Creating a Paperless Office: 3 Tasks You Don’t Need Paper for
The paperless office is no longer a mere concept – find out how your business can become more efficient and save money by adopting some paperless routines.
In 1975, BusinessWeek magazine ran an article about the future of the workplace, predicting that it would become a completely paperless office. George E. Pake was interviewed for the article, and claimed that by 1995, “I'll be able to call up documents from my files on the screen, or by pressing a button. I can get my mail or any messages. I don't know how much hard copy [printed paper] I'll want in this world.”
Pake’s prediction was almost spot on, the only difference being that nearly 20 years after his 1995 deadline, paper is still critical to business activities in many organisations. And just as paper-based processes were identified as a major operational cost in 1975, they still represent a significant overhead for modern manufacturers.
The paperless office is not just a pipedream though. The technology already exists to replace paper-based processes with electronic equivalents at key points throughout your business. Here are three areas where your business could raise efficiency and reduce costs by dumping the paper.
1. Proof of delivery
Having recipients sign something to confirm they have received a shipment makes perfect sense. In the absence of a suitable technology, a pre-printed form is also perfectly logical.
However these slips of paper can lead to a syndrome nicknamed ‘dockets in pockets’. Relying on paper proof of delivery:
- Increases the likelihood of the proof being mislaid or lost.
- Increase disputes about delivery success and invoice payments when dockets are lost.
- Delays data updates as the information must entered into the ERP system once the delivery driver returns to the depot.
- Doubles workloads as the information needs to be captured on paper and then re-keyed into the ERP system.
- Increases debtor days as delivery disputes impact payments.
Switching to an electronic method of capture reduces each of these risks significantly.
- Unless the electronic delivery device itself is lost, records of receipt cannot be lost, reducing disputes and speeding up invoice payments.
- With a wirelessly enabled receipt system, data can be uploaded to the ERP system as soon as the customer signs to confirm receipt, increasing data accuracy.
- It saves expensive staff time as electronic copies can be found easily.
- It reduces photocopying and storage costs.
- It adds to your ‘green’ credentials.
Dumping printed proof of delivery slips will be a good cost-saving step to improving service and creating your paperless office.
2. Invoice processing
Printed invoices are subject to many of the same problems as delivery receipts. Before computerised accounting was commonplace, even the most progressive business needed to invoice their clients using printed forms. The reality now is that there is no need to persist with hard copies – electronic invoicing is accessible, affordable, and more than adequate for the needs of most businesses.
Persisting with printed invoices:
- Increases manual workloads through chasing payments, querying figures and reproducing ‘lost’ paperwork.
- Reduces the sphere of businesses you can work with – for instance, some government bodies only accept electronic invoices.
- Increases the time-to-payment in most circumstances.
- Is expensive as postal charges increase.
Shifting to a paperless office setup instantly resolves many of these issues and significantly cuts operational costs as a result. Electronic invoices get to your customers several days sooner – so get paid sooner too.
“In comparison with paper-based processes, electronic invoice handling processes make it possible to reduce costs by 50-80%.”
E-Invoicing/E-Billing 2013 Report, Billentis
3. Audit trail
Auditing is often done by hand using paper forms, simply because business systems are not linked centrally to provide a continuous overview of business processes. Each step of the manufacturing lifecycle must be observed and recorded manually, with the results eventually collated ready for reporting.
Adopting this approach will always leave your business at a disadvantage to your competitors who use a fully integrated ERP solution:
- The collection and collation of data is time consuming and therefore costly.
- Additional time is wasted on ‘track and trace’ exercises – sorting through files looking for historical records.
- Insights gained through manual paper-based auditing are simply a snapshot of a specific point in the past.
- Data entry and calculation errors during the collation process could result in the wrong inferences being drawn.
Using an integrated ERP solution, your business will be able to audit processes in situ from a central console. By choosing this paperless approach:
- You will be able to view any process in its entirety in real time.
- Any insights gained will be completely accurate and up to date.
- You will decrease the chances of mistakes creeping into calculations, projections or other analysis by reducing manual intervention.
- All relevant information will be available instantly, significantly reducing the cost of ‘track and trace’ exercises.
“Internal efficiency is not the only benefit of going paperless. It also enables your customers and suppliers to do more work and get more benefit.”
James Champy, author of Reengineering the Corporation
The paperless office is, with the right ERP system, a genuine possibility. Adopting such a set-up will:
- Increase automation and reduce manual intervention.
- Cut costs as a direct result of increased automation and reduce the risk of manual errors.
- Give your business unprecedented access to key data quickly and easily.
- Allow for better management of key business processes now and into the future.
- Help cash flow!