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VOL. 126 | NO. 234 | Thursday, December 01, 2011

Paperless Movement Brings Efficiency to Business

By JEFF IRELAND

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In 2008, nexAir, a Memphis-based company that specializes in the distribution of gases such as nitrogen and oxygen to hospitals and other medical facilities, was looking for a way to be more efficient.

Company officials started with the accounts receivable department and realized pretty quickly that paper was being wasted needlessly.

When customers called in to question a bill, the following process ensued: The invoice was printed, the proof of delivery was printed and a fax was sent to the customer.

“That’s a minimum of three pages of paper for every one of those phone calls,” said Patrick Galphin, director of marketing for nexAir.

Considering nexAir serves customers such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and The Regional Medical Center at Memphis on a daily basis, it doesn’t take a mathematician to determine the company was being wasteful on several levels.

To combat the problem, the company developed an e-commerce option for clients that all but cut out the wastefulness.

Customers were able to log on to a website and get any necessary documentation.

“We started recognizing repeat offenders,” Galphin said. “After that, we went to customers who did this and offered the e-commerce feature that we customized. It was very well-received. They were a little surprised we were so late in bringing it to them. We saw those calls take a significant decrease. It wasn’t just a paper reduction, but a major time-waster and time-user by our account managers. … (Customers) don’t have to sit on hold with us now. Now they get it whenever they need it.”

The strategy by nexAir underscores a movement by many companies to reduce, and at some point possibly eliminate, the use of paper.

StatLink, a process systems management company based in Memphis, specializes in making companies in various industries more efficient.

“There are truly enterprises out there that can be truly paperless,” said Dana Capocaccia, president and CEO of StatLink. “Most of them are new enterprises. … You have to have the proper technology basis and the training of your more seasoned employees. Most seasoned employees grew up on paper and pencil. We are able, in our organization, to bridge that gap quickly, efficiently and inexpensively.”

Capocaccia can cite several examples of how StatLink has helped steer companies toward becoming paperless.

A product developed by StatLink called InfoCentral allows court documents to be viewed by judges and attorneys simultaneously, minus the paperwork.

“Court reporters have traditionally worked with paper and pencil,” Capocaccia said. “That produces sleeves and reams of paper that have to be stored. Our system would allow everybody to have access 24-7, 365, as long as you have permission for it. There’s no reason to have four or five copies of it. It levels the playing field. There’s no reason to carry a folder in the courtroom. You could use an iPad instead.”

Jacob Savage, the owner of Memphis-based Speak Creative, which specializes in Web and marketing solutions, uses the iPad regularly to help clients become less reliant on paper.

According to Savage, the days of a salesperson submitting a presentation to a potential client with antiquated materials such as brochures and PowerPoint presentations are nearing an end.

Speak Creative has developed applications that help salespeople reduce paper and, at the same time, present ideas with a cutting-edge style.

“A guy fumbling through his paperwork versus a guy having it all slick and together, that shows they’re a reliable company,” Savage said. “One of the main apps we’re seeing is to replace some sort of paper process. People are used to sending sales staffs out with charts and binders and things like that. We’ve been able to remove all that.”

The idea of using less paper is relatively new, but building momentum.

Many concepts are simple, such as nexAir giving its employees an extra computer monitor. Instead of printing out an e-mail and transcribing information from a piece of paper to a digital image, it can be done from screen to screen.

“We saw at least a 20 percent improvement in efficiency,” Galphin said. “We’ve seen our number of print jobs decrease dramatically. That’s a fairly simple improvement. … The increase (in productivity) we saw was astounding, and that’s immediate.”

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