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Paper versus Paperless: The costs of running a distribution business

When weighing up the costs and benefits of using a system that has been in place for years, it is important to consider the long term of 2 scenarios:

  1. The long term impacts of continuing to use the same system, and

  2. The long term impacts of switching to an alternative system, and not just considering the initial investment/learning curve etc.

We are going to compare the use of a paper-based system with a digital system for managing orders, deliveries, payments, customers and so on.

A Paper-based Delivery System

First, we should consider the physical use of paper and the experience for the team using a manual-based system.

Using paper relies on records and reports being error free. If mistakes are made, they can be costly down the line, but immediately the impact is the need to amend and recreate the document. Sometimes these errors are unavoidable, but a lot of the time these mistakes are simply human-error and the result is duplication of efforts.

These errors result in both costs spent on the physical paper, as well as the investment in your team members having to rewrite the documents. This risk becomes magnified as more paper is needed to manage a growing business.

The chance of manual error also means your team spends time reviewing documents, and administrative tasks involve data-entrance into an existing ERP system you have in place. These impacts are entirely effort-led, and the result is a team strained by the need to manually enter data each day.

Thirdly, the delay in accessibility to data naturally prevents workflow from being as productive as it could with alternative systems.

Finally, storage of paper records relies on physical space. This space only adds costs to the business, for records that may not ever be reviewed or found again once the day has passed.

Once you factor all of these impacts in with the initial cost for paper and ink, it’s clear to see that paper-based records and reports can potentially put a huge strain on your business, and your teams.

Now let's take a look at the alternative, taking the example of a fully-digital system.

A Digital alternative

When your driver makes a delivery, that proof-of-delivery or site-summary report only ever has to be created once. There are no stock or printing-related costs associated with that record.

Any given E-PoD can be made accessible to your entire team instantly, no matter where they are. This form can be available both online and offline, and the data is secure, meaning no duplication of efforts will ever be necessary and your business has the option to then store this record in a suitable way.

There is no additional cost or effort involved with that record being written up, to the point where it is logged in the system. This immediate access results in improved efficiency, productivity and visibility - At a glance, any of your team members can have a clear, up-to-date view of the activities for that day, week, or month. These records can quickly be reviewed at a later date if they are needed for reference.

There is no delay in the transfer of information between team members, and any handling required using paper-records is completely eliminated.

In this way, you can see how the user experience between paper and digital records is completely transformed.

Digital records remain the same as paper-based records in terms of the risk for human-error, however the way they are corrected is entirely different - With a clean, accessible database with all records available, your teams can improve the speed at which they review each delivery report, vehicle inspection, or invoice, make changes with no need to duplicate a report.

The accessibility and flexibility of using a digital system to record deliveries, organise the business and operate generally means administrative tasks can be reduced, along with the overall time spent organising day-to-day activities. These benefits can then be factored in alongside the reduced costs of having no physical paper, printing and ink supplies to maintain.

To summarise the above, by going paperless your business can:

  1. Triple processing capacity, allowing you to scale as productively as possible while managing demand effectively.

  2. Increase productivity by 50%, with less time fire-fighting, duplicating records, reviewing records for mistakes or waiting for a lag-time between delivery completion and the records arriving at the office.

  3. Have immediate access to information for critical decision making - improving responsiveness and customer service.

  4. Reduce storage cost by 80%

With a quick setup and short learning curve, your business can continue service with a new level of efficiency, reflecting directly on increasing profits and happier customers.

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