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The Great Paperless Office Challenge

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The dream of a paperless office has been a popular idea going back almost 100 years with the advent of the microfilm machine. To help out those unfamiliar with microfilm, picture a big arcade cabinet, but instead of Street Fighter, there is the gripping action of reading projected documents. Thankfully, paperless technology has come a long way.

Advancements in digital technology with scanners, document sharing, and backup solutions have put the paperless office within reach. Although, we should point out that a pure paperless office is entirely possible; a world without paper can only work if the other businesses you interact with totally eliminate paper as well.

Despite all of this technology, it isn’t easy eliminating paper usage. Dwight Shrute from Dunder Mifflin Paper Company actually has a pretty secure job, and if you told him about the irrelevancy of paper, he would retort:

False: The average US office worker uses one sheet of paper every 12 minutes.
Fact: US offices increase paper consumption by 20% per year.
Fact: Since the introduction of email, paper consumption for offices increased by 40%.
Fact: I am faster than 80% of all snakes.”
(US EPA, Forest Ethics, NBC Universal).

A lesson that we can all learn from Dwight, is that achieving a paperless office is not going to just happen; it will take a conscious effort and a lot of work. It is an easy decision to make, and the benefits are well known: saving trees, faster document retrieval time, saving the cost of ink, freed up storage space, the protection of data backup, and significant long term savings, but the logistics of going paperless is a huge undertaking that separates the green wannabes from the eco warriors.

Before implementing a new paper policy, you first want to count the cost. Here is a short shopping list: scanner, shredder, electronic fax service, tablet computers, an online contract service, a backup solution, .pdf editing software, and the time it takes to make all of this happen. Another cost to mull over is training, every employee will have to learn the new system and how to use the new tools.

Consider if it is more practical to digitize all of your old back files, or to enact a “go-live” date where you are paperless from a certain date forward. Whatever paperless strategy you choose, set a paperless deadline and stay resolved with your new system because old habits die hard.

If your employees do not have time to set up a new paperless system or digitize old files, going paperless is a service you can outsource. Trickery is always an effective tool, throw an old fashioned “scanning party” and get friends and family in on the scanning action. Or you can go the boring route and make a plan that schedules regular amounts of time to achieve your goal.

As is the nature of any investment, the cost put into new tools and time spent will eventually pay for itself. It is a good business practice to know how long it will take to recoup your cost. Also, keep this in mind when budgeting: a standard four-drawer filing cabinet works out to $26,000 to fill when paper, staff time, etc. are all accounted for.

Once you have achieved paperless nirvana, celebrate and tout your accomplishment! Going green is great PR, be sure to broadcast your triumph in all your publications (newly digitized), and then sit back and watch you bottom line grow. A great first step towards a paperless office is giving TMS a call at 1 (626) 737-2960, we can assess your needs and walk you through the steps you will need to take.