The process of making paper has always been pretty filthy. The process uses more water per tonne of output than any other manufacturing process that humans undertake. The effluent from Paper Manufacturing is still unpleasant, and the toxic ink slurry resulting from reprocessing paper is undeniably foul.
The fact of the matter is, with modern day technology, the need for paper has been significantly reduced, and yet we continue to use it. It is a habit we need to break.
Some progress has been made. In the United States, for example, since June 30th, 2000, the E-sign Act has recognised electronic signatures as equivalent to pen & ink signatures on paper. Now the arduous process of closing a real estate deal, instead of taking weeks, can be completed in minutes. This saves both parties thousands of dollars, much stress, and most certainly, time.
Once upon a time when you received a package requiring a signature, the delivery person presented a form on a clipboard and you applied your signature to it with pen & ink. Eventually, that form made its way back to some office, where it was handled by three or four people, before finally being stored in a box, and filed away forever. Nowadays a machine is proffered, and with a stylus, you create an electronic signature which is transmitted to a cloud based archiving system in a matter of moments. E-signing is now an acceptable and intrinsic part of our culture. You participate in it every time you use a tap-and-go credit or debit card.
Elements within a modern office can be precisely the same. If someone creates an ordinary document on a computer, there is no practical reason to print the document. It can be stored, transmitted, and delivered electronically, whereupon it can be read, responded to, and stored without ever having interacted with a single fibre of cellulose.
Can this work in my office?
Absolutely! Doing so will give you a distinct advantage over your competitors. It will make you more efficient, save money, and speed up your whole operation.
1. For a first step, instead of purchasing brand new software, consider utilising SaaS (Software as a Service). This relatively new concept is a cloud-based service where the software is maintained centrally, eliminating the need for millions of individual upgrades. It eliminates tonnes of packaging, energy used for producing individual copies, redundant handling, fuel used for shipping and other transportation, and innumerable printed user guides that remain largely unread and unused.
2. Whenever you open your SaaS copy of your word processing or spreadsheet programme, it is the same as every other copy—there are no strange incompatibilities. SaaS, offered as Enterprise Software Solutions for many different products, from many different manufacturers, is becoming the de facto choice for new installations.
3. Next, utilise PDF (Portable Document Format) solutions such as those offered by Power PDF (one of the most comprehensive and easiest to use selections available). Archives can be digitised as a direct project, an ongoing process, or as each document is accessed. One need only take the original document, place it in a scanner (an intrinsic part of most modern printers), and let the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software convert it into an archival text document.
4. Document security preserves the integrity of the original document; however, copies could be made and the document reused, over and over for unique purposes. Scanning with an OCR-powered PDF software solution will make your document management/digitisation a simple process, consequently making file-sharing both speedy and efficient.
5. Ultimately, all paper records could be shredded and recycled while preserving an instantly accessible electronic copy, which is available to you anywhere, anytime. How much office space would you recover, or warehousing costs could you eliminate? The savings would pay for the project, and the decreased costs would be realised as profit.
6. Whether you sell something tangible, informational, or a service, it should be simple to implement paperless invoicing and receipt generation. When combined with E-signing as described above, the entire process becomes paper-free. The person collecting the signature is the only human to interact with it.
We need to stop looking at this as a capital outlay. It needs to be regarded as an economic policy that decreases our expenditures, streamlines our organisation, speeds up just about every aspect of daily operations, and saves money.
In summary, a paperless office is psychologically more reassuring. Knowing your desk is covered with unfinished projects can discourage you; it can make you feel like you don’t even want to go into the office.
A paperless office is intrinsically organised and you feel like you can get so much more done. Where would you rather work?