The Paperless Office - Myth or Possibility?

The paperless office? For now, it exists in the same mythical 21st century inhabited by the Jetsons and their flying car. Despite laptops, handhelds, portable phones and a bevy of other digital gadgets, Americans print an estimated 600 million documents every day.

There’s no doubt that digital records offer benefits -- easy document creation; rapid search and retrieval of information; inexpensive, speedy transmission of data; and the ability to reuse or adapt a document. But no digital technology so far has replicated the usability and familiarity of paper.

But make no mistake, digital technology has changed the way we do business in fundamental ways. Paper still remains the base operating system on which all information can eventually be disseminated. What has changed is the type of delivery vehicle used to share ideas and information. We can share volumes of information electronically via e-mail. We can dress up the information with pictures, drawings or graphs so that the information is readily absorbed. We can distribute information across the globe with a click of a mouse. And what do you do when you receive information? You probably print the document for your review and storage.

Colleges and universities have significant space issues. They need to place more information -- in more multimedia forms -- in more locations, accessible by more individuals. While it’s wise to decrease paper use wherever possible, the fact is that it’s virtually impossible to eliminate paper. The challenge, then, is to find better ways to store it.

Mobile storage provides maximum storage density by eliminating the space required for multiple stationary aisles. Mounted on carriages and rails, these movable storage systems compact to turn wasted aisle space into productive workspace. Until recently, mobile storage systems were available only as permanently installed systems. Now, new freestanding options allow for easy, above-the-floor installation of smaller units that can be readily adapted as needs change.

Why mobile storage? First and foremost, mobile storage saves space. Tons of space. At the beginning of any project, the space saving can mean a drastic reduction in the construction cost of any new building or renovation. High-density storage can reduce physical floor space requirements compared to traditional storage methods by 100 percent or more. Above-the-floor systems can increase storage capacity by 40 percent. Mobile systems can also be used in existing buildings, maximizing space efficiency.

Information storage technologies will continue to grow. Each of us will be able to access more and more data from a variety of sources. And as we access more information, we will undoubtedly create a greater need to store our responses to this information. Storing this information in the most accessible medium available still means paper. It is still the “base operating system” of choice.

Mobile storage, whether installed or freestanding, provides the flexibility and space savings necessary to accommodate the needs of the 21st century office. With better information storage, university researchers can forget about the paperless office and start working on that flying car.

John Fisher is national sales manager at Traversa, an increased-density mobile storage manufacturer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis. He can be reached at 920/563-0566 or at

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