What I Wish Everyone Knew About the Paperless Office

The concept of paperless office is hardly new: it was first mentioned in 1975, in a Business Week article that writes in its opening aria:

The office is the last corporate holdout to the automation tide that has swept through the factory and the accounting department. It has changed little since the invention of the typewriter 100 years ago. 

If these statements sound eerily familiar, it is because most offices in 2017 are still strongly reminiscent of 1975, or even 1875. Times may have been a-changing and revolutions may have taken place, but when push comes to shove, paper is still king in most industries. Hard to believe? Let’s check the data. 

How much paper do we really use?

In the last two decades of the 20th century, consumption of office paper more than doubled. Already in the 21st century, the usage of paper products has boomed, from 92 million tons to 208 million, representing an increase of 126%. These are simple figures; the facts and the consequences of our paper dependency are quite far reaching:

In 2015 in the US the paper and pulp industry alone released 60,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals into the air. But even if environmental concerns don’t make the top of your action list, there are issues of a different nature to bear in mind.

What is the real cost of not converting to a paperless office?

95% of all businesses still have information stored on paper, so chances are, you’ll see your business reflected on one or more of the following points.

Reduced productivity

  • 30-40% of an employee’s time is spent looking for information locked in email and filing cabinets, with filing costs averaging at about $20 per month;
  • 45% of paper printed in offices is trashed at the end of each business day
  • 10 000 paper sheets per year per office worker: that’s the average consumption in the US

Reduced compliance and reliability

  • 70% of today’s businesses would fail within three weeks if they suffered a catastrophic loss of paper-based records
  • A document is lost every 12 seconds in large organizations
  • The cost of each misfiled document is $125
  • The cost of each lost document ranges between $350 and $700

Endangered profitability     

  • $120 billion a year is spent on printed forms, most of which outdate themselves in 3 months
  • The average document is copied 9-11 times and every 12 filling cabinets require an additional employee to maintain
  • Each 4-drawer file cabinet holds an average of 10 000-12 000 documents, takes up to 9 square feet of floor space and costs $1 500 a year
  • Every 3.3 years a company’s paper consumption doubles

The importance of the paperless office

As has hopefully become apparent, there are inherent risks to centralizing storage of critical paper based data due to damage, fire or other natural disasters. But there are also productivity disadvantages when relying on business data to be transferred around on paper. Finally, businesses are heavily hindered in their profitability unless they are able to move away from paper processes.

This is why we have seen the rise of digital documents, workflow systems, document and content management software solutions. And the obvious advantages of going paperless are already apparent outside of the office.

Going paperless means fewer trees will be cut down and less ink cartridges will have to be bought. Throughout our daily lives we are moving away from paper anyway. Electronic cash, electronic signatures, and entire court proceedings are already taking place without the need for any paper. We like the convenience of checking our taxes, looking up recipes and buying planes tickets all online and mobile workforces like that same convenience.

We’re on a mission to make businesses go paperless

Printing out all the information our customers have gathered using GeoPal might be difficult, considering millions of data packets recorded from IoT sensors, scripting, web and mobile modules, assets, and CRM systems. Over the last 5 years our customers have recorded over 13 million jobs, each containing configurable numbers of text, image and signature fields. Printing all that out would be a challenge. But putting together all the paper spent in the US in a year would make a mountain 18 000 times as high as Mount Everest, high enough to reach nearly halfway to the moon. If GeoPal has been able to make a dent in that, it means we’re on a good path. 

Businesses come to us for our field data capture capabilities, which allow for a seamless collaboration between the office and the field. With our job templates, job information is presented in a clearly defined manner. Data can be shared with an office worker in the same city or halfway around the world. With its job, asset, IoT and reporting functions GeoPal helps to reduce clutter rather than dealing with torn, stained or lost paper documents.

It is no surprise therefore that more and more businesses with mobile workforces are moving to a collaborative and real time system of software services.

If your field and office workforces have not yet experienced the “paperless office” revolution that Business Week predicted, come and talk to us at GeoPal

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