Manufacturing is a broad industry, but that doesn’t mean it’s not competitive. Despite making up 11.4% of the total U.S. export economy, everyone’s trying to get ahead—to get that competitive edge. Cutting costs while increasing production is the main goal for almost all manufacturers. To accomplish this, some may favor cheaper materials or factories or even cut staff. 

But what if you invested more instead? No, we’re not talking about a completely new facility or even brand new machinery for the entire line. We’re talking about file sharing. Investing in a solution to make your manufacturing data readily available, streamlined, and more secure. Around 86% of employees report they often struggle to find documents they need. An average 45% of companies report contract signings taking at least a week to get. Overall, businesses lose 21.3% of staff productivity due to issues related to documents.

How do these statistics translate into your own production process? In this industry, the saying “time is money” is quite literal. Your manufacturing process is already powered by people and electricity. Maybe it’s time to increase that power with information via file sharing.

Going Digital

First things first: is your private manufacturing data digitized? If not, you’re not alone. Around 95% of businesses still heavily use paper as documentation. But trust us when we tell you: you’re going to want to digitize as soon as possible! Getting rid of paper files not only cleans up your workspaces, it also keeps confidential information much more secure and easier to find. Running your operations from a digital platform also speeds things up, allowing your teams to transfer large file systems instantaneously. 

Updates can be tracked with ease reducing the risk of old information floating around after its prime. Digitization also reduces the risk of confidential information being exposed. Meeting data protection standards is ethical and it makes for great marketing (as long as you choose the right professional-grade solution). As a final bonus, less paper means less of an environmental footprint, adding another marketable angle to your manufacturing process.

SmartFile Makes It Easy

Once your files are digitized, you’re ready to go with SmartFile. Our professional-grade file sharing platform meets all of the standards we’ve just laid out. Your manufacturing data can be accessed by authorized accounts from anywhere at any time (depending on your security settings). The large file systems that run your production processes are at-hand and searchable within seconds—no more rifling through large binders. 

On that note, SmartFile is great for organization and even features file versioning. This allows you to track various versions of bids, contracts, vendor proposals, design specs, and diagrams as they are worked on between teams. Edits to these documents are recorded by SmartFile, making it easy to see the changes as they happen. These features make it easy to pick up where your team left off or even return to older file versions.

Team leaders and IT administrators also have the power to update files to instantly ensure everyone accessing them has the most recent copies. SmartFile also meets the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ privacy and security standards for transmitting electronic health data, a.k.a. HIPAA. By using a file sharing platform that meets these standards, you’ll send a clear message to your partners and consumers about your commitment to ethical, safe manufacturing.

Passwords, Encryption, & User Permissions

All of SmartFile’s security features use industry best practices. For example, our secure password protections guide users to create strong passwords and sends routine email reminders to update them. This high level of protection also extends to your data via SSL-encryption measures. All files uploaded to SmartFile are automatically encrypted once stored in your drive, so only people with authorized accounts can access them. To make things even more secure, the permissions assigned to each user account are extremely customizable. 

With granular user roles and permissions, your company’s IT team, managers, or whoever you give admin access, can control what individual users can or can’t see. For example, a production manager’s account can be given access to product design files. Of course, this information shouldn’t be available to customers (or worse, competitors). So, an admin can easily hide confidential files from all but specific employee accounts. 

These permissions can even vary internally to keep things on track. Perhaps a production manager and an external supplier are working on the same product. You can assign more file permissions to your employee’s account so they can access any data in the product’s folder. Simultaneously, you can limit the permissions for the same folder so the supplier only sees the items they need to fulfill your order. Customizing these settings keeps your data secure (and your trade secrets safe) while also streamlining the manufacturing process for everyone.

File Sharing Data That Works for You

Another way to streamline your manufacturing process is by taking advantage of SmartFile’s data and analytics. We make it possible to see how often specific files are accessed, when, and by who. You and your team won’t have to repeatedly refresh your web page to see when your supplier opens a documentyou’ll be notified as soon as something happens.

SmartFile also makes it possible to export and analyze data about your files’ access. These reports create useful visuals to help you identify activity trends (by both employees and partners), as well as see outliers. Activity information can show you what documents are most used and which might need some polish. If issues arise in the production process, the activity log will show where communications are strongest and where they might have fallen off. Unusual activity is also easily noticeable thanks to these features, allowing you to catch and address irregular events quickly and reliably. Overall, knowing how your files are used has many benefits for the manufacturing process.

Branding & the User Experience

Branding is a buzzword these days, but for good reason. Having a consistent, professional look and feel to your business’s assets affects your reputation with partners and even customers. That’s why SmartFile features branded user portals. You can customize the portal to feature your company’s colors, logos, and other aesthetics for a polished, professional look. 

These designs also create an intuitive user experience and help outside parties access the correct files with ease. Providing a simple experience goes a long way towards productivity. So, in tandem with the custom branding options, we built SmartFile as an inherently organized and navigable platform. File structures, icons, and minimal interfaces make it easy for anyone to find what they need, creating a streamlined process that saves you time and money.

Streamlined Supplier Relationships & Less Downtime

SmartFile’s streamlining capabilities reach all parts of your manufacturing process. The many features we’ve covered so far not only apply to your own teams, they can be game-changing for your external business too. File sharing with SmartFile keeps your employees and external partners connected to product lifecycle management (PLM) information, design files, and the Internet of things (IoT) data they need. SmartFile makes contracts more visible too. Besides easily sending them to vendors and suppliers, you’ll also be able to track when they’ve been signed and by who to reduce long approval periods. Quicker access to approved and accurate information means higher productivity and, importantly, less downtime. And downtime is costly. 

How costly? One survey of manufacturers found that 98% lost $100,000+ for every hour of downtime. No matter if it’s unexpected or planned, better communication of vital information can reduce lost time and revenue. Teams with the right files at their fingertips can work more efficiently during a planned outage or bounce back from an unplanned issue. In the event of an emergency, a shared file full of response resources could save lives, product, and time. Ultimately, when design teams, production facilities, and remote branches have quick and secure access to shared files, you’ll reduce downtime and increase your bottom line. 

Access SmartFile Anywhere

If you can’t manage your files from any device or share them across borders, do you really have full access to them? We built SmartFile to truly be available anywhere, anytime. Your internal teams and outside collaborators can simply and securely access files via their browser, FTP, mounted drive, Outlook plugin, and so on. SmartFile can also be used across various devices. This cross-platform adaptability keeps everyone on the same page, no matter where they are in the world.

And we mean it—SmartFile is accessible around the world, even in China. If your company has manufacturing operations there, you likely already know how notoriously difficult communication can be. The Chinese government censors a lot of material coming in and out of the country to reduce Western ideas and influences. There have even been instances of the government accessing the private information of Chinese companies. 

Due to these conditions, popular American file sharing solutions like DropBox and Google aren’t available in China (not that they’re very secure anyway). Alternatively, the Chinese equivalents can’t be trusted to protect your company’s product and manufacturing data from the Chinese government’s unusual level of access. 

Luckily, SmartFile is a secure option available in both the U.S. and China. The platform’s SSL-encryption, password protections, and user permissions (which we discussed earlier) apply across borders. SmartFile makes it possible for you to work with international manufacturers while maintaining a high level of security—even in China.

Cloud-Based & On-Site Solutions

Business Cloud Computer with Blue Overlay

Bringing things back to home base, SmartFile offers two deployment options to host your files: on-premise through FileHub or in the cloud. While both solutions include all of the security features we’ve mentioned, they provide another level of customization to your file sharing system. Our on-premise solution provides physical data storage and access for wherever you call “mission control.” Meanwhile, our cloud solutions encrypt and protect your files, giving you full access whenever and wherever without the need for physical hardware on your end.

Enhance Your Manufacturing with SmartFile

Information is powerful. It becomes even more so when it’s efficiently and reliably shared. Since time is money in manufacturing, it just makes sense to put that information to good use. With SmartFile, your production process will become more efficient and secure thanks to better data distribution. 

Keep your teams and your suppliers on the same page to reduce downtime. Customize numerous security features and give people access files anywhere at any time. Enhance your reputation with a professionally branded, HIPAA-compliant user experience. SmartFile can do it all while helping you reduce manufacturing costs to improve your bottom line.

 

Streamline and secure your entire manufacturing process with SmartFile. Get started with a free trial today — no credit card required!

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About John Hurley

I am the CEO and Co-Founder of SmartFile. My role is to find the right people and give them the right tools and resources needed to grow both professionally and personally.

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