A Productive Paperless Business: Unlocking the Secrets

Globally, we use 1 million tonnes of paper every day. Expanding production and pulpwood harvesting “threatens some of the last remaining natural forests, and the people and wildlife. That depends on them” (WWF). It takes 24 trees to create one tonne of virgin office paper, while 1 tree will make about 8333 sheets. You can do the math.

Each Australian office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of A4 each year, mostly coming from native forests (Sustainability Victoria). If you prefer to look at economic costs, Officeworks is selling White A4 sheets at $5.49 for 500 sheets. So the costs are just over $100 per person, per year. That quickly adds up.

In Field Service, there is still the use of duplicate or triplicate paper. The cost is higher, over $130 for 1000 sheets, so 500 copies. Assuming a field service technician is completing 4 service appointments per day, they’ll manage over 1000 in a year. So the cost of paper is over $250 per person and you’ll need to chop down a tree for every 4 employees.

Add printing and associated costs, and also that you have to keep all this paper somewhere. Typically paper storage is about $1 per month, per box. This adds up quickly. There is also document preparation for storage (removing staples etc), retrieval options, pickup services etc.

Some other scary facts about the use of paper in business to consider:

  • The average company spends between 7-14% of its total costs on document processing in a paper environment
  • Average storage cost per page = $.014 per year, or about $1,400 per file cabinet.
  • Storage requirements for hard copy documents double every 3 years.
  • The average company spends 280 hours annually per employee looking for lost documents.
  • Due to lack of solid disaster recovery planning, 70% of companies NEVER fully recover from a disaster

But this isn’t the real cost. Processing data manually on paper is slow and inefficient, and can have other impacts on the business and their customers. Human errors, illegibility, lack of data validation, and the fact that service reports can be lost because of damage after a job is completed, all carry significant risk. The real cost is the loss of revenue, time, customers and data. And perhaps even more importantly, management and employee job satisfaction.

Imagine how you could run your business if you knew your data was correct, and it flowed instantly through to reports, invoices, emails, marketing communications, service reports, sales quotes and brochures. If notes were always legible and easy to read, you can report on these. No more double entry. If you could capture photos and digital signatures you reduce the time to sign off, and thus the time to invoice.  You could also instantly see issues, improve productivity, analyse training gaps, good and poor performance, and share findings across the business. Sales and Service can see what is going on, and respond accordingly.

For your field techs, there are lots of solutions out there around field service management and field force automation. The best solutions include technological integration, to allow data to flow across legacy systems into the field, workflow automation to save time from manual tasks, dispatch management to optimise skillset and productivity, and mobile solutions to capture data in real time from field service.

Climate changes mean we can’t just go on cutting down more trees each year, but the good news is there is a massive business case supporting the move to go green. Moreover, by stalling you are being left behind by competitors who can respond more quickly and nimbly by already going ‘electronic’.

Want to work out the impact to your business? Below are a few useful links. Perhaps it’s time your business did it’s bit for the environment, and for your bottom line!

The Office of the Federal Environmental Executive offers a free calculator that calculates the energy and wood consumption and environmental impact across the full life cycle of various paper types.

Inland Productivity Solutions offers a calculator that helps to determine costs for managing paper-based filing systems. It calculates resource and storage costs as well as labor costs.

Save As Paperless Solutions offers a Word document calculator that presents a framework to add up monthly costs of paper management for a total year cost.

The Environmental Defense Fund offers a calculator that focuses on environmental aspects to help quantify the benefits of various paper choices.

Neenah Paper offers a calculator that calculates the environmental impact and savings of using various papers.

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