless. But at Controlled Power Co. (Troy, MI), the use of PC-based document control software has so far enabled the firm to slash paper usage by about 40%, while also saving time and reducing scrap in the manufacturing process.

Moreover, the document control software--provided by Powerway Inc. (Indianapolis)--also "helped us immensely" in meeting requirements for ISO 9001 certification, says Sandy Darnall, document manager at Controlled Power. The company, which manufactures uninterruptible power supplies, power conditioners and other electrical products, became ISO 9001 certified in April, 1998.

Before Controlled Power obtained the Powerway software, Darnall spent much of her time making blueprints and copies of engineering documents. "We used to send this big bundle of prints down to the manufacturing floor with everything they needed to build a unit," she relates. Additional paper copies were filed in Darnall's office.

Not only was this approach time-consuming and cumbersome, but it could also cause problems when revisions, or engineering change orders, were made to a product. "If the most recent copy wasn't in the file when somebody came looking for it, that person would then get the pre-existing document that might not have the correct dimensions," Darnall says. The result was that products could be built to incorrect specifications based on an obsolete document.

But things changed dramatically about 41¿years ago, when Controlled Power began using the Powerway Document Manager and Powerway Desktop software, says Darnall. These Windows-based packages allow documents created in a variety of electronic formats to be managed, maintained and distributed electronically.

Now, when an order comes in, Darnall simply turns to her personal computer. "Before, it could take me 15 to 20 minutes just to process one order, but with Powerway, I can process 10 orders in that amount of time," she says. The system allows Darnall to configure orders with the correct set of documents, which can then be viewed on PC monitors by Controlled Power employees, including factory workers.

Instead of dealing with bundles of paper documents, manufacturing workers can now call up the documents they need electronically. Controlled Power maintains about a dozen PCs--including several on the manufacturing floor--where documents can be accessed, Darnall says.

The Powerway software allows for various levels of access. Engineers and managers can view a complete document revision history, for example. But access for manufacturing floor workers can be restricted to only the latest revision. This eliminates potential problems with products being built to obsolete specifications.

Because of the improved level of document control and management provided, the software system was a great aid in helping Controlled Power to obtain ISO 9001 certification in 1998, Darnall says. "It helped us immensely as far as procedure writing for work instructions," she says. "The ISO requirements can be very rigid, and this allowed us to move down that path more quickly."

With more than 10,000 documents now maintained electronically, Controlled Power has reduced its use of paper by "at least 40%," Darnall estimates. The company still maintains paper-based documents, in part because certain procedures require a paper trail with handwritten signatures, she says, and also because some related software used by the company is DOS-based and incompatible with the Powerway system. Once those programs are converted to Windows--planned for early this year--Controlled Power expects to further reduce its need for paper, Darnall says.

In general, the Powerway software "makes things flow much more easily," Darnall observes. "When you're trying to locate something or make sure that people have the right documents, you can tell with just a couple of clicks of the mouse what's going on with that piece of paper," she says. "Finding this software was one of the best things that's happened to us in a long time."

Powerway Inc.
(800) 964-9004