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How to digitize your supply chain using paperless production

You can digitize your supply chain using paperless production with Microsoft Power Platform, cutting wholly or partially the number of spreadsheet- and manual, paper-based procedures. But what will this technology require of you? And what’s the best way to get started? Two of NNIT’s experts are here to share their best tips.

Any self-respecting modern business ought to have a digital strategy for how it will keep itself in top condition in terms of security and competition using IT and digital solutions.

This is particularly true in the life sciences and manufacturing industries, where efficiency and observance of quality, safety, and security requirements are license to operate.

This is where Microsoft Power Platform has really shown its worth: An ecosystem of digital components that makes it possible to develop streamlined and secure apps and IT solutions. The outcome is efficient business and process optimization, with fast time-to-market and the ability to drive and expand the corporate digital agenda.

– Power Platform, together with other digital assets such as Mixed Reality, can enable production personnel to work more efficiently and precisely using digital objects that guide and assist, leaving them their hands free to do the job. Benefits include the use of remote support and auditing in real time, digital work instructions that either supersede or support written instructions and SOPs, and that are stored in Power Platform for easy linking to existing quality processes and procedures, says Johannes Riis, Managing Specialist and Architect at NNIT.

Convert urgent needs and good ideas into tools you can use to digitize procedures and create value for the business. That’s the concept behind the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Power Platform, designed to make it possible to develop a complete range of apps and IT solutions that are streamlined and secure. The benefits are efficient business development, rapid time-to-market, and relief for the IT Department, allowing various business units to develop their own solutions for their own needs.

Power Platform consists of nine different tools that can be used and combined according to requirements.

  1. Power BI: Gather knowledge and data to identify business opportunities at a detailed and high level

  2. Power Apps: Convert knowledge into apps and solutions

  3. Power Apps Mobile: Adapt your apps for mobile devices

  4. Power Apps Portals: Mix data from various apps (internal and external)

  5. AI Builder: Use artificial intelligence to develop pre-defined “point & click” models

  6. Power Automate: Bind your solutions together and automate business processes

  7. Power Virtual Agents: Build AI-powered bots for a range of support requests

  8. Power Pages: Design and publish websites able to run across a range of devices and browsers

  9. Microsoft Dataverse: Store and process your app data securely and in one location

Power Platform is what’s known as a low code tool, designed to enable non-IT Department personnel to use it. That shifts responsibility to the departments with a need, and frees up IT personnel to concentrate on the jobs only their expertise can tackle, without compromising security and compliance.

The mindset is in place. But scaling is still in its infancy

The corona pandemic was a major eye-opener for the life sciences industry, when time-to-market took on a whole new importance in the development and production of new drugs. It was difficult to manufacture and prepare products for sale without digital workflows and remote working, because restrictions and lockdowns prevented business as usual. We can therefore expect that the life sciences industry will continue to focus on agility and digital workflows moving forwards.

Luckily, it seems that businesses within manufacturing and life sciences are well up to the mark with regard to the digital transformation and minimizing paper-based working:

– Many life sciences businesses are well into the process of using and testing digital solutions able to automate their workflows and support existing business processes. In other words, they have acquired the digital mindset. They have the financial resources and the determination. And they have a host of pilot projects in progress already. But the problem is that many of them have a problem identifying synergies, scaling, and unlocking the full potential of the technology within their own parameters, says Kasper Kronmann Nielsen, Advisory Director at NNIT. He goes on to add:

However, there is a wealth of benefits to be gained for those businesses that dare take the plunge to explore the massive potential of Power Platform:

– Paperless production reduces the number of manual errors, enabling production line personnel to do their job more precisely and correctly. It also becomes easier to train and disseminate knowledge, because work instructions are in a digital and intuitive format, which can be used and understood without the use of extensive SOPs and written documents, states Riis.

3 tips: The best way to get started with paperless production

Nielsen and Riis share their three best tips on how to get a business in the life sciences or manufacturing industries familiar with the huge number of options offered by Power Platform, without having to compromise on quality or safety:

1. Practice the art of limitation
Power Platform offers an infinite number of options, and some businesses end up developing solutions they have little control over: Who has access to them? How do they interact? Who is responsible for supporting and maintaining them? In such instances, the problems outweigh the benefits, a pitfall that many fail to avoid:

– If you build a space rocket but actually only need a car, you’re biting off a lot more than you can chew. Digital tools should be used to work for you – not against you, says Nielsen.

That’s why his unequivocal advice is:

– Identify the scope and your specific needs to avoid ending up in a blind alley by trying to include everything. Prioritize your needs, decide which employees will use the various tools, and identify how they will support your business goals and processes optimally.

2. Invest in training
There’s no sense in investing money and effort in the development of new digital solutions if your employees have no idea how to use them. Or even worse: If they are used wrongly, causing errors and breaches of the GDPR, safety rules, and the requirements and regulations to which your business is subject. That’s why Riis offers his second tip:

– Invest in training so that your employees feel confident and familiar with the solutions before integrating them into your existing workflow. And once training is in place, maintain it in line with the solution maturing and being developed within the business. And he adds:

3. Think long-term
Both experts offer the third tip to bear in mind when going for digitization:

– Think long-term and define your final objective: define the purpose of each solution and how they will be exploited and scaled to create value now and in the long run, says Riis, and Nielsen concludes:

– By adopting a long-term strategy, you ensure that you stay in control when different departments ask for new solutions that can make their lives easier and reduce paper workflows. A clear strategy contributes to better control, security, and overview, while setting clear parameters within which the digital transformation can be achieved.

Feel free to contact us for more information on how we can help you define your business needs, and to accelerate paperless workflows.