The term productivity gets used extensively in the business world. This is even more so in the current state of the market where businesses are continuously implementing strategies to achieve more growth and market share with less people and resources. Productivity is an important concept that is ingrained in the psyche of every business, big or small, and throughout every facet or division within an organisation.
So how is productivity defined? Generally speaking productivity relies on two key principles: efficiency and effectiveness. In order to achieve these, companies must rely on people and processes. In addition, as technology applications and solutions continue to infiltrate every aspect of our personal and working lives, it too has an integral role to play in enhancing business productivity. This is particularly true for small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) that are invariably relying on technology to assist with the back office roles for which they don’t have dedicated or available headcount. Technology can simplify processes, reducing the requirement for a full time HR manager, IT manager, office administrator, etc.
Additionally, in today’s technology enabled, ‘connected’ business environment, businesses are implementing a mobile workforce, which is required to have access to key business applications in real time from remote locations. There are a number of ways to improve workflow and productivity by investing correctly in your document management infrastructure. While printers and print based technology solutions may not immediately come to mind when assessing ways of enhancing workplace productivity, there are in fact a number of key ways print technologies can yield significant productivity and monetary gains.
Printer and MFP (multifunction printer) technology advancements are dramatically impacting the way businesses operate. Importantly, by offering open architecture platforms, some print vendors are increasingly expanding the scope and scale of capabilities offered by print devices through solutions which can easily integrate with current and future document management software platforms.
In an SMB-based survey conducted by Lexmark in the US, two of the key pain points identified by small business owners were centred on costs and efficiency. There is a plethora of printer and MFP based solutions available in the market today that can easily address these issues and also generate productivity gains for the home office worker and small business owner. In the SMB sector specifically, there are a number of solutions available that can automate multi-step processes and support companies in making their document-based operations far more efficient. Some examples include:
- Instant document distribution: Scan-to-email
A user can send an update of hard copy information to a number of colleagues in one simple step. With Scan-to-Email you can create a freely selectable mailing list to which the scanned document is delivered directly by email by just pushing one button and without using a PC. This can be a critical time saving feature for small businesses with a mobile salesforce. Communication can happen in real time with the use of a MFP and smart phones.
- Scanning and immediate archiving of paper-based documents
Scanning solutions allow users to scan and save documents into predefined folders or even electronic content or document management systems by a single button touch. This can automate processes and lower the risk of errors. For example a legal firm could have folders set up for each current case. Any hard copy documents can be scanned and filed directly to that case folder without any interaction with a PC.
- Instant document retrieval: Print-on-demand
Print-on-Demand is a solution whereby businesses instantly access required online forms directly from the touch screen of a MFP for easy retrieval of that document. This can save money by eliminating the requirement for pre-printed forms, saving time for employees who are not deskbound and reducing paper waste as unused forms are simply never printed. Take for example code of conduct, annual leave requests, etc where employees need to physically sign the document. In three simple steps and less than five minutes, the employee can retrieve the form, complete it and scan to the network folder where the documents are kept.
- Only print what you need: Secure release
Far too often employees walk up to a printer or MFP to find a pile of documents waiting to be collected. Not only does that waste time for employees searching for their needle in the haystack, but according to a recent survey by Ipsos, it also results in up to one out of six printed pages going directly to the bin without being read. Not to mention security issues with other employees potentially viewing confidential information. With secure release, printers and MFPs can have either PIN or security card-based prompts that only prints a document when the person who printed that document releases the job at the device.
The integration strength of print technology with other key applications including content management and document management systems enables many more solutions that could help your business save your precious time and money. Perhaps you already have documentation management systems in place and simply require a more effective process to integrate hard copy documentation into those systems. You could be surprised how effective the right printer or MFP could help.
There are a growing number of server-based solutions available for a broad spectrum of integrated document and capture processes. These highly secure, fully scalable solutions make the most complex scanning and routing jobs easy by integrating with a number of enterprise content management (ECM) systems such as Microsoft SharePoint, FileNet, EMC Documentum, OpenText Hummingbird, Interwoven WorkSite, Kofax, Perceptive Software and Digitech.
There is no question that printer technology, especially integrated print-based solutions, is helping to drive efficiency gains and productivity within organisations. As companies become even more cost driven, printer technologies are continually being developed to help streamline organisations’ handling of documents and management of associated workflows.
Improving policies and practices
Beyond the efficiencies and workflow improvements that can be garnered from printer technologies, it is also important for companies to assess their overall print policies and practices to enable them to take a more efficient approach to printing across the entire business. The practice of printing unnecessary or useless documents is leading to waste and subsequently negatively impacting companies’ productivity and bottom line. It is imperative organisations become more aware of the financial and environmental implications of printing.
But what steps can organisations take to reduce unnecessary printing? Some useful tips small businesses may wish to consider when evaluating their printer practices include:
- Duplex printing: encouraging staff to utilise double-sided or multi-page is an obvious first step that can cut paper wastage in half.
- Document management: another way to reduce paper consumption is to convert and move paper documents digitally, whenever possible. With the touch of an icon an end-user can quickly transform a hardcopy image into a digital document and securely route valuable information back to their business’ information system. Using the scanning solutions, such as Scan-to-Email and Scan-to-Network, companies can help reduce the amount of paper used, streamline processes and bring greater productivity.
- Print preview: using the print preview function can help minimise paper wastage as employees can check before they print.
- Optimise Infrastructure: introducing the right devices, in the right location, equipped with the right features, technology and supplies can yield significant savings. This can encourage better workflow as staff can use the appropriate devices to maximise their productivity.
- Managed Print Services (MPS): businesses may consider working with third parties for advice or even ask them to manage their printing operations. This can help to identify and analyse paper-intensive business processes so that staff spend more time on the core business and less time with printers.
There is no question that by generating efficiencies of this scale and incorporating them into daily business practices, small businesses can and will continue to have, innumerable benefits for years to come.
–Antony Bauer is Solutions Marketing Manager, Lexmark Australia.