Learn the cost benefits of going paperless, and boost profitability through document automation.
Editor's Note: This article introduces the white paper "Make Paperwork Smarter" available for free download from the MC White Paper Center.
Paper is expensive, but that is typically not primarily due to material costs alone. The human resource costs of printing forms—including distributing, storing, accessing, and managing paper documents—may place an even greater strain on your company's profitability.
Had the pundits of a couple of decades ago been right, these paper-related costs would be irrelevant today because businesses would have been entirely paperless by now.
The pundits were wrong. Many organizations, particularly small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), still depend heavily on paper for conducting many of their transactions and for recordkeeping.
Many SMBs still receive, for example, paper-based requests for quotations, orders, contracts, and payments. And, on the outbound side of their paper processes, they issue quotes, contracts, invoices, shipping documents, purchase orders, checks, and other documents on physical forms. Even if these companies wanted to go paperless, they likely couldn't because many of their customers and suppliers are not yet willing and able to exchange documents and conduct business transactions exclusively electronically.
Even when they can't totally eliminate paper, businesses can still make "paperwork" smarter by digitizing documents where possible and automating the management of them. The boost to profitability that these document process automation efforts can deliver may be substantial.
This white paper not only examines costs of paper but also explores solutions that can help to eliminate some paper-related costs, while reducing others, all with the objective of speeding business processes, reducing costs, improving customer satisfaction, and providing a significant and often sizeable return on investment.
The Cost of Paperwork
Obviously, paper is not free. However, the cost of the paper itself is only one of the many components of the full cost of paper-based document processing. Consider the following outlays:
To make the best impression possible, many companies produce forms on expensive, high-quality, preprinted, multi-part forms. This significantly increases their paper costs compared to what they would spend if they used plain paper instead.
Unlike electrons, paper has to be transported physically. A supplier has to ship paper to your company's offices. Consequently, your organization may pay a separate shipping fee when it buys paper, or that cost may be buried in the price charged for the paper.
For documents circulating in an office, labor costs are incurred when people walk documents from one desk to another, from someone's desk to a filing cabinet, or from a filing cabinet to someone's desk.
The company must also incur mailing costs or, for more time-urgent paperwork, courier costs to ship documents to other locations, including to your organization's other facilities or to suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.
Labor costs associated with receiving, distributing, filing, retrieving (including hunting for them when they are lost), and sending documents can be enormous. They typically represent by far the highest proportion of paper-based document processing costs.
The labor costs incurred as a result of normal paper flows supporting business processes is high enough. For example, the average labor cost to file a single paper document was about $20 in 1993, a cost that is almost certainly higher now. Yet, as expensive as that sounds, the number pales in comparison to the expense of frequent disruptions to normal paper processes.
Want to learn more? Read the white paper "Make Paperwork Smart" available for free download from the MC White Paper Center.
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