Driving Towards a Greener Future: Going Paperless 101
By Pranab Adhikari, Data Analyst Intern
At the City of Madison, where progress and sustainability need to intertwine more, Fleet staff are working hard to embrace innovation to protect the natural environment. Reducing our carbon footprint isn’t just about tailpipe emissions though. Everyone knows that every sheet of paper used for our critical workplace functions means dead trees up and down the supply chain, and living trees are the closest thing our planet has to lungs. And vendors needs to ship it all over to us as well using mostly diesel trucks. Our challenging multi-year journey towards becoming a paperless organization has made tangible progress, driven by a collective commitment to a greener and more efficient future.
Here we (digitally) print some of our efforts in this area, which have reduced our formerly enormous paper footprint by over 90%. All of these are replicable by any organization utilizing readily available technology. We are committed to tackling that last 10% in the coming months as well.
It’s necessary to study dozens of automotive trade publications for all levels of our staff to stay up-to-date in a fast-moving global industry defined by breakneck changes. Thankfully all of the cool magazines and manuals that for decades piled up all over our shops and offices, today present their content entirely online. We canceled every single paper subscription and where possible, switched to online subscriptions that show up in our email inboxes or on websites.
We’ve overhauled the out-of-town pool car reservation system. In the past, these reservations were tediously managed on paper and stored in binders. We took a digital leap by interacting with customers using existing email functions. With the implementation of a dedicated calendar on Microsoft Outlook, managing reservations are a breeze for all involved. Now, Fleet employees efficiently coordinate and monitor car reservations, freeing us from the shackles of traditional paperwork. This joins with our downtown pool car fleet online reservation system in partnership with IT, which has already leveraged the City Intranet for years.
We recognized the need to digitize our training records. The outdated method of maintaining training information on paper was not only cumbersome but also inefficient. Enter Microsoft Access, our solution to this challenge. Our comprehensive training database now tracks employee development, from onboarding and organizational development trainings, to specialized technical skill-building. With just a few clicks, supervisors can review completed trainings by employee and identify areas for further growth.
The transformation continued with the adoption of the Tyler MUNIS enterprise resource planning system. Before the MUNIS system was implemented, our organization faced the task of storing numerous invoices and receipts for over $20 million of external automotive business annually, leading us to keep boxes filled with paper documents, as we are obligated to retain them for seven years.
However, recognizing the need for a more efficient and eco-friendly approach, we collaborated closely with our vendors to make the transition from paper invoices to digital copies that can easily be emailed to us instead of snail-mailed, and uploaded as an attachment to our databases. This switch not only significantly lessened our environmental impact but also brought our vendor community together with us through a collective commitment to sustainability goals- and drastically reduced their postage bills along the way.
To enhance communication, work order data entry, and efficiency, we equipped every one of our fleet technicians with tablets in their own work bays. These devices replaced traditional paper memos with emails, fostering real-time information exchange and reducing paper waste on everything our technicians need to do.
Efficiency was further improved by digitizing parts requests from fleet technicians to parts technicians. We transitioned from the inconvenient paper requisition forms to a streamlined email process. Now, technicians can effortlessly submit requests, and our parts team can promptly address them, all without a single sheet of paper.
Daily fuel tracking and orders were next on our list for digital transformation. Embracing the power of Microsoft Excel, we eliminated the need for paper ledgers and streamlined this critical process. The result has been not only greater organization but also considerable paper savings.
The digitization journey extends to the all-important task we all have: timekeeping. We bid farewell to the cumbersome paper time card system for multiple shifts and shops and adopted the Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG) timekeeping system. The transition to the UKG timekeeping system revolutionized how we manage payroll records. Beyond the clear reduction in paper usage, this move brought forth unparalleled accuracy, security, and efficiency in processing payroll.
We’ve also revolutionized our general communications procedures. The traditional paper memos gave way to email announcements, enabling faster and more widespread dissemination of important information for all staff in their own workspace- along with training all staff to use Zoom for virtual meetings. Every employee having their own device makes this all possible.
We made significant strides in minimizing paper usage through automation. The majority of our fuel sites are now automated, particularly in terms of tracking the amount of fuel dispensed, for which vehicle, employee, and division, and recording the mileage readings of vehicles. This enables paperless monthly billing to client agencies and for Finance as well.
We are actively working on automating the remaining fuel sites. By doing so, we aim to accomplish our goal of a fully paperless fuel management system, contributing to a greener and more sustainable future while keeping all the vehicles running.
We’ve recycled what seems like tons of old paper files spanning back to the 1980s that were past the record retention period and littered our offices and shops, taking up space. Nobody was ever going to read these materials again anyway. Wherever possible all of these files are now in online folders for anybody who needs to use them.
While certain administrative tasks still necessitate paper, we are trying to tackle those last few processes as well. The journey towards becoming a paperless fleet service has been a collective effort, involving our staff, and the wider community that does business with us. Going paperless is not just a trend but a responsibility we owe to our planet. So, we extend the invitation to other agencies and organizations to join us in going paperless if you haven’t already. Together, we can make a positive impact and inspire change that will resonate for generations to come.
We hope you are employing some or all these methods too. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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