What Happened To The Paperless Office?Written By Ron Slee
Article Date: 08-01-2004
Copyright (C) 2004 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
The cost associated with forms and files adds up fast.
There is a commonly held belief in business today that management is about 10 years behind engineering and technology. With the rate of change we are experiencing that’s not hard to accept. Many of us continue to operate within the confines of old thinking even though we have a wonderful array of new tools to help us in our jobs.
This is particularly true in these days when we are driven to be the lowest cost provider of the highest value parts and services. How can we change the cost structure of operations when we continue to think and work in the same old way?
Over the years, we have had industrial engineering; then continuous quality improvement; then activity-based management; and more recently six sigma. All of these approaches are the same in that they are driving toward elimination of non-value-added activities and seeking more effective methods. This is all well and good but some of us are guilty of following the fads and ignoring what is right in front of us.
How many preprinted forms do you use in the parts and service departments? Do you have an inventory of these forms? And how many parts are there on each of these forms? There is money here to be saved. Take just the invoice. Why do you need more than one copy to mail to the customer? If you must have another copy in the future you can easily print another one from your computer history files, so why do you need more than one copy?
Many of you use paper invoice files in your dealerships. This is a numerically maintained file of all the invoices you have generated. Why? The cost of the filing cabinets; the people to file the documents; and the storage space add up to non-value-added costs. So why do we continue to operate with multi-part invoice forms and maintain paper files? Because we have always done it that way.
Remember my definition of insanity: Continuing to do what we have always done yet expecting different results. And there is more. We have customer packing slip files in the parts department. We have workorder files by machine model and serial number in the service department. We have forms and files all over the place. We don’t need any of them. We have this information in our computers.
Yes, I know there is the usual bugaboo of the customer signature that we must maintain on file for customer pickups. Ever heard of a signature pad? That is the device that you use in the grocery store when you pay by credit card. You sign on an LCD pad and your signature is recorded electronically on the records. Are there other concerns that override the benefits of reducing the number of copies of forms to one and eliminating the need to maintain paper files?
I believe if you think this through you won’t find any solid reason for why we continue to use the multi-part forms and paper files. And if that is true you can eliminate a lot of costs by using technology that is commonly available. Of course, you have to ensure you aren’t required to maintain paper files by law. If that is the case, you will have to comply. But electronic signatures are allowed legally as a replacement for paper documents across the country.
So check the laws and start a process review that challenges the number of parts of each form and the need to maintain paper files. You will be one big step closer to a paperless office. You will also have eliminated a considerable expense from operations. That’s a good thing. A piece of paper should perform a specific function. It should improve customer service; improve communication; or improve process effectiveness. If it doesn’t, why do it?
Excerpted from August 2004 Construction Equipment Distribution.
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