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The Paperless Office: What Can We Do?
Think back a decade or so, when talk of the “paperless office” was beginning to hit a boiling point. All of this new technology — laptop computers, e-mail, the Internet — would render paper obsolete as companies conducted the majority of their business via electronic means.
Of course, any building service contractor can take a look around his or her desk and know that the paperless boom hasn’t arrived yet, and probably won’t anytime soon. In fact, many people feel as though they’re using more paper than ever; in fact, according to The Myth of the Paperless Office (MIT Press, 2002), the use of e-mail in an organization can cause a 40 percent increase in paper consumption.
However, not every study agrees — a 2004 survey of more than 2,000 executives and managers by NFI Research says that many businesses are indeed using less paper — more than two-thirds of companies with 10,000 employees or more have cut their paper use. Smaller companies, though, lag behind.
Even if they feel they’re unable to eliminate paper consumption due to technical limitations, compliance requirements or financial burdens, there are things contractors can do to cut back and save space and money, says Timmy King. King is an independent consultant and writer with extensive experience in technology and the janitorial industry. King offers the following steps:
- Accept e-mail and electronic contact software as valid forms of communication. That includes leaving e-mail electronic, instead of printing it out.
“This will dramatically improve your communication with your sales force,” he says, as laptops and software packages make on-the-road contact as seamless as in-office discussion.
- Increase your use of electronic commerce. Whether through a proprietary electronic data interchange system or via Web software, BSCs not only can save paper, but streamline their purchasing (and their customers’ purchasing) processes.
- Signature capture for deliveries and invoices. This cutting-edge step could mean anything from scanning a pen-and-paper signature and storing the record digitally, to using hand-held computers and special software, so customers can sign the screen with a stylus. This is similar to the way most package-delivery services handle their signatures.
Overall, he says, the major barrier to paper reduction is psychological.
“It’s a human thing; people think they need a piece of paper in order to get their customer to pay the bill,” he says. “Try taking it one piece of paper at a time — today, you’ll start doing receivables electronically. Tomorrow, payables. Eventually, just about everything can be electronic.”
President Bush recently signed into law changes to the U.S. Daylight Saving system; under the new law, starting in 2007, Daylight Saving time would start three weeks earlier and end one week later than it does now.
However, some experts are warning that this could be problematic for many devices with internal clocks and calendars that have been programmed to automatically switch the times in spring and fall. According to an Associated Press report, cell phones, electronic calendars, scheduling software and even the Microsoft Windows operating system (especially gadgets and software programmed prior to the new schedule’s announcement) will need to be patched or manually overridden.
Still, experts don’t expect this to cause nearly the problems that the hype surrounding 1999’s “Y2K” bug did (the bug itself caused few problems); for most consumers and businesses, the change will present an inconvenience at worst.
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