Anyone who’s done a home remodel knows the incredible amount of paperwork it generates. Agreements, invoices, punch lists, change orders, and more have to be mailed, faxed, consulted, and filed, so that by the time the project is done, the homeowner can be forgiven for feeling as if he’s drowning in forms.
For a large and growing state school, projects abound?and so does the paper trail they produce. California Polytechnic State University generates numerous project-related agreements, which give rise to numerous invoices, and all of this documentation has to be reviewed and approved by a cross-campus selection of administrators in different departments and buildings. Once the paperwork is approved, it must be made available to the vast array of project managers, inspectors, construction administrators, contract analysts, and buyers who need to consult with it on a weekly basis, if not more often. In the past, that meant making and distributing hard copies for whoever needed them.
The system was problematic for Cal Poly on many levels. Creating, copying, filing, retrieving, and sending documents was time-consuming; the flood of paperwork was space-consuming. And for a school that has promoted its reduction of energy use by 15 percent per square foot over five years, the paper-based consumption of natural resources was a nightmare.
“We were doing so many projects,” recalls Leigh Ramirez, associate director of facility services and facilities planning & capital projects. “We just finished a $300 million project, and we’re starting a Center for Science project that’s over $100 million, and we have a hundred smaller projects going at any one time. I was looking at all the paper involved in that, and everyone that received a copy had to file and retrieve it. We were spending too much time having people file and retrieve documents.”
Cal Poly’s solution didn’t eliminate paperwork, but it greatly reduced it. A cross-functional team in Facility Services developed an electronic file repository to store scanned documents for quick, easy access. Staff simply collect all of the paperwork related to a project, convert the hard copies to PDFs, and upload them into the e-directory. What Ramirez calls an “intuitive” architecture allows users to find what they need easily; security measures allow those who need the information to access it electronically no matter where they are.
In addition to time saved, Cal Poly has realized a more meaningful benefit: a reduction in paper use by about 600 pages a week?or 31,200 sheets a year.
“We were facing budget cuts, and we had the desire to be sustainable,” Ramirez says. “Those two things really led to the point that we needed some better way to do this. We couldn’t add any positions, and we knew we couldn’t get a true document management system. This seemed like a great alternative.” -T.D.