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Five Most Dangerous Trends Hurting your Fire Protection Company’s Bottomline

1. Cost of Printing Paper

Introduction

Do you know how much your company spends per year to manage paper? Across the Fortune 1,000, office document expenditures exceeded a staggering $217 billion in 2002—more than $7,500 per employee, according to a 2003 ALL Associates white paper.  

Cost Analysis

A 2005 study by the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance estimated that associated costs could be as much as 31 times the purchasing cost of paper, which includes not only actual price, but: 

  • storage
  • copying
  • printing
  • postage
  • disposal
  • recycling

Paper management costs vary from one company to another, depending on how each company is configured and which costs that particular company associates with paper. Companies that are considering paperless systems need to know not only the costs associated with implementation of such systems, but also the current costs of managing data in paper format.

A study by Gartner found that companies spend between 1 – 3% of annual revenue on printing. This means that if your company has an annual revenue of $10 million, $100,000 – $300,000 is being spent on printing!

Other studies show that for every dollar spent on printing documents, companies incur another $6 in handling and distribution of the paper.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the average organization spends about $20 in labor to file each paper document, approximately $120 in labor searching for each misfiled document, and $220 in re-creation of a document.

According to Informit, the typical U.S. office worker uses more than 10,000 sheets of paper per year, which is about 2 cases of paper per employee. With an average price of $40 for a case of standard copy paper, this is an $80 annual cost per employee. The cost of the paper is only about 10–11% of the lifecycle cost of that paper, according to a government study conducted by California’s Alameda County. 

The main costs of paper documentation fall into:

  • Copying
  • Delivery
  • Handling
  • Storage
  • retrieval of that paper

According to Alameda study, the cost is distributed into:

  1. Copying costs = 33%
  2. Distribution costs = 56%

The Alameda County study was reported in Mandy Haggith’s book Paper Trails: From Trees to Trash—The True Cost of Paper (Virgin Books, 2009).

Other studies show that for every dollar spent on printing documents, companies incur another $6 in handling and distribution of the paper.

Storage of documents = high cost

Storage of documents is another high cost associated with paper. In my own research I’ve found that, depending on the quality and brand, filing cabinets can be expensive, running as high as $1,000 for a sturdy standard five-drawer lateral filing cabinet. Then you must account for the cost per square footage of office space consumed by these storage units; the average filing cabinet uses 15.7 square feet, and the current U.S. average cost of office space is $15–$20 per square foot, so you’re paying roughly $236–$314 per filing cabinet solely for the real estate it consumes.

Example of cost per square footage of office space:

  1. Bosa Development’s 30-storey Waterfront Centre in Vancouver sold out in a week for over $2,000 per square foot
  2. Colliers Canada says the average price per square foot for commercial real estate in Vancouver is $830.
  3. Industrial strata space in Kamloops (small city in British Columbia, Canada) is expected to sell for around $250 per square foot, according to Mona Murray (a commercial agent) with Colliers International in Kamloops
  4. Kamloops demand lease rates, net, from $14 to $16 per square foot.

Let’s do the math for printing

$50Price of a case of copy paper from Costco
2Number of cases of paper per employee
$100Annual cost of printing per employee (50 x 2)
$6Cost of handling and distribution of the paper per employee
20Number of staff in your company

$100 spent on paper, per employee year   x   $6 handling   =   $600 per employee

$600   x   20 employees   =   $20,000 a year!

Let’s do the math on storage

$1, 000Cost of solid filing cabinet
15.7 sq. ft.Space taken by filing cabinet
$16Cost of office space per square foot (in Kamloops BC)

$16 per square foot x 15.7 square feet taken by filing cabinet + $1,000 cost of filing cabinet = $1,251.20  = cost of filing cabinet

$12,512 = cost of 10 filing cabinets

45% of Printed Paper are Thrown Away within a Day

According to the Guardian, Xerox found office workers throw away 45 percent of everything they print within a day, equivalent to more than a trillion pages every year. The most popular one-time use examples are:

  • Daily assignments
  • Drafts
  • Emails
  • Cover sheets
  • E-tickets for flights
  • Directions printed in lieu of maps
  • Reports
  • Invoices

Current estimates show that 50–70% of space in an office is still dedicated to filing and storage of documentation. The real clincher is studies showing that over 45% of the files in those cabinets are duplicated information, and 80% is never accessed again. Because of regulations and our litigious culture, most of the paper stored is saved in case of legal liability, compliance, and/or audits. Once filed away, most of this documentation is never accessed or needed again. A further waste consists of papers printed and stored that really are never needed at all. 

So What is the true cost?

For a company with 100 employees and 10 filing cabinets, over $72,512 is spent every year on paper management. Let that sink in.

2. Inefficient processes 

According to market research firm IDC, companies lose 20 to 30 percent in revenue every year due to inefficiencies.

Inefficient business processes that don’t work may lead to countless issues with your company.  This can be damaging to your company’s bottom line.  For example, your staff have been using pen and paper to complete a fill and complete reports for a long time.  The result is that this process can lead to:

  • Bad customer service where it is hard to retrieve information or lost customer data
  • Staff get disgruntled and frustrated
  • Some or all steps are duplicated or missed
  • Increase in the cost and resources of completing the report

Inefficiency in your process combined with outdated technology can eat your lunch.

Every business process has to be evaluated and think of how to optimize them.  

By reviewing and improving your business process, you and your team can provide better value to your customers, improve efficiency, improve productivity and customer satisfaction. 

What are the fixes?

  1. Map your business process.  To be able to analyze your business process, you have to draw or list what the process is for a particular task e.g. create a sales order.  This allows you to clearly visualize each stage in the process, analyze them and understand which stakeholders are involved.
  2. Consider mechanisms to achieve transparency and openness.  According to entrepreneur.com, “General Electric reported that just a 1 percent improvement in oil recovery was worth 80 billion additional barrels per year — the equivalent of billions of dollars in additional revenue.  Avoiding just one day of down-time on an offshore platform can prevent $7 million per day in lost production.” 

Disparate systems like CRM, inventory management, order tracking can be standardized so that staff are not forced to constantly shift between different sources of information.  This should lead to better system integration.

3. Lack of real-time reports

With data available all over your different departments, leaders usually want up-to-date information on tasks.  It is less likely for the leader to make smart decisions without accurate reports or data.  Usually you want to know:

  • Where are we in servicing a customer?
  • How many of the actions have been completed?
  • How are we looking with the project timeline?

Without real-time data, it’s difficult to know which efforts need to be changed, stopped or when.

The fix.  Find processes in your organization that can digitally connect suppliers, tradespeople, assets, shop floor, vendors, operations, service department and customers.  These connections will end up creating unique efficiencies and differentiated customer value.

Solutions

  1. Implement paper-reduction measures

This could save your company more money than you might think. 

  • Through simple paper-reduction methods, an office could reduce paper costs by 20–25%.
  • For example:
    • Citigroup saved millions on paper costs over the course of a few years.
    • American Century estimated that paper costs associated with its customers were cut approximately 90% when the company converted to online statements.
  1. Paperless Technologies

The most cost-effective strategy to paper management is paper-reduction.  Cloud software can help your company reduce your dependency on paper and eliminate the associated expenses.  What are the benefits of cloud-based software for your business?

  • Cost-effective
  • Browser or mobile-based
  • Digitally-managed work orders 
  • Improvement in storage and managed
  • Better searching and monitoring
  • Save thousands of dollars annually

4. Wasted Time

Wasted time can be in the form of inefficient process and duplicated efforts.  According to a research by Powering Productivity that surveyed 515 business leaders across the US, UK, Netherlands, Germany and the Nordics, 43% of wasted time is from overload of paperwork. Business inefficiencies are more than a nuisance for management.  The burden of wasted time placed on employees and customers can lead to retaining staff in the long term.

How do you solve this?  Almost 96% of business leaders believe technology helps drive organizational efficiency.  Having the right tools implemented helps companies to achieve their productivity targets.

5. Minimal or lack of workflow optimization

What is workflow?

Workflow is the process of analyzing individual steps that occur during a single event, such as the performance of a work order from scheduling to completing the work order.  The primary focus of workflow optimization is automation and task consolidation.  How can workflow be optimized to improve productivity across your organization?

Workflow Trends

Throughout the past decade, as the North American economy continued through massive growth, business administrators adopted a productivity campaign as a means to balance competing pressures of reduced technician staffing and economic restraint.  You might say the solution is to work faster, longer and harder.  In the short term, this strategy might appear to work but is somewhat myopic and temporary at best.  This has led to employee morale suffering, job market declining and businesses found themselves increasingly difficult to sustain staffing and services.

Ways to Improve Workflow

A preferable method to improve productivity centers on the science of workflow or process analysis which studies the individual steps that occur during a single event, such as work order management.

Without a thorough understanding of workflow, productivity gains will be incomplete and ineffective.

Workflow redesign initiatives are achieved commonly through:

  1. bundling of jobs
  2. automation
  3. consolidation of individual tasks and 
  4. employee empowerment

One must realize, however, that workflow redesign must be customized to the unique nature of each business.  The end goal is to improve business productivity while reducing cycle time, which can take on a number of forms within a business including report turnaround, work order backlog or how long a service job takes.  The end goal is the delivery of information and data in a more holistic manner so that clients can be serviced on time, quick report retrieval and billed in a timely fashion.  Some other benefits can include:

  • Easier scheduling
  • Boost in employee productivity
  • Reduce overtime
  • Reduce paperwork
  • Reduce the service backlog
  • Access important documents digitally
  • Better parts management
  • Customer notes

Summary

This paper has listed five most dangerous trends hurting your company’s bottomline.  One action you and your staff can take right away is to list and analyze each item in your business process and see how you can optimize to get the best ROI from each item.

What if you can manage your workflow effectively where incoming tasks are managed using a workflow management system?  Arabellsoft Workflow is a cloud application that allows fire and safety companies to create detailed reports for their customers without the use of pen and paper.  It comes with the following features:

  • Access the list of customers with corresponding addresses and customer contacts.
  • Each customer has a list of buildings with each building with its own set of fire extinguishers, fire alarm systems, kitchen, sprinkler, devices and emergency lightings.
  • The service technicians can create reports in the field with detailed checklists and sync to the office staff to bill customers almost right away and you can get paid sooner.
  • The service managers or other staff can leave comments for the next technician so important notes don’t get missed.
  • The PDF reports can be downloaded and forwarded to your customers. 
  • You can customize questions for fire alarm systems, kitchen and sprinkler based on your business needs.
  • No need for paper reports and those filing cabinets taking precious real-estate.

For more information:

References

A Commitment to Sustainability

https://www.citigroup.com/citi/sustainability/

Britain’s trillion-page mountain stacks up

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2007/oct/14/workandcareers.news

The Cost of Managing Paper: A Great Incentive to Go Paperless!

http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1393497

Business Guide to Paper Reduction

http://m.softchoice.com/files/pdf/about/sustain-enable/Business%20Guide%20to%20Reducing%20Paper%20Usage.pdf

Vancouver office space sells for record-breaking $2K a square foot

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/unprecedented-office-space-sold-1.4406267

Innotas Survey Reveals That 55% of Respondents Had a Project Fail in the Past Year: Up From 32% Last Year

https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2016/06/01/1139325/0/en/Innotas-Survey-Reveals-That-55-of-Respondents-Had-a-Project-Fail-in-the-Past-Year-Up-From-32-Last-Year.html

Why Software Projects Fail, and the Traps You Can Avoid That Could Spell Disaster

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/329019

How to create and sell your long-term vision

Workflow optimization: current trends and future directions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12481228

5 Ways Your Business Processes Could Be Hurting Your Business

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffboss/2016/11/01/5-ways-your-business-processes-could-be-hurting-your-business/#2a0ca42852e9

Inefficient processes are to blame for wasted work hours

https://www.itproportal.com/2015/09/02/inefficient-processes-are-to-blame-for-wasted-work-hours/

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