The Push to Reduce Paper in the Distribution Center

reduce paper in distribution center

Reducing paper in the distribution center is good for business (and trees).

Paper isn’t a thing of the past in workplaces, but it probably should be. The reasons go well beyond simply saving trees to an even more compelling argument: it’s just better business. A 2014 survey conducted by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) found that more than half of responding businesses posited that the single largest way they could improve productivity would be to remove paper from their organizational processes.

The study’s implications for companies in the supply chain industry echo a 2005 Inbound Logistics article in which Leslie Hansen Harps wrote that the speed through the distribution center is critical. “Effective operations use best practices within the four walls of the facility — and beyond.” One of the best-practices discussed in the article: reducing reliance on paper. Specifically, the article referenced moving to hands-free solutions. Denny McKnight of Tompkins Associates Inc. told Harps: “People writing numbers on pads of paper or keying strings of numbers into a keyboard is a bad sign.”

Of the companies reporting superfluous paper use as an impediment to greater productivity in the 2014 AIIM study, less than 20% have paper-reducing policies in place. This finding highlights the fact that many companies have identified the need to reduce their use of paper, but most lack a clear vision for doing so. While the shift to a paper-free distribution center can seem overwhelming and cost prohibitive, small efforts to eliminate unnecessary paper can dramatically improve efficiencies. To start, consider the identification of one organizational process where it would make sense to introduce a paper-free method and spend an hour researching how other companies have transformed similar processes and which solutions have proved to be the most successful.

No doubt, as faster, more sophisticated technology couples with a more computer literate workforce, distribution centers will see an organic shift to a paper-less work environment. Including regular reviews of ways your company could implement paperless processes ensures paper doesn’t slow you down. After all, finding ways to eliminate paper is akin to finding gains in operational efficiency.

Here are 10 (more!) reasons why your company should tame its paper tiger:

  1. Increased inventory visibility
  2. Increased fulfillment accuracy
  3. Fewer lost sales
  4. Fewer out-of-stock situations
  5. Reduced search time
  6. Increased communication with customers
  7. Waste reduction
  8. Overhead cost cuts
  9. Document storage cost cuts
  10. A safer work environment

Has your company reduced its reliance on paper? If so, what benefits have you realized? If not, what barriers to the implementation of paperless processes have you experienced?

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