• Alison Folwell

Paperwork piling up? This could relieve the pressure...

Relieving the pressure of paperwork

A recent piece of research by Parker and Chandlers Building Supplies and reported in the Builders Merchants Journal found that paperwork is one of the biggest causes of stress within the building trade, with over 60% of general builders agreeing that they struggle to keep paperwork in order.

While Parkers and Chandlers have gone above and beyond to create an online “paperwork portal” for builder customers to help them streamline admin, we started thinking about it from the merchant perspective – how much time is spent within the average builders’ merchant every year on paperwork?

What IS paperwork and why is there so much of it?

It’s easy to grumble about “admin” but what actually makes up “paperwork”? Invoices, quotes, receipted, proof of delivery notes, POs, staff contracts, product certification, stock counts, personnel details, banking letters and notifications, internal communication…. Once you start thinking about all the areas of the business where an administrative trail is required, it really starts to add up.

These days, a lot of it isn’t physically paper-based, but some still is, leading to a mix of information in different formats. That lack of consistency in itself can lead to issues, with staff having work out where particular records or details are kept in order to check, send or reference them.

If you add up all the micro-processes within your business, from creating each document in the first place to filing it, finding it again, reporting on it or sending it to the intended recipient – how much time is spent on paperwork every year? (Tip – don’t try to work this out. It will just depress you.)

So what’s the answer?

Well like most things in life, there is no quick fix or silver bullet, sadly. But there is a lot you can do – and it will come as no surprise to you that our number one piece of advice is to invest in a decent digital ERP system where everything can be stored consistently and accessibly. But there’s more to it than that, and it will take buy-in across your workforce, and the right systems in place, to make it happen.

Firstly, analyse your current processes. As with any issue, understanding the current status is essential, so it’s a good idea to consider just how many areas involve administrative processes.

A system like Merchanter means that every member of the team is recording every process, transaction, stock movement and delivery consistently and using one, integrated system.

That means the information held by the system is always up to date and accurate, as people can update orders and processes from anywhere, at any time, meaning you always have the latest view of information.

It also means that information is recorded consistently in a place that is easy for it to be found. You don’t need a computer science degree to navigate the system – it’s pretty intuitive, so if you’re looking for the latest quotes for a specific customers, it only takes a click or two to find it. Ditto product certification records, despatch notes, POs, delivery notes and much, much more.

Think how much less time you’d spend searching for documents if you could find exactly what you wanted within three clicks.

Automation saves time

The other annoying thing about a lot of admin is that it’s repetitive. So again, technology can help here. Merchanter has a really flexible set-up so you can automate certain admin tasks, such as invoicing, payment reminders and much more. Not only does that save time, it also eliminates a lot of human error, as it can be set up to go on particular dates up front so there’s no danger of forgetting, or being missed if a particular person is off that day.

You can also automate alerts and reminders to prompt action at particular times. Whether that’s a credit control or stock level alert, a margin protection reminder or a warning about missed deliveries, it keeps you in control at all times with less effort, in less time.

There is also a lot of time saving to be made when it comes to reporting. When information is easily accessible, reporting becomes much less of a chore, and rather than having to painstakingly copy data from once source to another, you can simply export it, copy and paste or just generate a report right then and there. Simple.

Every saved keystroke counts

The productivity and output levels of modern business is phenomenal - or it can be. The more we streamline processes and let technology work as a tool on our behalf, the more our businesses are capable of scaling up. Imagine the cumulative time spent on keying in orders, stock takes and sales in an average year – and then imagine how much time could be saved if each process only took a few seconds rather than a few minutes.

Perhaps it doesn’t sound like a big deal that a PO can be raised in 10 seconds, straight from a quote – but if that PO used to take 5 minutes, that’s a lot of time saved in a year. And time, as we all know, is precious. Merchanter lets you streamline every process, every information search and every transaction, and those microsavings add up to a really significant compound saving over time.

Pass the savings on

The more streamlined and efficient your business is, the more of a pleasure it will be to deal with from a supplier and customer perspective. Less error, less delay, less waste - more great service, on-time deliveries and up to date records. When records are stored consistently it's easy for any member of the team to answer a customer query instantly, it's easy for a supplier to check an invoice status, and it's easy for your staff to feel empowered and in control.

Digital paperwork is more environmentally friendly

The other benefit of a digital system for your paperwork is that, as more and more of the paper trail becomes digital, not only is it easier to find what you're looking for, it's also much less draining on physical paper resources. There is a bigger knock-on effect of the sustainability factor throughout the business too, but on a micro level, every sheet of paper saved is a good thing.

Every business needs to find ways to become more efficient and enable staff to be more productive rather than more busy. Merchanter is designed for exactly that purpose – to make every day that little bit simpler, and to allow you to achieve more with less effort.

If you’re interested in trialling the ground-breaking simplicity of Merchanter for yourself, please register for the free online demo system here.

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