Debates over the effectiveness and necessity of government regulations have long been a fixture of political debates. The question is usually whether, or to what extent, government agencies should intervene in the economy to protect citizens from the costs or “externalities” associated with commercial enterprise.
Aside from the question of whether regulations are necessary, however, there is little debate over their cost: most measures, including those taken by the government itself, paint a striking picture. Regulations cost billions, if not trillions of dollars every year—and they continue to grow.
Businesses have limited means at their disposal to cope with these demands. Litigation and political lobbying are options, but are only viable for companies large enough to absorb the costs.
What, then, can companies do to combat these soaring costs? There is one key way in which businesses, both large and small, continue to shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to regulatory compliance: continued reliance on paper-based systems.
According to studies, companies are effectively magnifying their regulatory costs by billions of dollars every year by relying on paper systems for compliance. Once physical storage, disposal, postage, administrative labor, and other variables are factored in, the actual cost of paper can be up to 31 times the price of the paper itself.
Fortunately, companies that use maintenance software systems with inspections functionality can easily reduce their reliance on paper by moving key regulatory processes to a secure, centralized digital format.
Here are 5 key ways that maintenance software solutions can help companies make this transition:
- Companies with a lot of assets don’t have to invest thousands of dollars in paper to track inspections. The amount of paper consumed in the inspections process can pile up quickly. Especially in cases where inspections are performed by multiple staff members, a single asset could generate 5-10 forms that must then be filed and stored, driving up aggregate costs. A properly configured digital system with mobile functionality can virtually eliminate the need for paper, dramatically reducing costs.
- Work orders can be automatically generated for assets that fail inspection. A properly configured maintenance software program with integrated inspections functionality can trigger work orders the moment an asset fails inspection. These digital work orders can be sent to designated maintenance personnel via email or SMS, eliminating the costs and delays associated with physically printing them out and delivering them.
- Paper records are prone to damage and misplacement. Storing inspection and maintenance data in a centralized, digital format is the best way to ensure that this crucial information will be available, and easy to find, when it’s needed. One of the most overlooked, yet potentially massive costs associated with paper systems is the risk of losing or damaging records that may be needed to prove compliance. The result can be massive fines or litigation if something goes wrong and there’s no way to prove that necessary inspections and maintenance were performed. Maintenance management solutions minimize this risk by creating a digital book of record to prove compliance.
- Regulations can be attached directly to assets for easy reference. Asset tracking systems like ManagerPlus allow users to attach documents and website links directly to assets, making it easy to refer to them while performing inspections or maintenance work. This is yet another way to reduce paper consumption, as workers do not need to carry around physical copies as they perform their work. It is also provides a simple way to update regulations as they change—the websites for government regulatory agencies are routinely updated to reflect current rules and regulations, including any recent changes.
- Digital inspection records do not have to be collated and filed. In paper systems, papers must be carefully organized to ensure that all information pertaining to a specific asset and/or inspection can be found in one place. This process requires administrative labor and is prone to error. In digital systems, all of this information is automatically stored in one easy-to-find place. Additionally, any notes made on an asset or inspection will be easy to access for other workers, helping prevent redundant, unnecessary work and other errors.
If recent years are any guide, government regulation isn’t likely to slow down any time soon. Outside of the costlier proactive steps that larger companies are taking to combat it, the most effective tool companies have at their disposal is software that can help cut paper-related costs and streamline processes.