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Are We Any Closer To Achieving a Paper Free Office Now That Paper Free Forms Have Arrived?

Updated on January 4, 2014

It’s Not Just a Case of Saving the Trees

When we think about saving paper, we tend to think of the benefit of saving the trees, reducing the number of trees that are felled simply to produce pulp to make paper.
In fact, over the last four decades, paper production has increased by some 400% but this is not entirely due to the use of paper in the office, far from it. Just some of the other uses to which paper is put include:

• Packaging materials
• Cleaning materials
• Tissue paper products such a kitchen rolls, toilet paper and facial tissues
• Book, newspaper and magazine printing

The newspaper industry already uses a high proportion of recycled paper which significantly reduces its environmental impact. Less than 10% of paper production comes from trees grown in “old growth” forests with much of it originating in commercial forests that are planted, and replanted, specifically for paper pulp production.

A Continuing Debate, E-Books vs. Printed Books

It is difficult to imagine how some of these uses could ever be replaced but others are already seeing change take place at a rapid pace. The production of books is a good example. The use of e-readers such as Amazons Kindle has changed people’s attitudes towards the way that they read books but it should not be inferred that this necessarily leads to them no longer reading printed books.

A recent survey highlighted an interesting fact, those surveyed were “digital natives” who have been brought up with computers always being a part of their lives and the interesting fact that emerged was that this group showed a preference to reading printed books over that of reading e-books.

OK, that was just one survey and the sample size was small but the result is none the less fascinating. If this were to be repeated and was, in fact, the way that young people are approaching books, then there are many who would breathe a sigh of relief, not least of which being the bookshops, printers and publishers who produce and sell them.

How Can the Business Community Help?

Take a look around your office, store or place of work. How many uses for paper do you see. Here are some examples:
• Contracts
• Job application forms
• Sales Orders
• Purchase Orders
• Applications for loans and other financial services
• Insurance related forms and documents
This is a list that could easily go on and on but I think the point is made. Most businesses will have filing cabinets full of paper based forms and other documents. In days gone by it was probably essential to store paper based forms, contracts and other documents for years but now, surely, that is no longer the case.
In the same way that many documents were transferred to microfiche over the last few decades, there is now a trend towards storing them as scanned images on computer systems. The benefit of this is that physical storage as paper copies in filing cabinets or boxes is no longer necessary.
Both of the above methods have benefits but the documents involved all started out their lives as paper documents. The latest developments in paper free forms technology is about to change all of that.

Paper Free Forms Save Paper, Time and Money

The benefit of a paper free form, i.e. one that exists only in digital form, is that it can be stored electronically and distributed anywhere anytime in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, now that the electronic signature has been developed to such an extent that it is legally binding in most cases, any remaining objections to the use of digital paper free forms are no longer valid.

It is now possible to have your existing paper forms quickly converted to digital versions, at very little cost and then made available to anyone that needs them via secure Internet based systems.

Apps are available for the storage and completion of such forms on tablets and smartphones. Devices that have touch screen technology can be used to sign the documents electronically. It is therefore possible to send a form, contract or other business document, to the recipient in a matter of seconds. They can then complete the form and sign it with their touch screen and return the signed document to the issuer, all within a few minutes.

The resultant document requires no physical storage space and the data can usually be transferred to a back office I.T. system without the need to rekey the data.

These systems are starting to appear on the market and they are easy to use, reasonably priced and quick to implement.

Take a good look at your business – maybe you can benefit from paper free forms and business documents and move a step closer to being a paper free organisation.

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