How A Simple Health Check Could Save Schools Thousands

pic-1By Mike Dooner.

Educational institutions of all sizes continue to face various challenges in today’s economic environment. Issues like cash flow and financing remain top of mind. At the same time, schools everywhere must continue to find ways to operate more efficiently and automation can play a leading role in reducing both administration and other operational costs, since it reduces the amount of time needed to complete routine tasks. With so many potential areas to consider, there is plenty of opportunity for improvement.

One of the most effective ways for a school to get both short-term and long-term gains is to review its document management and printing processes. While often ‘invisible’, these processes can cost significantly, but can be relatively easy to fix.

This article explores some of the ways primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions can quickly and easily improve their document management and printing processes to create a smarter, more efficient workplace through simplified workflow. The benefits include better knowledge management, reduced human error through automated processes and significantly lower costs.

Is Document Management Choking Productivity and Efficiency?

Documents are a vital part of a school’s processes, but they could also be choking productivity and efficiency. Documents can only add value if they are easy to create, find, edit, approve, retain and print. When employees are used to working with outdated or manual systems, the costs are not immediately apparent. A quick audit of document management processes, however, can pinpoint areas where improvement would deliver immediate cost savings. Most educational institutions can benefit significantly from taking a more strategic approach to print and document management infrastructure. This includes better document handling and digitisation, process automation and printer fleet management. When these three elements are in place, only then can significant benefits be realised.

Why Schools Should Move Away from Paper-based Processes

When employees search physical filing cabinets or even school servers to find the documents they need, it adds minutes and hours to each day, making them less productive. Poorly named files mean employees must open each document to find out if it is the document they need. If employees need to access multiple documents to work on a particular project, this compounds the problem, unless they can instantly pull up a list of all the documents related to that project. For every minute employees spend looking for the documents they need, they are not adding any real value.

Version control is also a significant issue for the education sector in general. Employees often waste time updating or working on documents that are outdated, simply because there was no way to tell that it was the wrong version. This is why many schools report losing or accidentally destroying important documents or files.

When staff members experience issues or delays accessing the documents they need, the flow-on effect can be enormous. For example, when parents call looking for a fast answer to a simple question at a school, they can be left hanging as the employee tries to find the right information. This leads to a negative perception that carries with it the possibility of prompting parents to consider moving their children to another school.

Digital Document Capture

The cost of time spent looking for documents or working on the wrong versions of documents adds up quickly. It could cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars per year. By automating the process of scanning paper documents, digital document capture solutions make it fast and efficient to digitise documents. Converting paper documents into digital format can help schools extract data or information using optical character recognition (OCR) technology. It makes these documents searchable, so they are more useful than if they had been stored in a physical filing cabinet. Being able to manage and share information in this way can improve collaboration, increase document security and reduce the need for physical storage space. Importantly, it lets paper-based documents become part of automated workflows. Furthermore, by applying electronic document management security in the workplace, schools can minimise the risk associated with human error and unauthorised access. Even when employees perform to impeccable standards, manual processes can result in confidentiality breeches and an excess of sensitive material being either printed or scanned.

Managing the Risk and Expense of Manual Processes

Educational institutions often create many versions of documents such as contracts and letters as part of their daily operations. Creating these documents manually is time consuming and error prone. They require careful proofreading, which adds even more time to detect and rectify human errors. Every time an employee creates a standard document he is taking time away from more value-added activities. As well as the time it takes to create these documents, there is the risk that an error will go undetected until it is too late.

Document Automation

Automation systems can use a logic-based system to create documents automatically with pre-approved text and data. According to the Association for Image and Information Management (AIIM), companies can eliminate up to three quarters of the hidden labour costs associated with manual data entry and other manual processes by implementing automated document processing.

The Hidden Costs of Print and Printer Fleet Management

Educational institutions of all sizes maintain a fleet of printers, from black-and-white desktop multi-function models to large-format, colour printers. Keeping track of each machine, its output, and the costs to run and maintain it, is unrealistic. An unmanaged print environment can cost more than $650 per employee per year, according to Gartner. Managing a fleet effectively involves being on top of seven key considerations:

  • Equipment age: If the fleet is aging and is made up of various makes and models, then maintenance costs are likely to be high. The older a printer gets, the more regularly it needs to be serviced and the faster it uses consumables like toner. Additionally, having multiple makes and models means economies of scale cannot be leveraged when it comes to buying parts and consumables and conducting maintenance.
  • Cost: If printers are not maintained effectively and used appropriately, then the cost of printing can spiral out of control. Additionally, if the exact costs of printing are not seen, then employees are less likely to consider printing costs at all, resulting in indiscriminate printing and even higher costs. According to Gartner, companies spend between one and three percent of their annual revenue on printing.
  • Size: Many organisations do not know the optimum number of printers for their size and printing needs. This usually results in organisations having too many printers rather than too few: most have a ratio of 2.2 employees for every printer. This means maintaining more printers than necessary, while each printer remains underutilised, making the total cost of ownership far higher than it needs to be.
  • Support: If employees are not sure who to call when a printer jams or runs out of toner, this can cause delays, which costs money. According to Gartner, 40 percent of IT and help desk calls are printer related, which distracts highly skilled IT staff from innovation and mission-critical work. At the same time, staff often become frustrated because they cannot print when they need to.
  • Sustainability: When paper bins become overloaded, it is a sign that employees are printing more pages than they need to. This is not only an operational cost, but it also creates a negative environmental impact.
  • Mobility: Employees need to print documents from wherever they are. International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that the total number of pages printed from mobile devices is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 12 percent by 2016.
  • Security: 90 percent of organisations have suffered at least one data loss through unsecured printing, according to Gartner. When employees can print without restriction, confidential documents can end up unclaimed at the printer. This creates opportunities for information theft either at the printer itself or from the paper waste bins. A pull-printing solution, where employees must swipe their ID card at the printer to retrieve their pages, can reduce security concerns significantly, while minimising the amount of unclaimed printouts.

Managed Print Services

Managed print services (MPS) essentially outsources printer fleet management to an expert. It can significantly reduce the time it takes to manage print devices, lower capital and operational costs by consolidating and streamlining printer fleets and free the IT support team from printer-related enquiries. MPS gives organisations visibility into how much they are printing and how much it costs, giving them more control, saving money and boosting productivity. It can also help improve document security. An MPS solution manages all printers and their consumables, including paper, toner, ink and other supplies.

Get a Workplace Health Check

Educational institutions of all sizes can save significantly by optimising print services and document management processes. The first and most important step is to undertake a business audit or health check. This exposes areas for improvement and highlights opportunities to save time and money. For schools with limited resources, this can sound daunting. However, with the help of an expert provider, schools can consider optimisation an ongoing activity as opposed to an end goal.

Mike Dooner is the Marketing Manager – Content Services at Konica Minolta.

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