Are You Drowning In Paper?

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorUniversity, Master's October 2001

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Are You Drowning in Paper?? I often hear from clients that they thought the computer was going to make their jobs easier, but they seem to be drowning in paper! Most of them are still filing as if they had no computer system.

Let's look at a typical supply house's paperflow: Orders are printed on three-part Pick Tickets. One copy is given to the customer, one is kept for a file copy, and one is discarded. If delivered, a copy is kept in the office and two copies go with the truck. One is given to the customer and the other is returned and stapled to the control copy. The orders are invoiced and the copies are filed in customer name order.

Invoices are printed on multi-part forms. One copy is kept and filed by customer and the rest are sent to the customer. (Some companies attach the order copy to the invoice copy.)

Purchase Orders are printed either on multi-part forms or as multiple copies on plain paper (Vendor, Office, and Receiving Copies). The Vendor copy is mailed (or faxed and discarded). The Office Copy is filed in the Purchasing Office and the Receiving Copy is filed in the warehouse.

When material is received, the packing list is attached to the Receiving Copy and sent to Purchasing. The Office Copy is attached and the packet is again filed. When the invoice is received, the Purchase Order is pulled from the file and attached. The paperwork goes to Accounts Payable where it is entered to the system and again filed in the Open Accounts Payable file. When the invoices are paid, they are removed from the file and a copy of the check is attached. They are then filed in the Closed Accounts Payable File.

All in all, there's a lot of paper handling and filing by customer or vendor. It's basically the same way the paper moved in the days before computerization. You need to think of the record in the computer as your "file copy" of a document in order to reduce the time spent handling and filing paperwork.

Here's one suggestion for more efficient paperflow: Orders could be printed on two-part Pick Tickets. If the order is picked up, one copy is given to the customer and the signature copy is kept. If delivered, both copies go with the truck (the control copy is in the system). One copy is given to the customer and the other is returned to the office. The orders are invoiced and the Pick Tickets are dropped into a date file.

When a signature copy is needed, you look in the system and find the invoice date, then look through the Pick Tickets for that day in your date file. The amount of time spent looking for the few copies needed is more than offset by the time saved in no longer filing by customer.

More Paperwork ideas: Invoices can be printed on single-part forms. If a customer requires multiple copies, enter the quantity in the No. of Invoice Sets field in the Customer File (if available).

If another copy of the invoice is ever needed, it can be reprinted. If you have auto-fax software installed, invoice copies may be able to be faxed directly to the customer from the Old Invoice Inquiry.

Purchase Orders don't need to be filed either in the warehouse or the Purchasing office. If you have auto-fax software installed, the Purchase Order can be faxed directly to the vendor and never printed.

When material is received, it can be checked in against the packing list. The receipt can be entered into the system directly from the packing list. If there is a problem reconciling the packing list to the screen, a copy of the Purchase Order could be printed for use as a worksheet and then discarded.

Once the receipt is entered to the system, the packing lists would be filed by date received. If, when the invoice is received, a packing list needs to be removed from the file for comparison, the receiving date could be looked up on the system. The time spent looking through the date file would be more than offset by the time saved in eliminating the "match and attach" steps.

When the vendor invoice is received, it would be reconciled using the Purchase Order Reconciliation function in the computer. (In some systems, this function is integrated to Accounts Payable entry. In others, reconciliation is also available at the line item level.) If there is a discrepancy between the vendor invoice and the receiving record, the Reconciliation report would be printed.

All invoices should be entered immediately, even those with discrepancies. The invoices with discrepancies would be entered with no Pay-On date or would be placed on Hold.

Once the invoices are entered to the system, they would be immediately filed by vendor. This eliminates the Open Accounts Payable and Closed Accounts Payable files so that invoices would not need to be pulled from the file when payments are made.

Admittedly, I have illustrated the extremes in paperflows. You need to find a level of comfort for your company that may be somewhere in between the two. The important thing to remember is "We've always done it this way" is never a good reason to keep outmoded procedures in place. Take a good look at what you are doing and why.