Paper Is Everywhere
Increasingly, businesses are “going green” and trying to reduce paper consumption as they strive to demonstrate their commitment to the environment, finances, and social impact. While environment-conscious technology has accelerated in other fields, records management practices have remained stuck in the past.
We estimate there are more than 5 billion boxes of records being kept in storage facilities and millions more kept in-house. The costs of using paper as the primary medium for storing information go far beyond environmental impacts such as cutting down trees.
Unnecessary amounts of energy and millions of dollars are expended managing and processing paper, such as:
- Printing information
- Shipping to and from storage
- Climate control systems
- Secure destruction
Keeping records in physical storage is no longer the best or most logical solution, yet organizations continue to do so. The overwhelming tasks of scanning, indexing, and categorizing thousands of boxes of records, implementing a digital records management system (RMS), and training staff often act as a deterrent.
Robotics and automation can accelerate digitization initiatives and help reduce paper use.
- Digital file conversion is accurate, fast, and secure — robots manage most of the process, which minimizes error
- Machine learning indexes and auto-classifies records quickly
- Optical and intelligent character recognition (OCR/ICR) make content easily searchable
Energy Expenditure to Keep Paper Comfortable
Paper is sensitive to its environment. If air is too humid, paper will eventually mold and deteriorate. Warehouses are climate controlled to keep records from literally falling apart –increasing environmental and financial costs.
In the case of natural disasters, warehouses and the records they house are vulnerable to damage. Traditional records management companies attempt to salvage them using two (often ineffective) methods:
- Increasing air circulation in the warehouse
- Spacing records out in a freezer
Both methods require a lot of energy, space, and money, and do not guarantee a complete recovery. Comparatively, digital records stored in a cloud-based management system are not susceptible to damage as a result of environmental factors.
Typically, large volumes of records are stored off-site where real estate is cheaper. Transporting records to and from storage pollutes the environment and costs time and money.
Being able to access archived case files is particularly important for lawyers, and off-site storage introduces a host of difficulties.
- A truck is dispatched to pick up and deliver records when an attorney or paralegal needs archived case files, costing the firm time and money
- Paper records are not easily shareable. If record needs to be viewed or processed by an associate or co-counsel, tasks take longer.
- Records are often stored on different retention schedules and are accessed at unpredictable times. Transportation to and from the office or destruction facility is rarely accomplished in one efficient trip.
Excessive Paper Use
One example of an industry that goes through a lot of paper is law firms. According to a study covered by the American Bar Association, individual lawyers go through vast amounts of paper: 20,000- 100,000 sheets of paper per year. From production to recycling, that paper will emit almost nine times its weight in greenhouse gases.
Much of that paper usage is unnecessary. For example, reprinting a document here and there to make a small change or fix a typo may seem an insignificant offense.
However, when practices such as these are carried out on a large scale throughout an entire firm, inefficient paper use adds up and makes a significant financial and environmental impact.
In an effort to reduce these impacts, many firms encourage double-sided printing. While well-intentioned, these efforts pale in comparison to a solution that doesn’t involve printing at all. A digital RMS can help mitigate a firm’s environmental impact by allowing users to upload documents directly to the platform, entirely eliminating the need for printing.
Green is Digital
Digitizing records to reduce paper use is the clear choice if your organization is interested in “going green” as it helps reduce emissions in a number of ways.
- Once records have been transported to the scanning facility, they don’t need to be transported again
- Eliminate the need to use a climate controlled warehouse
- Instantly access records from anywhere via a digital RMS — no need to recall physical records
Space that was once used to house paper records can be reclaimed for more productive uses, such as desks for associates or meeting space for clientele. For companies using an off-site storage facility, the cost of rent goes down, which can be especially vital for companies in high-rent areas.
Once a digital RMS is in place within a firm and the paper quantity is reduced, it becomes easier and less daunting to manage the scanning, uploading, and shredding of new documents.