For an example, consider a high-volume manufacturer. One of its most paper-intensive processes will be in the shipping department, where pick lists, packing slips, and proofs-of-delivery (PODs) most often generate significant costs in terms of labor, paper, ink and toner, etc. Because these documents must often follow the product as it's picked, packed, shipped, received, and billed, there would seem few opportunities to reduce paper and improve processes.
In evaluating the workflow, though, numerous opportunities for improvement can be identified:
- Rather than creating multiple copies of signed documents for filing and distribution, originals can be scanned into a document management system, distributed electronically to other departments (e.g., sales and accounts receivable), and electronically filed for easy searching and retrieval. This reduces printing, copying, and filing costs, while improving the efficiency of the overall workflow.
- Invoices can be automatically created at the same time as packing slips, reducing delays in payment caused by AR clerks awaiting physical copies of paperwork from the shipping dock. These invoices can be printed directly in the mailroom, for quick and easy stuffing and mailing, or in AR to be injected into existing invoice generation processes.
- In many cases, print distribution systems can create electronic images automatically, further reducing the labor involved. Such images can be routed and filed according to rules established in software, reducing entire manual processes to a few, fully automated steps.
A future post will outline the various stages of general document processes. For now, take a few minutes to think about your business processes that are highly dependent on paper and electronic documents, and how those documents are created, distributed, and stored. Finding only a few instances where documents are extraneous can drop significant dollars to your organization's bottom line.