Twelve Ways to Improve Your Paper Filing System
Every organization needs records management and a records management program. After establishing a records management program and appointing a records management officer, a retention / control schedule should be developed. As needs for filing system improvement and development become apparent, the following twelve-step strategy is recommended.
- Purge Inactive Files – Remove inactive and duplicate records from your active filing system in order to improve retrieval and access times. In additional to improving response times, your active filing system will require less floor space. Do not dispose of inactive records at this point.
- Inventory Records – Conduct a thorough records inventory . An inventory of your records is just as important to your organization as inventorying parts are to a Parts Manager. The records inventory will help you evaluate labeling standards, the flow of information, and will be necessary if you plan on converting files to a side-tab file system or Records Management Software.
- Convert to a Side-Tab Folder System – Traditional drawer cabinets are not space efficient and slow the file retrieval and refilling process. Shelf-based side-tab filing systems require less floorspace and quicker record retrieval. Do some research to see if converting to a shelf-based side-tab filing system is cost justifiable for your organization. Serious consideration should be given to careful planning, cost justifying, and implementing filing systems appropriate for the needed applications.
- Evaluate Current Labeling Standards – Evaluate your current file labeling system to determine if changes need to be made to improve the speed and accuracy of filing. For example, a simple color-coded year label can change the laborious project of purging inactive records into a simple task. Survey your staff and users for their opinions of labeling methods that would make accessing files quicker and easier.
- Choose the correct folder – There are many different types of folders to choose from based on activity, number of documents, and length of time records will be kept in an active status.
- Use Indexes or Partitions – Using folders with indexes and partitions will organize and standardize documents in the file. Organized information provides quicker access to the desired documents and to help maintain the integrity of the file.
- Invest in an On-Demand Labeling System – On-Demand labeling is an economical way to improve your filing system. On-Demand labeling software allows you to print an one-piece label from an ink jet or laser printer. Labels are typically 7 "to 8" long and can be printed with any type or style of color-coded labels, name and address information, and barcode labels. On-Demand labeling eliminates individual hand-wrapping of color-coded labels and the additional tasks of typing file name labels. On-Demand labeling can produce alphanumeric labels, top-tab and side-tab labels, and different label styles for different departments within your organization.
- Standardize – Standardization of filing systems should be a major goal. Standardizing equipment, supplies, software, procedures, and policies results in economies of scale and uniformity throughout the organization.
- Implement Processes – Implement appropriate processes, technology , equipment, and supplies for each filing system application. Converting to open-shelf file shelving, implementing color coding and bar coding, implementing file indexing, file tracking, and a records retention schedule results in a system that can be integrated with other information systems within the organization.
- Implement Records Management Software – An array of quality records management software packages exist for use in augmenting records management programs, systems, and functions. These programs can prepare and maintain records retention / control schedules, track files and boxes in the office to in storage, and help manage retention of records.
- Develop a Records Management Manual – Every organization needs a records management manual. The manual should be a reference guide for your organization and a training tool for new personnel. The manual should provide an explanation of every filing system in your organization including detailed filing procedures. Build in a section on frequently asked questions that can be easily developed from questions asked by members or your organization. Considering complimenting your manual with videos to make learning easy.
- Report Savings / Accomplishments – Prepare an annual report (at least) detailing savings. Savings report should include details space saved, personnel savings due to converting to a file system that provides more efficient access.