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Held Hostage by Paperwork


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Businesses are taking their sweet time divorcing themselves from paper-based processes in favor of digital ones. Paper is static, ever-growing, storage heavy, difficult to update, and almost impossible to share with others in an efficient manner without becoming quickly outdated. 

Check out these 8 paper traps that are eating away at your profits. 

1. Trapping Your Energy

Paper’s inefficiency begins with its physical and energy-intensive tactics. Paper, as a tangible item, requires physical use and interaction with people. Each time a piece of paper is printed, distributed, filed, stored, and retrieved, someone is expending energy to handle the piece of paper. The number of physical activities involved with distributing paper are enormous when you consider all the different sets of hands and the variety of machines it passes through.

2. Trapping Collaboration

At the project level, paper holds you hostage at first by slowing down sharing and collaborating on project documents. Project participants lose a lot of time physically following paper documents before using, reviewing, or changing them. Once they have the paper documents in hand and have completed their tasks, they still have to get the documents to the next person. The longer the line of reviewers and approvers, the longer it takes to finish the process. Collaboration suffers along the way because people are waiting for the next piece of paper.

3. Trapping Time

The delays in processing paper documents lead to work errors. This first shows up in activities where people are waiting for instructions. Worse though, is when they perform their tasks with the wrong information based on the wrong specifications. These errors on activities not only lead to delays, but many times they are the sources of rework, an increasingly expensive aspect of modern, complex projects. Paper continues to hold you hostage to inefficiency by making it very difficult and time-consuming to process revisions to the scope of the project.

4. Trapping Change

If anything is guaranteed on a construction project, it’s that change is going to happen. Processing changes efficiently leads to better quality, less rework, and projects finished on time. But, when you process changes using paper documents, you are using a second-rate system. Many changes rely on other documentation such as specifications. With a paper-based system, more time is lost as people locate the required supporting documentation for processing the change. Anytime you are using paper to make revisions, it is a time-consuming process.

5. Trapping Clarity

Pens and pencils are frequently used on paper documents. They often get marked up with handwriting, which leads to yet another of paper’s hostage-holding tactics. Handwritten notes, penciled-in drawings, and math computations stuck in the margins of paper documents are often illegible or not even related to the documents at all. When questions arise, the notes can be confusing, or get misinterpreted. They raise questions in the reader’s mind, slowing them down and raising doubts about the document’s accuracy.

6. Trapping Version Control

Paper is also incredibly difficult for maintaining version control. This doesn't only apply to drawings, but also to many other types of construction documentation. There are few things more important in construction documentation than knowing the version, and acting on the most recent version. When work crews rely on the wrong version of a drawing, the stage is set for errors and rework, not to mention delays and potential claims. Besides version tracking being difficult using paper, tracking the change history is very often lacking or incomplete. Many functions in construction require knowing who the last person was to review, input, or approve, and without reliable change history tracking, it’s just not possible.

7. Trapping Accuracy

Paper will hold you hostage to inaccuracies. A major part of the inaccuracies you face are duplication and redundant information. Because paper processes must flow through many hands, they are prone to error and oversight. Your paper documents end up with more duplications and irrelevant information.

8. Trapping the Vision

Paper-based processes cause people to wait. And as they wait, money and profits are slipping through your fingers. Paper-based systems in construction also contribute to a lack of a unified vision as to what is supposed to get built. Without this unified vision, very often one participant doesn't know what the other participant is doing, and that leads to duplication and rework.

These are only some of the issues a modern company faces when it uses paper-based construction processes. Take a closer look at your processes and see what paper is costing you.

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