Going paperless

Benefits of going Paperless

There is no doubt physical documentation & storage have aided companies in organizing their documents for decades, however, as we move into the digital age, the question comes up as to how reliable or relevant physical documentation is? While the notion of working “paperless” may merely seem like a strategic gimmick, the inherent benefits frankly stretch far beyond the label of being just another environmentally conscious organization.

Manual takeoff can at its worst consist of ploughing through masses of paper. A single drawing may be printed multiple times to be represented on varying scales, and an adjustment or error may potentially lead to the whole set of drawings requiring reprinting. Presently, an average of 90% of all information in business is held on paper. However, this ‘tradition’ not only results in companies hanging onto an outdated regimen, but large costs for the company. This can include the costs for paper, storage, maintenance, postage & labour, and of course printing.

An estimated cost associated with storing 200,000 paper documents (which at first glance seems excessive but can often be the norm for a medium sized estimating firm) may range anywhere from $4,000.00 USD to $6,000.00 USD for the equipment alone. When including the physical space required, the cost will inevitably increase and recur until paper is taken out of the business model.

Other than the storage cost, the accumulative costs associated with printing also incurs a hefty expenditure. The cost per print can be broken down to infrastructure costs (hardware, software, maintenance, paper & power), management costs (IT support, IT infrastructure, administrative) and workflow costs (end user labour, document management). When all these are factored in, it is estimated that on average, it costs $0.70 USD to print an A4 Page. This would then cost even more for an estimator printing A0 – A3 plans. Assuming that an estimator prints 2,500 pages per year at the base cost of 70 cents a page, this would incur a whopping $1,750.00 USD in printing costs alone.

Even with the most modern filing cabinets installed, it is still necessary to commit labour into managing and maintaining the files. For one four-drawer file cabinet for example (holding 15,000 – 20,000 pages of paper), it costs $20.00 USD1 in labour to file a document. This means it would cost $25,000.00 USD to fill it up, on top of an estimated cost of $2,000.00 USD for yearly maintenance. Unneeded labour exhausted into physical storage is greatly inefficient, expensive and growth prohibiting.

To make matters worse, physical filing systems are prone to human error. To begin with, drawings and related documents are rarely placed in one centralized location; furthermore, project files or binders can be habitually pulled from their locations and rarely returned by the same person. It is estimated that roughly 3% of all paper documents end up being misfiled while 8% of all paper documents are eventually lost or damaged. Research conducted on US based companies revealed that managers dedicate three hours per week searching for misfiled or lost documents. Consequently, it can cost around $120.00 USD1 to retrieve a lost document or $250.00 USD1 to recreate and refile a lost document. So, assuming an Estimator prints 2,500 pages per year, here is a breakdown of the costs involved.

Yearly Printing, Storing & Maintenance Costs of 500 Pages in USD
Printing Cost ($0.70 x 2,500) $1,750.00
Labour Cost ($20.00 x 2,500) $50,000.00
Maintenance Cost $2,000.00
Cost for Misfiled Documents ($120.00 x (2,500 x 3%)) $9,000.00
Cost for Recreating & Reprinting Documents ($2,500 x (2,500 x 8%)) $50,000.00
Total $112,750.00

With all of these issues incurred due to the incompetence of physical documentation & storage, it’s clear that implementing an electronic takeoff software will allow you to start streamlining your work. For starters, takeoff software not only allows a company to electronically store their drawings and related documents, it also facilitates and sets the foundation for good project management practise. Electronic takeoff enables the seamless collaboration of drawings and plans between stakeholders digitally, rather than having stacks of papers that can only be reviewed by one person at a given time. Fostering an integrated and collaborative project delivery approach, communication between stakeholders is simplified which ultimately enhances accuracy, speed and responsiveness.

Overall, implementing an electronic takeoff software is not exclusively beneficial just for extracting quantities, but is actually a way to streamline and reshape your way of working to integrate people, systems, and business structure to reduce waste and maximize efficiency. To ensure you’re organizing your documentation as efficiently as possible, it may be time for you to look at the avenue of digital takeoff and help bring your business into the future.

1 Terry, J.P, 2009. Paperless: Real-World Solutions with Adobe Technology. 1st ed. California: Peachpit.