Computer Illiteracy The Real Cost

You’d be hard pressed to enter a household with children that didn’t have some kind of video game system, from handhelds to PC gaming.  Kids are hooked on them and can’t seem to get enough.  Their addiction to the entertainment mirrors the kind of addiction businesses have to using paper.

The downside of the business addiction is the paper cost, and the lack of entertainment.  There are some shocking statistics behind that paper use that make financial offers cringe.

  • Your average, every-day office workers consumers some 10,000 sheets of paper each year in copies alone.
  • While the US has less than 5% of the worlds population, our country consumers over 30% of the world’s paper.
  • The cost of using paper in the workplace can run as much as 31 times higher than the cost of purchasing the product in the first place.

That’s right.  Paper cost doesn’t begin and end with the paper you purchased.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  With each sheet of paper you use you’re paying the cost of purchasing, shipping, storage, copying, printing, postage, disposal, recycling, ink, hardware maintenance, labor… it goes on, and that list adds up.

A recent study from the University of Minnesota estimated that –dependent on the business and automated workflow process – a single ream of paper purchased for $5 could ultimately wind up costing up to $155.

Here’s an example from the financial sector, a paper-heavy industry.  Citigroup did the math and determined that if each employee used double sided copies to conserve just a single sheet of paper per week then the company would save over $700k ANNUALLY.

This reliance on paper often isn’t intentional.  Some organizations have had a set workflow for so long that works they haven’t considered changing it.  Others simply aren’t familiar with electronic methods to make the workplace more efficient; they what some refer to as the “computer illiterate workforce”.

Luckily that’s easy to fix.

How to Reduce Paper Use and Start Saving Money

Making changes to reduce paper doesn’t have be a drastic shift in how you do business, but keep in mind the more changes you make the more efficient your workplace will become and the more you can save.  Here are some smart places to begin.

  • Stop printing invoices and receipts.  If it comes electronically, then keep it that way and store it electronically either on your local network or on the cloud.  You can easily save online receipts by using the “print screen” key to take a screen shot.  Paste it with CTRL+C into Microsoft Word or Paint, then save the file.
  • Get rid traditional fax machines.  It costs paper, ink and electricity along with the cost of an additional phone line.  Switch to a digital fax service that lets you send and receive faxes via email.
  • Save on printer cartridge costs by printing double sided.  Before anything gets printed, ask if it’s really necessary to print it or are you just printing out of convenience.
  • Don’t print documents that need to be signed and sent out electronically.  Use Digital PDF stamps to certify a document and uses services like  Adobe Echosign or Docusign to digital apply a signature then send the file out electronically.
  • Eliminate paper generation in your workflow.  If materials pass between multiple people and documents are being printed in order to complete necessary steps then look into automated workflow.  This includes electronic notifications on next steps, the ability to track tasks, electronic signing and digital stamps, interactive PDF forms for more detailed documents and automatic notifications to other parties that need to get copies – whether on site or off site.
  • Use Collaboration tools like Google Docs that allow multiple users to work together on documents.  This saves your team from printing multiple versions, comparing revisions, passing printed or scanned notes back and forth, etc.  If teams aren’t available to collaborate, then use functions like “track changes” in the digital version of your documents so that printing isn’t necessary.
  • If moving a document from point A to point B is a must, then use a file sharing service with file syncing like Dropbox or Google Drive.  If sharing sensitive documents on the cloud isn’t an option, then use a USB stick.
  • Avoid being forced to store documents from outside sources.  Don’t put your direct mail address on business cards or in email.  Only provide digital touch points so contacts are forced to use electronic methods of sending documents.
  • Adjust fonts, margins and spacing to fit more text onto a single sheet of paper.
  • When copying, instruct office staff to reduce the size to fit two pages of a report, book, etc onto a single standard sheet.
  • Handling extra mail costs your business time and money so reduce unwanted and unnecessary mail.  This includes mail for employees no longer working for the company, multiple mail to the same person, and poorly targeted mailings.  Spend a little time making contact where necessary to eliminate this type of mail.
  • Communicate with anyone that sends you mail to see if items can be sent in a digital-only version.

With just a few smart changes you could save your business thousands a year while also working to improve workplace efficiency.  Start with ways to integrate an automated workflow process, utilize interactive PDF’s, reduce print reliance and where possible linger near the printer/copier with a large blunt object.  The team will eventually follow suit.

Categories: Workflow