Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ways to save paper

THERE was a time when one needed a fax machine to send faxes, a printer to print documents and a scanner to create soft copies. Today, multi-function devices that incorporate printing, faxing and scanning capabilities – a printer, a fax machine and a scanner all rolled into one – are becoming ever popular. They not only save on paper, but also speed up processes and increase efficiency. Some even allow you to send documents directly to your e-mail.


One of the biggest revolutions of recent times is the PDF, or Portable Document Format, developed by Adobe Systems, which allows sending and receiving of documents that appear and print virtually the same on any computer system. The PDF also enables the managing of processes that normally require paper.

Fuji Xerox’s DocuWorks is a software that basically enables the user to carry out everything that one would normally do with pieces of paper on a desk. In short, it allows creating and managing paper in the digital world. Lee Chin Guan, Fuji Xerox senior manager of office product and solution marketing, reveals a new invention still under development.

“It’s a very simple concept,” he says. “With thermal fax, the print disappears after one year. But this is different. The ink from the toner will disappear within 24 or 48 hours after printing. Then you can reuse the paper, What you need is the information and not the piece of paper. So now I can have a piece of paper with information on it which I can reuse after I am done with the information. That will definitely save a lot of trees.”

Today, one can find notebooks and PCs in almost every nook and corner of the world. We hardly write letters any more, and prefer to send e-mail. Even seasonal greeting cards have been replaced by e-cards. Clearly technology and the advent of the Internet have, in some ways, reduced the use of paper.

Lee Yu Kit, IBM Malaysia chief technologist, lists tools such as e-mail, instant chat, online virtual meetings, teamrooms (common repositories of shared information) as paper-saving solutions that enable collaboration in a business environment. Document management systems organise information for access and retrieval, and allow users to scan and move around electronic images instead of paper.

“The missing dimension here is the leap in productivity you achieve,” says Yu Kit. “So quite apart from saving physical paper, you can now do things far more quickly and efficiently than before, such as searching for that note that was written eight months ago instead of sifting through drawers full of paper. So the compelling argument for going paperless is efficiency, accuracy and cost reduction.”

Christopher Reid, Asia Pacific vice president and general manager of InfoPrint Solutions, says the company invented some core technologies called advance function printing back in the mid-80s that allowed customers to start changing the way they produce transactional documents as the Internet started to evolve and people moved to electronic documents.

“The unique architecture allows customers to break all their documents down to the most simple components, archive them very efficiently, using tools such as IBM Content Manager OnDemand,” says Reid. “And then they can be distributed in any media – SMS, fax, email, PDF. Or they can be printed in a variety of formats.”

What would be the advice for offices and organisations that want to reduce paper consumption and be greener?

“What I would recommend is that an IT person look at the technology they’re using today and enforce the policies and tools that are already available in the technology they bought,” says Reid. “Most multi-function devices already have a lot of advanced tools for forcing things like duplex printing, making sure that toner is conserved. Have less devices but use them more efficiently, centralise print and make it easier for people to connect, print and manage their output.”

Yu Kit urges companies to examine why they want to go paperless and plan accordingly, because going paperless may mean a radical redesign of the way they work, and some redesign of space as filing cabinets are reduced.

“Educate yourself on the technology, what it can do for you, don’t believe everything vendors tell you,” he says. “Decide for yourself, and come up with evaluation criteria best suited to your business.”

The Star
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