Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Imaging Innovations-Turning Paper Mountains into Molehills

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Imaging Innovations-Turning Paper Mountains into Molehills

Article excerpt

If you could request a new piece of furniture for your office, what would it be? If you chose a bookcase, credenza, or storage cabinet, you'd probably have to stand in line for a while. In the Information Age, companies of all sizes are finding themselves deluged with documentation, manuals, handbooks, and other published data. And oversized materials -- such as building and construction plans, drawings, and maps -- can be particularly cumbersome and rake up valuable storage space.

Even if you have the most carefully archived and catalogued set of records, it still rakes time to sort through and find a desired document, use it, and then return the piece to its original location so that it won't be "missing in action" for the next user.

Fortunately, this is also the Computer Age. Advances in scanning and imaging technology now make it possible to turn mountains of paperwork into CD-ROMs, high-density tape cartridges, and other media that literally fit in the palm of our hands. Faster and more powerful computers, augmented by increasingly sophisticated search engines, also make it possible to manipulate and search these microdatabases. All the user has to do is ask. In a flash, the answer is there in words and pictures.

Show and Tell

Imaging technology has helped revolutionize the computer database, which itself was a revolution in information management. By scanning photos, plans, drawings, and other records, we can add visual elements that enhance the value of the database. Users don't have to imagine what something looks like; they can see it.

The imaging component of a database can be as simple or extensive as the user's needs. Online project records can include everything from correspondence to complete construction documents. Facilities managers can integrate photographs of their buildings as well as diagrams of the smallest plumbing components. Archived maintenance records can be updated as necessary without affecting valuable historical data.

However, while newfound shelf and filing cabinet space is certainly a big advantage, the biggest benefit of imaging technology lies in how that information is used. If your information management processes can be made more efficient, your other work processes will improve as well. Instead of physically handling paper, data searches, decisions, and transfers can be performed electronically

Automated Archives

Staples, one of the nation's largest retailers of office products, faced a document management dilemma of a different sort. The company's fast growth had produced a plethora of design documents for stores and distribution centers across the country. Andrew Thorpe, Staples' manager of architecture, planning, and design, says that managing these documents was difficult at best. "We keep a paper copy of all stores in a central location. It used to be that a person would have to go to the Plan Room, locate the drawings, get them copied and return the originals to the proper slot. We don't track this process, so if someone is making a copy, the originals are simply not there for anybody else to use. And if the drawings are misplaced, we might never find them."

The answer was to scan the documents to CD-ROMs, then develop a viewing system that indexed the files by store number, state, and city. The project, which is currently under way, will provide a convenient, organized filing and tracking system that can be updated as the company continues to grow.

Flexibility is one of the biggest attributes of imaging technology. Viewers and indexing structures are easily adaptable to a client's existing system. There's also an added element of security because the scanned images are write protected, which means that no one can accidentally change or delete the files.

"Archiving the drawings on CD-ROMs is a tremendous benefit to Staples," says Thorpe. "Anyone can find the drawings instantly and print them without restricting access. …

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