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Embracing a New Paradigm: Electronic Work Instructions (EWI)

Embracing a New Paradigm: Electronic Work Instructions (EWI)
To stay competitive in today's evolving global marketplace, manufacturing must recognize and embrace the new EWI paradigm.
Analysis Lab


Authored By:

Jeffrey Rupert & Travis Loving
ScanCAD International, Inc.


While there have been quite dramatic and evident improvements in almost every facet of manufacturing over the last several decades owing to the advent and mass adoption of computer automation and networking, there is one aspect of production that remains stubbornly unaffected. Massive databases track everything from orders, to inventory, to personnel. CAD systems allow for interactive and dynamic 3D rendering and testing, digital troubleshooting, and simulation and analysis prior to mass production.

Yet, with all of this computational power and all of this networking capability, one element of production has remained thoroughly and firmly planted in the past. Nearly all manufacturing or assembly procedures are created, deployed, and stored using methodologies derived from a set of assumptions that ceased to be relevant fifty years ago. This set of assumptions, referred to below as the "Paper Paradigm" has been, and continues as the dominant paradigm for manufacturing procedures to this day. It is time for a new paradigm, one that accounts for the vastly different technological landscape of this era, one that provides a simple, efficient interface, deep traceability, and dynamic response to rapidly changing economic forces.

There are of course, numerous different systems available to streamline the creation, deployment, and storage of 'paperless' work instructions but it is very important to understand that the simple absence of tactile paper, does not mean that a system has transcended the limitations of paper. Most procedures today are created using standard word processing tools, managed using file management systems and deployed using various different flavors of PDF. While the tools are slightly different than those available in decades' past, there is no fundamental revolution in process and capability. A word processor is nothing more than a simple, logical extension of a typewriter.

A File management system is nothing more than a virtual version of a folder overseen by a manager, and a PDF has the effect of turning a computer screen into nothing more than a sheet of paper. Regardless of the tool used for creation, regardless of the system used to manage files, and regardless of the mechanism of deployment, nearly all manufacturing instruction systems in place today conform to the same fundamental assertions as systems in place over one hundred years ago.


In order to stay competitive in today's evolving global marketplace, manufacturing operations must recognize and embrace the vast revolution that is the new EWI paradigm. It is not good enough to state that manufacturing operations are paperless, when in fact PDF work instructions are just paper documents being displayed on a monitor. Using word processor or spreadsheet programs or even ERP/MRP or CAD software to create a PDF is not EWI, it is simply reducing a monitor, computer, and network to the functionality of a piece of paper.

The EWI Paradigm is not simply an incremental improvement on the old paper paradigm. It is not just the mashing together of a multitude of disparate systems to achieve minute improvements in document control, file storage, or deployment. It is a deep and fundamental revolution, rewriting all of the foundational assumptions of manufacturing procedures. The five pillars of the EWI Paradigm are the foundation of the next era of manufacturing.

Initially Published in the IPC Proceedings


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