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Digital Document Management and the True Cost of Paper

The average American worker uses nearly 10,000 sheets or about two cases of paper per year depending on the Resource Conservation Alliance in Washington DC, this number does not include paper used for magazines, newspapers and personal use. While according to International Digital Edition we use over 786 million trees just to keep the world on paper for a year. Over the years, studies have shown that paper consumption continues to grow. ForestEthics.com indicates that consumption is up 20% year-on-year.

Many companies don’t even include paper as a line item in their annual budgets; this may be a mistake, as these same companies fail to recognize the true cost of paper. To assess the true cost, we must also consider storage, lost documents, waste and labor costs. Let’s take a closer look at these pieces of the puzzle, storage for example; in an average office with 50 people on site and an average document flow, about 200 filing cabinets, taking up an additional 2400 square feet of office space (based on 12 square feet each) to accommodate what’s in circulation today and over $40,000 in additional cabinet costs. These same documents could fit on a single server and significantly reduce costs. They would actually be able to reduce their physical footprint as well as the costs. With prime real estate costing over $2.00 per square foot, even in these tough times, the monthly savings would be $4,800 per month, or nearly $58,000 per year. For many small and medium-sized businesses, this could be the cost of an additional employee, which could mean zero or reduced headcount reduction.

Then we should consider the cost with labor. We will use the same desktop in this example. These same 50 people spend around 1.5 hours a day generating, filing and accessing paper, which involves recreating documents that also go astray. These employees earn an average of $30 per hour, with some executives earning much more. They spend a combined total of 75 hours a day touching paper. It costs the company $2,250 per day, low-end $49,500 per month, or nearly $600,000 in salary per year to touch paper. Beyond labor and storage costs, the cost per impression (CPP) must also be considered. The average CPP is $0.015, it includes toner, paper and minimal maintenance. This does not include the cost of the printer or major repairs like drum kits etc. Using the average of 10,000 sheets per office worker, this office generates 42,000 documents per month or just over half a million sheets per year. At $0.015 of CPP, they spend $630.00 per month or $7,500 per year.

If we could cut each of these costs by just half, this company would save $332,750 per year in real estate, salary, and RPC or $27,729.16 per month. With the introduction of digital document management into their environment, this business would begin to see an immediate return on investment and be able to reduce costs and increase productivity.

Other research from PricewaterhouseCoopersshows time spent on paper in today’s typical organization:

o 90% of all pages processed each day in the average office are simply mixed up.

o The average document is copied 19 times.

o 7.5% of all documents are lost, 3% of the rest are misfiled.

o Professionals spend 5-15% of their time reading information and up to 50% of their time researching it.

o There are over 4 trillion paper documents in the United States alone, growing at a rate of 22% per year.

Considering these numbers along with the others mentioned above, it is extremely important that companies start looking at the cost of paper in their organizations and what they can do to reduce it, not only to align their budgets, but also to help our world situation also.

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