Michelle Husbands

Mechatronics Engineer at Corematic

Paper is everywhere in a business. Bills, contracts, quotes, purchase orders, marketing material, engineering manuals; you name it! Even though digital documents have been around since the last century, adopting a paperless office strategy has been slow. The number of reasons for this is vast, but the most common is the fear of significant changes. Changing is not easy. We have already touched on this in the How can you embrace the robotic era? article. 

People get used to a particular way of work, develop habits, so their transition to new ways is not often smooth – and that is completely fine. Tearing up (pun intended) a paper strategy will not happen in a day, so let’s talk a bit about how you can start embracing the digital era piece by piece!

First, what is a paperless office?

As the name suggests, it is a business that uses minimal to no physical paper. Instead, this type of office uses primarily digital documents. The idea behind it has been around since it was first conceived in a Business Week article in 1975.

There are specific departments in some companies that cannot eliminate paper files— legal departments, for example, due to compliance requirements – hence why a completely paperless office is not always possible yet.

A traditional office has filing cabinets, folders, shelves, and microfiche systems, among other paper-based filling systems. In contrast, a paperless office could have a desk, a chair, and a computer.

You only need a computer to access most of the information you need to run your business!

There are many benefits to going paperless. So let’s talk a little about them.

The mighty benefits of going paperless

It is environmentally friendly! We know digital media uses significant amounts of energy from mostly non-renewable sources in Australia (79% of our electricity comes from coal and gas sources), contributing to global warming and other environmental issues. However, less paper means fewer trees cut down for pulp, less energy is used to make and transport it, and more importantly, more water is saved.

The impact of paper on the environment around the world is enormous. For instance, one tonne of virgin paper requires 24 trees, but the manufacturing process uses only 25% of each tree and 90,000 litres of water. A greedy, resource consuming industry indeed.

Beyond the environment, another attractive benefit is cost reduction. Your company will save money on printing, postage, storage, and other associated costs of physical documents. As a matter of fact, as a self-funded start-up, COREMATIC has been paperless since day one! Due to this, we focused on what matters and invest the money where it needed to be.

Another key benefit is the boost in productivity. Digital documents are accessible from anywhere, making it possible for employees to store, retrieve, index and search information faster than with paper records. The typical office worker spends an estimated 30% to 40% of their day searching for printed documents. With a paperless office in place, these figures go down immediately!

Additionally, digital texts increase collaboration within the company and with external parties. For example –  you can submit a manual for review with a click or close a deal with a business partner in just seconds!

Sounds good, but how can my business adopt a paperless strategy?

The first step is to have well-defined business processes. Knowing up to the last detail how the job is getting done is essential. This way, you and your team will identify which parts of these processes can have their digital counterparts speed up operations. In COREMATIC, we identified a delay in sharing information within the company regarding contact information in projects. Thus, we have signed up for a CMR tool, so all our engineers and admin employees have the right contacts just one click away.

The next step is to choose the right tools for your company, so it’s important to focus on the processes or part of the company you wish to digitalise. For example, we use a cloud to store all information related to COREMATIC projects, from code to manuals. This way, the data is accessible anywhere, anytime, to anyone who is an approved contributor – after all, security is a must in the digital world! It’s essential to make sure the software or tools you select tick all your security requirements. In addition, it might be worth having a look into private cloud solutions. 

Another feature worth looking at it is the customisation of the tool. Sometimes one size fits all is not the right way to go. So have a good look at your needs and how much time you can invest in learning a new tool. 

The final step is to know the platform your company will be working on, so some questions to ask here will be: which operative system (macOS, Windows, Linux) will be the mainframe? Do you want an app, a website, or both? Will I need an Internet connection all the time or only when I need to synchronise the information? Does this solution have a good customer service team?

Remember, the switch won’t happen in one day. So give yourself and your company time to learn the new better ways!