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Falls Church Planning Commission: There is a value to going paperless

Whenever a business is looking into ways to improve their bottom line, it is becoming more common for them to ditch the filing cabinets and transition toward business process software. This client-based solution allows employees to spend fewer hours searching and retrieving pertinent documents.

While there are many cost benefits to transitioning in this direction, some staffers are reluctant to make the switch. However, for companies that have been in business for many years, storing paperwork this way is becoming more of a hassle. Electronic document management on the other hand, has search engine capabilities within the program, which saves employees time looking for older documentation.

In Falls Church, Virginia, the town's planning commission recently started making the switch themselves. Previously, multiple copies of site plans were printed for meetings, the Falls Church News-Press explained. If the commission agrees to go digital, those who attend meetings will be taking notes from iPads.

Falls Church is considering on heading toward this direction because other communities in Virginia have already began implementing similar solutions, and have found success doing so. However, the source added that the city's planning director Jim Snyder is concerned that costs "can go as high as $5,000 and take a full day to process."

Even though delays can slow down processes, one day spent installing the new system can be translated to years of up-to-date agendas for meetings and an interactive site plan. Blueprint designs can be viewed in multiple ways from an iPad—these visuals are harder to imagine on a flat piece of paper.

Overall, becoming a paperless office has many more advantages than keeping hard copies of documentation. Often times, individuals will mistakenly throw out pertinent contracts because their office is full of similar looking paperwork. When stored electronically, it is not as easy to permanently lose paperwork, seeing how these systems are frequently backed up.

India considering plan to implement automated passport kiosks

Flying internationally can be an exciting time for tourists and casual travelers, but for diplomats and businessmen, it can be quite the hassle. Going from a connecting flight domestically can be difficult as it is, so the amount of pressure international travelers go through is much higher.

As a way to significantly alleviate one to two hours waiting in line to deal with immigration processes, some American passengers will be able to scan their passport into an automated passport control (APC) stand, allowing them to get into the country faster.

Though APC kiosks are fairly new in the United States, Dallas Fort Worth, Chicago O'Hare and New York's JFK international airport has them, and they have shown great success so far. O'Hare specifically began its launch in July and found that wait times decreased by 40 percent for U.S. citizens, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told the Business Travel News.

The business process software "removes the administrative responsibility for a CBP officer to scan a traveler's passport and verify their paper customs declaration, reducing the time a traveler spends with a CBP officer," a CBP official added.

How India plans on implementing APC at their airports

Across the world, India is planning on launching a similar boarding system for their citizens. India is one of the most populous nations in the world, so any alternative to expedite travel time can benefit work efficiency for airports and those who have business arrangements in India.

What makes this program different from the U.S.' ADP program is that India security officials are creating a list of trusted travelers who would not need to provide immigration paperwork to an international officer because it will already be electronically filed, the Indian Express reported.

"A pre-authorization will not only reduce hassles at the airport but will also not require a traveler to go through immigration checks," a senior home ministry official told the source. "We are also planning to include biometric details of travelers, which will mean facial recognition or finger prints, in e-gate."

Priority will be given to diplomats then frequent fliers who visit the nation. The cost to enroll in the program has not been decided because officials are unsure if this will be a one-time fee, or a fee per trip.

Electronic processes can greatly impact how a business completes daily tasks. If immigration can find a way to handle passports faster, then international travel may not longer appear as daunting.

CBRE revamps office, changes document management system

Regardless of the industry, it is important to have an office that supports the life of the company's work culture. Sometimes, the way documents are processed can get in the way of a staffer's overall output for the day.

Recognizing these weaknesses is the first step toward to managing upcoming projects like an office-wide renovation for example. Understanding the work patterns of colleagues in advance can influence the way shared work space is set up as well as the business process software that these staffers may need.

CBRE, one of the world's largest commercial real estate firms in the world, decided to revamp its Los Angeles headquarters. How the the company changed its layout led it to become a more paperless office.

When less than 20 percent of the workspace had stations that were equipped with the technology employees needed in order to work with one another, CBRE realized it needed a change, keeping electronic integration in mind, LA Downtown News explained.

"We found that 51 percent of the time, people aren't in their seats," CBRE Executive Managing Director Lewis Horne said during a discussion on the new office. "We were also out of space because everyone owned their own bit of real estate in the office."

Now, staffers can choose where they want to conduct meetings and daily tasks. Through the use of laptops and electronic document management programs, everyone has the flexibility to share information without making photocopies of contracts and strategy plans.

CBRE's new setup may be a huge jump from the typical corporate office environment with cubicles and walls, but a majority of employees enjoy this new workflow. No one is longer limited to their collection of paperwork because it is stored on a secure network instead.

NHS launches price comparison website

The health care industry is an expensive business because paying for disposable items, vaccines and imaging equipment adds up very quickly. As a way to reduce hospital errors and streamline operations, many nations have implemented document management programs to organize patient health information.

In the United Kingdom, specifically, a recent study from the Policy Institute found that the government could be doing more to improve the bottom line by relying less on hard-copy records and moving toward electronic processes.

Around the same time, the National Health Service (NHS) announced that it would be the first government agency to move toward paperless solutions—hoping to be entirely paperless by 2018. Based on information that was released in its study, the NHS decided that it was necessary to attack waste within inventory first.

"The government is putting an extra £12.7 billion, [$20.4 billion] into our NHS but that money needs to be spent much more wisely by local hospitals," U.K. Health Minister Dan Poulter said in the statement. "When our NHS is the single biggest organization in the UK, hospitals must wake up to the potential to make big savings and radically change the way they buy supplies, goods, services and how they manage."

Now, administrative staff members at hospitals and doctor offices across the nation will be able to access a comprehensive, price comparison website that the NHS built. This measure is meant to decrease spending up to 50 percent, Supply Management Magazine explained.

Time and again, office supplies are taking up a larger part of the hospital's order forms, when the priority should be given to medical supplies that are pertinent to patient care.

Though inventory management may not play a large role in how physicians provide patient care, it still takes up a significant portion of many practitioners' budgets. Using business process software can be utilized here to report what medical supplies are needed the most.

How Beth Wolff Realtors used electronic document management to maximize efficiency

Businesses that want to increase their reach, while keeping documents in order, can benefit from the use of electronic document management. These programs allow organizations to improve overall work efficiency. At one Houston, Texas-based company, going paperless made the ultimate difference.

Beth Wolff Realtors recently celebrated being in business for 35 years, but Wolff herself found that her success would not have been possible without the support of her family, collaborations and paperless office solutions. Beth Wolff Realtors was the first business in Houston to allow electronic transactions, after all.

What started as a local real estate company for sellers and buyers within the southeastern Texas city became an organization that helped individuals and families through the moving process. Regardless of their life-alternating circumstance, Wolff's employees made sure "the home-buying or home-selling process [was] a positive one," the Houston Chronicle reported.

Wolff's expertise with zoning and real estate planning helped the city build the Quality of Life Coalition and a Habitat for Humanity Chapter. After working with a variety of committees on projects, Beth Wolff Realtors eventually became an affiliate of Hathaway Homes Services—a company that is backed by Warren Buffet. 

Real estate companies under Home Services are proven to respect "the magnitude of the real estate transaction to clients' lives," helping corporations of all sizes within the United States and around the world to transition to their new headquarters.

Wolff's knowledge of industry-leading trends and technologies have helped her meet many milestones in 35 years and she plans to continue to help her team be a leading realtor. Despite having so many projects, her business process software served as a great advantage to making Beth Wolff Realtors different from the competition.

Air Canada reduces debts with paperless pilot manuals

Commercial airlines around the world are trying to improve their bottom line with fees and additional amenities for their passengers, but not all debts can be recovered by the passenger. Air Canada is making a complete 180-degree change between now and 2019. The company's efforts include using lightweight paint on the body of the airplanes and replacing paper pilot manuals with tablets.

Though the manuals seem to be a small change to reduce Air Canada's cost, it is expected to save them at least $3 million per year.

On some of Air Canada's longer flights, there could be as many as four pilots on board, with each of them carrying the 35-pound manual — that's an additional 140 pounds to the aircraft. Tablets on the other hand, are only about one pound each and allows airplane operators to receive the most up-to-date materials without adding or throwing away pages from the paper manual.

Switching the paint that covers the aircraft is going to make the jet anywhere between 1,100 to 1,700 pounds lighter, which should help lower fuel costs. When jet fuel alone accounts for 30 percent of the organization's budget, any change is essential.

About a year-and​-a-half ago, Air Canada experienced many financial hardships, but chief executive Calin Rovinescu told the Globe and Mail that the company is working toward "sustainable profitability." 

"It's a much more efficient process," Rovinescu explained.

Air Canada already implemented iPads into its Sky Regional airplanes and other affiliates within its parent company as a way to work toward a more paperless office. With these minor changes and some other alternatives like buying wider planes, Rovinescu hopes to reduce the price per average seat mile by 15 percent.

United Way chapter donates money to promote paperless initiatives

Medical facilities across the nation have began using more paperless office solutions, but not every practice has the resources to implement these processes. Though federal funding is available for offices that want to work toward digitizing their medical records, the United Way of Central Florida has made it easier for three, non profit health centers.

The grant was given to help increase document sharing between Tri-County Health Services, Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine Clinic and the Peace River Center, an organization that helps people with substance abuse and psychiatric disorders, according to the Ledger.

Many residents in the Hardee and Polk counties are uninsured and cannot afford to receive health care from traditional doctor offices. Non profit organizations like Peace River are only able to continue their services with financial backing.

"Electronic medical records can reduce duplication of services, and help facilities track the consistency of care for their patients," United Way's press released explained.

For many years doctors have relied on filing cabinets and folders to organize patients' medical histories, but this system has been proven to be inefficient, causing severe mistakes for patients who have to go through additional procedures to remedy a doctor's mistake,

Tri-County plans on using its share of the $71,000 gift to install an internet connection, allowing for connectivity with other facilities that already have electronic health records. Peace River plans on using their funding to enhance their electronic document management system by enabling practitioners to input health data wirelessly, use tablets and secure mobile devices.

Why electronic document management works for businesses

Businesses that want to improve their bottom line and increase an employee's overall productivity know that electronic document management systems are an option, but some staffers are reluctant to break old, paper-based habits that are more expensive over time.

For example, some colleges and universities charge their students to print. According to a study from Oki Systems, about 45 percent of respondents are printing an average of 10 pages per day. 

"[I]t's frustrating to see this wastage when, by taking expert advice from a managed document solutions provider, gaining control and adopting some straightforward measures, organizations can cut their printing costs by up to 30 percent," Graham Lowes, OKI's United Kingdom marketing director, said in the press release.

Whether the file was for personal or professional use, workers are able to complete many more tasks with business process software. Files can be shared, viewed and downloaded without needing to press the print button once. AIIM's recent study also found that participants are printing documents and rescanning them back into the system to be archived for later use. Instead of wasting time and paper, companies can utilize e-signature applications to avoid this process altogether. 

"Many capture systems have been implemented as a single-point solution, each feeding a single process application." This issue could be solved with a "standard capture platform feeding multiple applications," AIIM researchers wrote.

Switching toward these solutions is a manageable process, but it is essential first that the IT department explains to the organization that the switch will take some time. Even when the transition is complete, colleagues are encouraged to use the system on a daily basis to ensure that the files are up-to-date and accessible. 

Polk County courts finished paperless transitio​n

Whenever a business decides to move toward a paperless office, senior staff members have to create a plan that works best for everyone within the organization. Through the support of IT professionals, they can help streamline this transition and make it as smooth as possible. These changes cannot happen overnight, but with patience, all workers will be able to reap the benefits.

This similar scenario occur​red in Polk County Iowa, where court officials have been working on switching from paper records to the state's central electronic document management system.

Before Polk County joined the network, about 35 out of the state's 99 counties used this setup, incorporating about 40 percent of the state's court documents. Being electronically available, attorneys, plaintiffs and judges are able to access these documents without the hassle of asking a court clerk.

Similar to other organizations, Polk County feared the glitches that could occur from using the software, but Polk County Clerk of Courts Randy Osborn told the Des Moines Register that it was important to trust the IT professionals.

"[Information technology] people constantly [have to] monitor when this happens and they're able to allocate more storage space immediately," Osborn said.

Since the transition began in January, the courts implemented civil court and small claims and family law paperwork into the system's database. By October, Polk County completed the transition by adding criminal cases. Along with the installation of eight computers in the local courthouse, citizens can look up information immediately.

"Long-term going forward there's going to be some great benefits for our office and for the citizenry of Polk County also," Osborn added.

The transition took some time, but it worked out for many parties, who will be able to increase work efficiency.

What can a paperless office teach schools?

Every year, students carry bulky textbooks to and from school to complete school assignments. On average backpacks can weigh between 18 to 30 pounds, the New York Times reported, even though health experts have voiced that school materials should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of a child's weight.

"A heavy backpack is a strong contributor to low-back pain in children," Dr. Orly Avitzur of Consumer Reports told the Times.

As a way to alleviate physical stress to students, some schools have begun implementing their own version of a "paperless office," utilizing digital libraries instead of purchasing new versions of schoolbooks year after year.

In East Notthingham, Pennsylvania, students who attend Oxford Area High School will be able to access textbooks off an iPad, which weighs a little more than one pound. This tablet also decreases the likelihood a student will forget necessary materials because it is stored within the district's database.

During a time when books are updated annually, this digital alternative will allow students to learn the most up-to-date information.

"We want to put kids in a situation where they can learn more effectively, faster and it seemed like the parents want to meet us there and help their kids have a better educational experience," Oxford Area High principal Christopher Dormer told the Westchester Daily Local.

By next January, all students within the district will be able to use these tablets to take notes and complete homework assignments.

Over at the Archbishop Stepinac High school in White Plains, New York, all students are operating from iPads.

Stepinac's success story

To ensure that all materials would be available in the school's digital library, Stepinac High collaborated with Pearson Publishing, one of the largest textbook printing houses in the United States, according to USA Today.

Because Stepinac is a religion-affiliated school, school president Reverend Tom Collins had to reach out to multiple Catholic publishing companies to establish a contact that offered PDF downloads onto the tablet. On average, students spent $700 per year on school supplies, including textbooks.

Stepinac's switch also expedites work for teachers, who spend hours grading and creating lessons plans for the students. For example, one website can identify when a student repeats specific phrases or words and, shows examples on how to rewrite it, USA Today explained.

"There is so much here, you can go through it all day," English department chairman Nancy Bisogno added.

Companies can also benefit in the same way by adopting business process software. Instead of doing daily tasks by hand, programs can greatly cut down these processes.