The speed and universality of how information is spread are two fundamental benefits of digitalization. The biggest challenge for companies is to make information accessible and, above all, usable for more people and groups of people (employees, business partners, customers, citizens). And this is just not possible with paper files. Digitalization therefore starts with paper: Industry 4.0 does not allow a “paper economy.”

Whereas in the past information was only stored in paper form, today many organizations have a variety of sources of information and documents: e-mails, forms and social media posts are just as important as electronic invoices and paper receipts, mail, delivery notes, contracts, etc. The flood of information comes from all directions and is extremely heterogeneous. The most important management task now is to generate knowledge from information and to exploit the value of information: digitized knowledge is the raw material of the new industrial era and key to companies remaining competitive. That’s why demands a new understanding of “content.”

Paper prevents digital transformation

Companies require a uniform approach to managing and using their documents and information – their content – in order to create usable knowledge. Software for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) creates the conditions for this. ECM comprises technologies for capturing, managing, saving, storing, and providing content to support processes within the company. It’s not just about converting analog information into a digital format. In order for the data exchange to be digital throughout, we need to do away with the “paper economy.” Industry 4.0 will not succeed with a paper-based file management system. Paper prevents the digital transformation and slows down processes. How is a self-controlling, highly flexible manufacturing process to succeed if information is “hidden” in paper files, if documents cannot be found, or data sets are not consistent?

Industry 4.0 demands close networking of information sources

The transition to digital records and electronic archiving and document management forms the basis for a new, digital corporate culture. Companies that always have relevant information available – regardless of location and time (flexible in the office, at home, on the road) – will continue to understand how to deliver value to their customers through digital services in the future. Information availability determines, for example, the service quality of a company: employees with timely access to the information they need are more able to respond to future requests from customers. Simple and consistent access to information is not only important but increasingly self-evident. Today the flow of information must always be preserved – regardless of source, place of work, and working hours. This becomes even more important with the “Internet of Things.” For this, all information sources in companies need to communicate seamlessly with each other.
Take as an example a delivery note, part of a purchasing process. In the DMS/ECM system, the entire procurement process is mapped using an electronic procurement record – starting with the delivery note. All business transaction documents are managed centrally in electronic form in the corresponding electronic file (e-file). The procurement file contains a variety of information types and document formats in addition to the delivery note. Customer data, scans, text documents, drawings, e-mails, etc. are retained and managed in the same context. Similarly to paper files, an ECM-based electronic file also contains a lot of content. It contains not only documents and unstructured data, but also structured data, such as customer and personal data. Deep integration of the IT systems plays an essential role here. When choosing software, it is important to pay attention to the integration capability of the system, as data and information will not be fully exploited unless they can be easily exchanged with other applications (and, if necessary, departments).
Having all information and documents available at all times, at every workstation and on the move, saves the company the time and expense of combing through files and searching for documents. Information, documents, e-mail correspondence, or personal data are clearly assigned to a process.

Industry 4.0 is not feasible with a paper economy

Companies are not only contemporary witnesses to the digital transformation – they are also co-creators. In order to cope with the attendant challenges, they need a holistic information management system whose components interlock. After all, the autonomous, highly flexible production of the future will only become reality if the information processes associated with it are similarly autonomous and flexible. This is not feasible with paper files and a paper economy.


5 minute guide: To picking the right strategy for the digital transformation

Where is digitalization going? Is a digitalization strategy worthwhile? How mobile should company information be?
Answers and guidance can be found in our 5-minute guide to digitalization.