Every week, I feel like I'm discovering new ways for companies to reduce the amount of paper and ink they use each day -- not to mention the amount they spend shipping pieces of paper hither and yon for signing, processing, and filing (by no means a trivial cost, either, considering that a single 6 oz. large envelope shipped via USPS Express can cost around $19.50 or $4.80 if it's sent Priority).
My most recent conversation on the subject of reducing printing and mailing waste was with representatives of GXS and Verizon, who talked up the environmental and efficiency benefits of SCA (supply-chain automation). The companies just so happen to offer, jointly, a supply-chain management solution called GXS Trading Grid that runs over Verizon Business' Managed Network Services. The idea behind SCA is to securely convert manual, paper-based processes into automated electronic transactions among vendors, partners, and customers. In doing so, companies can reduce the use of paper and expensive printer ink, as well as shrink their monthly postage expenses.
[ To learn more about reducing paper waste and mailing expenses, please read "Six ways to cut waste with HR software,", "Fight rising fuel surcharges with e-signatures," and "Follow the paperless trail". ]
The concepts behind supply-chain automation should be familiar to anyone who has ever ordered a product from, say, Amazon.com. There, you go online and place an order electronically, then make your payment, again electronically. Amazon sends you an order confirmation via e-mail. You'll also receive an e-mail notice when your package ships. No paper is used except the receipt you receive with your package.
Yet in the business world, many companies continue to rely on paper documents for all those aforementioned transactions, manually mailing out order confirmations, order-status updates, bills, and payments. All that paper means more time spent internally processing invoices, too. In fact, according to Aberdeen Group, for a company that processes 500,000 invoices per year, the cost to process a manual invoice can be reduced by 60 percent or more when automation is implemented.
On top of the efficiency gains from SCA, GXS and Verizon cite potential environmental benefits of automating the estimated 40 billion business-to-business transactions undertaken worldwide each year. Those figures are as follows -- and reflect savings just from eliminating the paper and energy necessary to print documents but not the resources that go into shipping them to and fro: