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The answer by @petermau is essentially correct i.e., the page number variable is designed for pages, and a column is not a page, thus you are better to redefine the pages of the document to suit an actual intended page. Having said that, if you absolutely require an incrementing variable to act as an enumerator on a basis other than per-page, try this:

  1. Insert > Fields > Other... (CTRL+F2)
  2. Variables tab > Type of "Set variable" > Format of "General" > in Name enter a meaningful descriptor (e.g., col_nbr) > in Value enter an incrementing formula (e.g., col_nbr=col_nbr+1) > click Insert.
  3. Copy this field as required (it should naturally increment for each copy).