The hidden costs of paperwork

The cost of paper spans more than just the environment and purchasing costs. Fail to keep control of it and you’ll be haemorrhaging money through reduced productivity. Don’t fall into a paper-lined pitfall.

Over two million pages are printed every minute in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, according to a study by the IDC. ‘If we wanted to transport the pages printed in EMEA last year, almost 200,000 fully loaded 28-ton trucks would be needed,’ said Ilona Stankeova, Research Director at Imaging and Hardcopy Devices Research and Document Solutions at IDC CEMA.


It’s no wonder, then, that there’s an ‘information overload’, thought to be costing the US economy alone a minimum of $900 billion a year in lowered employee productivity and reduced innovation, according to research by research by Basex.


The myth of the paperless office, a concept bandied about since the 1970s, might not be any closer but, with an intelligent approach to paperwork and document management, a ‘less-paper’ office is well within reach.


Printing

There’ll always be something you need to print, but having the right device can cut costs and make the process more efficient.


While printers, copiers and scanners are frequently overlooked when businesses are looking to cut back, these fleets can cost between one and three percent of a company’s revenue per year, according to a report by Gartner; a surprising figure given that the advertising budgets of large companies are often less than three percent of their total revenue. So output fleets, managed intelligently, actually represent a ‘hidden gold mine of cost savings,’ says Gartner in the same report.


Modern multi-function printers (MFPs), like Samsung’s CLX-6260FW, enable double-sided printing as default, which, according to a paper by Gartner, can reduce annual paper costs by 30 percent. And Samsung security features, like a numeric keypad for confidential, secure PIN printing, prevent unauthorised printing, unauthorised use of colour and the waste from uncollected print jobs. Paired with Samsung’s Toner Save Mode, which can eke out an extra 3,000 pages from a 10,000-page toner cartridge, printing becomes much more cost effective.


Intelligent printing lets you take control of your paperwork, reducing wasted paper and costs and, more importantly, helping to keep the crippling information overload at bay.

Document management

With a typical enterprise spending between three to five percent of its revenues managing documents – a cost frequently higher than what they invest in research and development – smart document management is a priority. Failing to do so results in the loss of ability to effectively prioritise tasks, process information and make quick, informed decisions.


A survey of more than 3,000 knowledge workers conducted by Basex found that workers spend up to 50 percent of their day managing information, which is exacerbated by the high proportion of business information still stored on paper.


The hours of work filing cabinets absorb and the precious floor space they occupy add up, costing $25,000 a year to fill and $2,160 per year to maintain, according to The essential client/server survival guide. But they also impact upon a business’s ability to innovate and effectively collaborate.


While physical copies feel safer, they’re vulnerable to being misplaced and can prevent the sharing of information between departments, creating silos of stagnant information. Digitising this information would have a significant impact on productivity.


MFPs can be used to convert unorganised paper files into digital documents with the automatic document feeder and scanner. You can then store them in the cloud using applications like Google Drive or Dropbox. It makes accessing them much easier, even on the move, promoting more effective collaboration and preventing unnecessary duplications.


Far from just an output system, a modern MFP allows you to print and scan as part of a more efficient and organised workflow.

Invoicing

One of the major victims of ineffective document management is invoicing.


Despite the increasing adoption of online software-as-a-service (SaaS) invoicing systems, 77 percent of invoices are still paper-based, according to a report by Aberdeen Group, which is creating a sizeable gap between the top performers and the laggards.


The study found that while the best-in-class businesses took an average of 3.8 days to process a single invoice at the average cost of $3.09 per invoice, the worst performers were averaging 20.8 days and $38.77 per invoice.




Invoice Graph


Labour intensive and hard to monitor, paper-based systems clog up the works, increasing the likelihood of errors and delays.


The use of manual, paper-based invoicing systems also exacerbates the situation of disputed invoices, which can be between 10 and 40 percent of all invoices, according to Gartner, with an average cost of $20 per disputed invoice.


Automating the invoice system and using online invoicing applications speeds up the process and reduces the operating cost, allowing you to shift time and money to the real work. Indeed, the same Gartner study estimates that a five percent reduction in operating costs has the same profit and loss impact as a 30 percent increase in sales.

Escaping the paperwork pitfall

The costs of paperwork run deep in the business; some studies suggest that document-related activities consume as much as 15 percent of a company’s annual revenue, so it’s worth getting right.


Turning to online, cloud-based document management and invoicing systems and using MFPs to intelligently manage your paperwork may seem small changes, but they’re powerful first steps towards cutting hidden costs in your business and remedying the productivity-sapping information overload.


1 Gartner Sharon McNee and Ken Wellerstein, “Cost Cutting Initiatives for Office Printing,” Gartner, Inc. (22 February 2008).