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 user 2010-04-11 at 5:15:08 pm Views: 50
  • #23605

    How do we stop ourselves from hitting that ‘Print’

    BELIEVE it or not, the idea of a
    paperless office has been mooted since 1975. In a Business Week article
    published on June 30 of that year, titled The Office Of The Future, it
    was proclaimed that by 1990, “most record-handling will be
    electronic.”The article went on to analyse how automated systems would
    revolutionise the way offices worked. George E. Pake, then head of
    Xerox’s Research Centre in California, accurately predicted that by
    1995, “there will be a TV-display terminal with keyboard sitting on his
    desk.”“I’ll be able to call up documents from my files on screen, or by
    pressing a button,” he was quoted as saying. “I can get my mail or any
    messages. I don’t know how much hard copy I’ll want in this world.” (The
    article is still available online. There is also a George E. Pake prize
    today, awarded annually by the American Physical Society in recognition
    of outstanding work by physicists).Big challenge: A worker sorting
    waste paper at a recycling plant in Bukit Mertajam, Penang. We still
    junk plenty of paper each day.Those prophetic proclamations have one
    flaw though. Today’s offices are no more paperless than they were back
    in 1975, albeit the word “less” is still applicable because some offices
    do admittedly use less paper today compared to back then. Today, in the
    United States alone, businesses use more than a trillion pages of
    office paper each year, according to market research firm InfoTrends.In
    an article by efficiency and productivity expert K.J. McCorry, it is
    stated that the US uses almost 3.7 million tonnes of copy paper every
    year. The paper industry is one of the world’s biggest contributors of
    greenhouse gases, felling 900 million trees annually. A study by Xerox
    showed that 45% of office paper that end up in the bin were discarded on
    the day they were printed.

    The authors of the book The Myth Of
    The Paperless Office, Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper, found that even
    when digital versions of documents are available, workers would still
    use paper versions 89% of the time.So, is the concept of a paperless
    office still a myth, or has there been a steady progress towards zero
    use of paper?“I think it’s still in the process,” says Christopher Reid,
    Asia Pacific vice-president and general manager of InfoPrint Solutions.
    “It’s a real challenge for people to get there but there are offices
    that have really been able to reduce paper, and they get pretty close to
    paperless. But I think they’re few and far between.“I don’t think it’s a
    myth but it’s a big challenge, both technically and also because of the
    kind of commitment that it takes from the senior management of an
    enterprise to be able to transition to a paperless environment, whether
    that is in a healthcare, corporate or manufacturing environment.”Reid
    notes that printing has been around for the last 500 years, and it is
    going to be a while before it goes away. “That’s because some kinds of
    operations have to print,” he says. “They have to print labels, tags,
    invoices, bills. And in the office environment people still prefer to
    have a Word file in hardcopy so that they can carry it around, make
    notes and file things away.”A good way to cut down paper usage is to
    print on both sides of the paper.

    IBM Malaysia chief technologist
    Lee Yu Kit says the main point that everyone should look at is how
    going paperless would benefit offices and organisations. He says
    document management systems were always about better productivity and
    processes, and not eliminating paper per se.“‘Paperless’ is not an
    all-or-nothing proposition, so we are talking about reducing the use of
    paper, not eliminating it,” he says. He adds that the tools for reducing
    paper consumption are already available, so it is not an issue of

    Lee Chin Guan, Fuji Xerox senior manager of office
    product and solution marketing, concurs: “For us it is not ‘paperless’
    but ‘paper-less,’ which is to fully use paper and not let any go to
    waste. Businesses can’t run without paper, because of several things
    such as compliance issues, the business process and our Malaysian
    business environment.“How do we optimise the use of paper? A lot of
    times, it is not about how much we can save on usage, but how much we
    can save on wastage.”

    Legal issues
    Chin Guan says that in
    Japan, there are laws pertaining to digital documents where such
    documents are deemed legally valid, while in Malaysia such laws are
    still not fully in place. Businesses still have to file away paper
    documents for legal purposes for at least seven years.In the US, on June
    30, 2000, digital and electronic signatures became legally valid under
    the the ESIGN Act approved by then-president Bill Clinton. The ESIGN Act
    is largely seen as eliminating the final hurdle to the paperless office
    concept. Yet, many people are reportedly still reluctant to accept
    e-signatures. In fact, a lot of us still prefer to read something on
    paper than on a computer screen.“But there are offices where moving to
    zero paper is absolutely possible and is the right thing to do,” says
    Reid.“And people are starting to move. But you’re going to have
    environments where you can’t transition everything to an electronic
    signature. For example, you have customers in rural locations who have
    to sign on paper.”A study by Xerox shows that 45% of office paper that
    end up in the bin were discarded the day they were printed.

    illustrates one example of a healthcare provider in the US. “It was
    very, very painful to get information because they had to go down to
    their archives and pull out their records from the last patient visit,
    and when they got questions, they needed a couple of days to get back to
    you,” says Reid.“And that changed completely when they scanned all
    those documents and provided all the nurses and doctors with tablet PCs
    so that they have access to all the documents instantaneously.”

    Kit says some users are not comfortable with computers, such as the
    older generation who may prefer paper. But he believes that will change
    as a generation of “digital natives” grows up and joins the
    workforce.“Nevertheless, the change of processes from paper to
    electronic will also entail long periods of time to adapt, especially
    for older employees,” says Yu Kit. “For organisations which are not
    automated, such as very small businesses, the initial costs of setting
    up may be daunting, so it has to be asked what the benefits are for them
    to go paperless. Doing so simply for the sake of reducing paper use is
    not economically viable in most situations.”

    In contrast to these
    views, a recent report by JP Morgan states that going paperless is more
    than possible. It presented as proof how it introduced digital
    processes and helped 25,000 clients eliminate more than 24 million paper
    documents from their operations within 18 months. It also stated that
    firms can save more than US$500,000 (RM1.6mil) in annual costs by moving
    towards a paperless environment.“Many businesses are motivated by cost
    reduction, process efficiency, service improvement and competitive
    difference,” says Yu Kit. “All these are incentives to do with less
    paper. If it became very much more expensive to use paper, people would
    use it less. Organisations are not equal. For a very small business or a
    home business, does it make sense to become paperless?”

    Cut the
    paper trail
    Some businesses have other reasons for going paperless.
    DiGi Telecommunications, for instance, has an ongoing Deep Green
    campaign, part of which involves the reduction of paper
    consumption.Through various processes and also the use of multi-function
    devices, the company has managed to reduce usage from 2.4 million
    sheets of A4-sized paper in 2008 to 1.7 million sheets last year.To use
    the multi-function devices, DiGi requires its employees to log in or
    provide some form of identification before use. This tracks how much
    paper is used by each individual. Paper ordering has also been made as
    part of the key performance index of the corporate administration.

    employee is given limited storage space in the form of a locker. And
    with the office practising open seating for all, employees have very
    little space to keep their things, hence they would be discouraged from
    printing too much.“We started the three-week Feel The Heat campaign in
    2008,” says Philip Ling of DiGi’s corporate responsibility and corporate
    affairs. “We created a lot of awareness. We showed movies, brought in
    experts. Basically, we revealed how many trees would be saved every time
    we don’t print.”

    However, for the individual, our habits are
    still very much tied to paper. What incentive is there for an individual
    to reduce her or his paper consumption? Ever since our school days,
    everything has been done with paper, from textbooks and exercise books
    to examination papers. How do we wean ourselves off paper usage?“What we
    found is that the incentive works for a little while, and causes a
    portion of customers to move to electronic only, for example with the
    telcos or with bank statements,” says Reid.

    DiGi, for instance,
    has introduced e-billing and customers who want paper bills will have to
    pay RM3.But Reid says: “The challenge that we found in our research is
    that when there is a problem in their bill, or if they have concerns
    about what they’re being billed for, consumers will turn to their
    printed output very quickly. So they have a document that they can file
    away.”Says Yu Kit: “For individuals who work in offices, a lot of
    motivation comes from company policy and cultural mores, so peer
    practice is a big influence. Similarly, individuals can make a big
    difference by using paper judiciously and influencing their peers.”

    Yu Kit thinks disincentives can work just as well, for example charging
    departments for printer and paper usage.Reid says there has been a
    growth in paper usage in countries such as China and India, and other
    emerging markets. “As the economy grows, as telcos and banks start to
    provide more capabilities, they need to print more documents to
    communicate with their customers. But in countries like the US or
    Europe, it’s very different. You see an already very advanced
    document-based workflow. We are seeing flatlines in many cases in terms
    of total pages produced.”

    Chin Guan also foresees that paper
    usage will continue to grow in the coming years. According to estimates,
    by 2025, there will be 190 times more information going through the
    Internet. With all this information, people will be printing even more.
    But he remains hopeful that technology can reduce wastage.“Technology
    can also change people’s habits,” says Chin Guan. “When we show them
    that technology can help them in their work, they might change. If we
    start thinking green, eventually we will achieve something.”