Despite decades of discussion around the “paperless office,” most companies still produce and receive an enormous amount of paper. Critical documents are still sent via courier and traditional mail-in paper form and employees exchange and circulate physical copies of documents that must be managed, filed and stored.

Even digital documents pose a challenge. Employees routinely print out and mark them up, then rescan them using desktop hardware that is slow and unreliable. In addition, not all employees can edit PDF documents, so different versions of the same document wind up residing on multiple servers and desktops. 

A centralized document management solution that incorporates the digitization of incoming mail can be a game-changer. It creates a single flow of documents, both electronic and physical, that can be stored, distributed, tracked and available to all stakeholders no matter where they are. 

That type of document management infrastructure requires some investment, but it is worth the cost. Storing and locating documents without a centralized document management system wastes time and costs money. Don’t believe it? Consider these facts about traditional, manual document management:

1. It takes an average of 18 minutes to locate a document, and professionals spend up to 50 percent of their time searching for information.

2. The Small Business Administration says that we never again refer to 80 percent of the papers we file away.

3. Ernst & Young estimates it costs around $25,000 to fill a four-drawer filing cabinet and more than $2,100 each year to maintain it.

4. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year (according to the EPA), and most documents are copied an average of 19 times.

We aren’t doing much better when it comes to digital documents — in fact, mismanagement of digital documents can generate even more costs:

5. The average employee emails two or more documents per day to at least five people, creating 10 new documents that are stored in multiple locations.

6. A Harris Interactive survey found that 90 percent of knowledge workers collaborate over documents via email, which can create versioning issues that result in lost time for 83 percent of those workers.

7. According to an Accenture survey, middle managers miss important information almost every day because they can’t find the documents that contain it.

The Digital Mailroom

A document management solution can help reduce or eliminate many of these costs and complications and create dramatic savings.

8. IDC reports a five-year return on investment of 404 percent for document management solutions, with half of organizations reporting a payback within six months.

The advent of the digital mailroom has also helped organizations get a better handle on their documents. Digitalization of incoming mail can greatly accelerate the benefits of a document management solution, while also reducing the existing cost and complexity of the mail handling process in most organizations.

In a traditional mailroom, the mail has to be handled and sorted by employees who have very little knowledge about the priority of that mail, exactly who each piece should go to, or how it may be distributed once it’s delivered to the primary recipient.

With barcoding and OCR technology, mail pieces can be sorted automatically, opened and scanned. In applications where payments are received, remittances can be accepted and processed much faster — which accelerates cash flow.

For other types of applications, documents can be sorted more accurately and distributed electronically in minutes. Employees can access their incoming mail electronically, no matter where they are working. What’s more, the same document can be distributed securely to multiple employees without making multiple physical or digital copies. 

Physical mail pieces, once they are scanned, can also be incorporated into document flows and folders with electronic documents, creating a single source of information that includes a wide variety of files including scanned mail, emails, spreadsheets and other items.

This process eliminates the physical handling and storage of paper documents, reduces the use of paper and printer resources, and makes it easier for employees to find and access documents without searching through a combination of file cabinets, email folders or disorganized desktop files. 

A document management solution that incorporates a digital mailroom and enterprise-class document imaging can save time and money and greatly enhance worker productivity and document control. 


is director or marketing for OPEX Corporation.