Laserfiche Global Municipal Exchange Issue #10
Instead of being one small part of a job, the need to transport paper files can often seem to be the job itself. That assessment applies to tasks ranging from major projects such as moving an entire department to a new location, to more routine jobs such as preparing and transporting files for courtroom appearances and out-of-town hearings.Transporting paper files. It can bring your work to a complete halt.
Municipal space planners have been known to leave the clerk’s office where it is rather than move it to a better location. They just don’t want to deal with moving all those paper files.
In these days of tight municipal budgets and declining staff resources, finding better ways to deal with this issue is a necessity.
When first confronted with replacing the carpet on two floors in City Hall, Dick Crumb, I.S. Manager for the City of Shoreview, MN, braced himself for a major moving project.
“The carpeting was dilapidated after 12 years of coffee spills and heavy foot traffic, especially after our brutal Minnesota winters,” Crumb says. “The project entailed moving all the workers and furniture and then dismantling 20 offices and cubicles on each floor in order to tear up the old carpet.
“We were also confronted with moving all the paper files and a dozen overflowing filing cabinets off each floor before we took up the carpet. We would then have to move it all back on the floors afterwards.
“It was going to take a lot of time to move the paper, not to mention the disruption of everyone’s work. All that just to have the filing cabinets sitting exactly where they started.
“I could probably have persuaded our city employees to all pitch in and help. And we looked into using a third party company to move us. It was going to be expensive, but would have saved a lot of time and effort because they could do it at night. We weren’t looking forward to getting started with any of these options, however.”
21st Century Solution
As he mulled over the conventional options for transporting paper files, Crumb began to give serious consideration to a more radical solution. He ultimately pursued this option and it proved to be a classic case of turning a problem into an opportunity.
“We had recently installed our first document imaging system and we were getting started with scanning files,” he says. “I had been looking for a way to get our conversion to electronic filing into high gear very quickly.
“All that got me thinking that we would be way ahead of the game if we could get as much paper on the two floors as possible into the system. Our document imaging system would be humming and we’d only have to move the paper once: Out the door forever.
“To make it happen, we decided that any paper files that could be readily scanned and thrown away be scanned and processed while employees packed up their offices. Each department was responsible for their own sets of file cabinets.The results have been very gratifying.
“From a space standpoint, we’ve eliminated enough filing cabinets to be able to create six new 8×10 cubicles with the area we’ve saved. It is enabling us to provide work areas for our summer interns and permanent overnight staff, something that we have wished for a long time, but never had the space for.
“As an organization, we’ve built up a truly impressive database of electronic files. As a result, each department affected by the carpeting situation is now much more committed to, and familiar with, our electronic filing option. We have a more prepared staff who are primed for additional document scanning and indexing. Everyone prefers being able to find documents in seconds instead of wasting precious time looking for paper files – including our City Manager.”
Crumb adds, “Before we had document imaging, we were afraid to throw a document away. The thinking was that Murphy’s Law would come into play and we would need that document the minute it was gone. The end result was we kept everything that came in the door and filed it away somewhere because we didn’t want to toss it. Of course finding it again if we ever did need it was another story.
“Having a document imaging system gives you a sense of security because we’re no longer stuck with cabinets full of paper. We can always find the information if we need it – and find it quickly.
“To me, saving staff time looking for documents is a bigger bonus than the space savings we have profited from. It doesn’t help to have the document filed away somewhere if you can’t find it when you need it – or if it takes hours to locate it. Our imaging system now allows us to look up council reports, budget information, purchase orders, invoices and meeting minutes in seconds – and we never have to leave our seats to do it.”
This newsletter is an open space for you to share your experiences and knowledge. If you’d like to suggest a document related conundrum for a future issue, please drop us an e-mail at [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you