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Why Electronic Manufacturing Logbooks Are Better Than Paper

Life science professional holding a paper manufacturing logbook.

Let’s do a little thought experiment, shall we?

If we were sitting in a room together, I’d ask you to close your eyes at this point. But that kind of defeats your ability to read, so just ponder with your eyes open. Ok, here we go.

How and where do you keep track of your personal to-do list? Where do you keep the contact information and phone numbers of your friends and family? Where do you keep your work calendar and how do you keep it up to date?

There is a very high likelihood that your answer to some, if not all, of these questions involved you interacting with one or more paperless, automated digital platforms — platforms that hold a massive amount of data you can readily search through and may even enable you to save and update information with a few clicks or taps. And even though the data pool is immense, you as a user don’t need to sift through all of it or spend much time determining whether what you’re looking at is the most up-to-date version.

Now let’s think about your manufacturing logbook processes. Is it as easy to keep and update records of your machine calibrations, station usage, and cleaning protocols on the shop floor or clean room as it is to keep track of your work calendar? I would hope you’d say “Yes,” but there is a high likelihood you said “No.”

Alright, let’s release that thought experiment.

We tend to accept the efficient aid of automated paperless technology in many ordinary parts of our everyday lives, from how we track our daily steps to where we keep the phone numbers for our friends and family.

So why is it then that electronic logbook management isn’t as common in life sciences manufacturing? When it comes to recording information on the machines and processes vital to production and compliance, why are more than 80% of all logbooks still on paper? When the stakes are higher, do paper logbooks really offer increased data integrity or ease of use compared to manufacturing logbook software?

You may say “If the process isn’t broken, why fix it it’s working?” To that I’d say, it’s not about dropping processes that already make your systems function efficiently and bring you value. It’s about asking whether there's a faster, more flexible, more user-friendly way to adapt to changes in available technology so you don’t get left behind. In fact, depending on the logbook software, you can customize things to mirror what you already have in place on paper, and even adapt to production or machine changes without doing a complete logbook overhaul. It’s about staying on a clear trajectory toward digital maturity.

Effective manufacturing logbook software is out there and can substantially decrease the time and energy you and your employees expend recording mundane, though definitely necessary, processes and procedures, while increasing their ability to focus on more value-added activities.

So, let’s focus on four ways eLogbook management outperforms its paper counterparts and can keep you on a path to complete digital maturity.

4 Ways eLogbook Management Blows Paper Out of the Water

  1. Reduce the Risk of Errors.
  2. Whether it’s legibility or missed steps, paper logbooks present the same issues as any other paper-based system, leading to data entry errors and inconsistencies. The automated and centralized nature of manufacturing logbook software can ensure that all data is captured accurately and is legible when review is necessary. If operators try to skip a step, they may even receive a warning, and the system might not let them proceed until they’ve completed all necessary steps in the log.

  3. Increase Flexibility.
  4. As processes change, your logbooks must change as well. Changing paper logbooks can be a herculean task. Some sites may need more modifications than others, which can lead to many different/tailored logbooks. While consistency in logbooks is critical, it’s equally important to change processes and requirements as products evolve. Manufacturing logbook software can offer flexible, no-code form builders that make it easy to make changes when necessary.

  5. Keep Data at Your Fingertips.
  6. It can be very (very) difficult to track down a specific instance in time with paper logbooks. Paper logbooks are typically filed away offsite, making the process of finding specific information a difficult task. Searching for critical logbook information is like looking for a needle in a haystack, which can seem ridiculous in the digital age. Locating key information in a digital logbook is as easy as using a search bar. Whether it’s a specific piece of equipment, operator, or day, eLogbook management can make review a snap.

  7. Connect to Key Systems.
  8. Due to their offline and static nature, paper logs cannot be connected to specific steps in a process, nor can they interface with critical equipment in the tech stack. Rather than hunting for the right logbook for a piece of machinery and then wondering if it’s the right one, manufacturing logbook software can integrate with key workflows, production records, and systems to ensure operators are filling out the right information, every time.

eLogbook Management and Digital Maturity

Even if you spend a small amount of time thinking about the daily data entry of your line operators, you can probably think of some frustrating situations where lack of or inaccurate handwritten data entry in paper logbooks caused a problem. But even more importantly, looking at data and asking questions is easier when you don't have to sift through paper. To learn more about how digitizing not only your logbooks but other areas of production can lead to greater efficiency, accuracy, and progress toward complete digital maturity, check out the Ultimate Guide to Digitizing the Shop Floor.


Johanna Blair is a marketing content writer at MasterControl, contributing her distinctive voice to varied content including white papers, industry briefs, blog posts, and social media. She has a background in health care and medical education administration, where she witnessed the profound impact life science innovation has on the lives of patients and trainees, daily. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in theatre performance from the University of Utah.

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