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Paperless or Papered Offices; What's the Point?

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March 06, 2012

Paperless or Papered Offices; What's the Point?

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director


Green has become the favorite color for many politicians recently.  It is great for them to be seen as defenders of wildlife and the environment.  Preserving trees is part of the banter, so the Paperless Office phrase surfaces regularly.  The term “Paperless Office” has been around for a long time and gained momentum during the 1970’s.   In 1975, a Business Week article predicted that advances in office automation would make paper redundant.  The introduction of the PC pushed the concept further along.  However, the term has lost its luster and there are very few paperless offices out there.


Perhaps the reason so few paperless offices exist is that the term is somewhat hollow to most business managers.  Business managers are focused on improving productivity, increasing revenue and boosting the bottom line.  Public sector managers are focused on staying within or below budget caps so worker productivity and reducing costs are paramount.  Paperless Office is simply a term for being an environmentally friendly organization or department.  This is why the term is pointless.  It is too removed from the reality of the current business environment.  It is sort of like asking a high school freshman algebra student to prove Einstein’s theories of relativity.  He or she may understand the basic concept of relativity but have absolutely no idea of where to start the math process.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."

This Chinese proverb says it all.  The journey to a paperless office is simply a stepwise transition from using current office technologies to newer and more efficient solutions.  As each step is started and completed, the organization is one step closer to a paperless office.  

Most procedures are not analyzed regularly unless there is a problem.  A case in point was a Canadian Postal Service strike way back in the 90’s shortly after fax servers arrived on the scene.  Companies now needed an alternative for invoicing customers and providing their monthly statements and many implemented fax server solutions as a short term fix that became part of their long-term technology strategy. 

Let’s look at the math:

Using a three-page document as an example and factoring in the postage, envelope and paper costs plus employee handling (stuffing the envelope, applying postage, etc.), the unit cost could easily be $1.00 per document.  If the same document were faxed, the outlay would be less than 20 cents.  If the fax process were implemented into a workflow process, the unit savings would be even greater.

Implementing a fax server or hosted hybrid fax solution will increase efficiencies and also substantially reduce overhead.  Most office efficiency specialists are very positive on fax automation as they have worked the numbers carefully.  To illustrate their point of view let’s look at a typical scenario:

  • An office that faxes 200 documents a day
    • $20 per hour is average employee cost
      • (very low according to USA average for burdened labor rates)
    • Eight minutes to send a fax (i.e. pick up document at the printer, walk to machine, dial number, wait, walk back to desk, etc.) 
      • 200 trips times eight minutes = 1600 minutes or 27 hours/day
    • Using a fax server with a Print-to-Fax feature it takes almost ZERO hours per day
    • Saving 27 hours reduces employee overhead by $540/day or approximately $11,340 per month

The end result for the above scenarios is a reduction in the amount of paper being consumed, but also a fantastic ROI, thus providing a Green Solution that also meets the business requirement of company managers.  It’s also a natural part of any FoIP strategy.




Edited by Rich Steeves







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