Automating Workflow to Enhance Office Services

For several years, we have been teaming with one of the nation’s leading law firms to manage a range of document management and litigation support services. A vital part of the service team’s mission is to enable the firm to continuously implement business process improvements that, based on innovation and technology, would help the firm better focus on what it does best: practice law.

One key service is managing the firm’s print/copy/scanning and mail center operations. This included team members doing hourly mail runs every day during late afternoon and early evening hours to collect word processing projects from mail bins located on numerous floors throughout the office complex. The vast majority of these legal documents require a quick processing turnaround time.

Seeing an opportunity

Because it continuously monitors processes to potentially enhance them, the team saw an opportunity. The mail run process required one or more staff members to take time away from copy/print/scanning and other jobs they were working on at the moment in order to complete the mail runs. The problem was that for every hourly mail run, 90 percent of the time there were no projects in the bins.

Also, because the mail runs were implemented hourly, if a legal professional put a document in a bin at 6:10 pm, that project would remain in the bin for 50 minutes until the next pickup. That’s valuable time during which a team member could already have been working on a project that most likely required completion as soon as possible. The team transformed the workflow process by crafting a solution that simultaneously elevated both the document management pick up process, mail management activities as well as office support services in general.

The solution is one example of what we refer to as intelligent office services, a suite of solutions that enables organizations to advance such vital office activities as hoteling, conference room reservations, mail and print center support and office concierge services to provide a superior experience for employees and their clients.

In the case of the law firm, the team crafted a new workflow system that would eliminate dedicated runs to check the document bins. Instead, team members would know precisely when documents were placed in the bins. This way they could retrieve and begin working on the documents much more quickly and efficiently. Additionally, the gains in time and efficiency would free up staff to provide more value-added support services throughout the office. The team proceeded to implement and test a creative technology solution that would pave the way for the new approach.

A creative workflow solution

The solution included installing motion-activated sensors above each mail/document bin. The sensors register when a document is placed in a bin and immediately send an audible, blinking signal to the iPads (or mobile phones, tablets, etc.) of service team members, alerting them that a document is ready for pickup. The indicator signal stays active until it is turned off. The system also includes a five-second delay before the next signal is sent. This way, a staff member receiving multiple signals is alerted that documents are accumulating in a specific bin.

A key benefit is that as soon as a signal is received, a team member can start heading to the bin for a pickup. Projects are being retrieved and worked on much faster and interoffice mail is being processed more efficiently. There is another significant advantage. With the elimination of dedicated runs, the service team requires fewer staff members to manage the bins and has gone from one person responsible for every two floors to one person attending every three floors.

This means that not only are team members spending more time on copy/print/scanning and mail management activities, but the staff is providing higher level office concierge services to the firm’s employees. Rather than just focusing on doing hourly bin runs, staff members now spend more time on the office floors greeting employees, getting to know them personally and anticipating and taking care of a variety of their daily office support needs.

Currently, the system has been successfully tested and implemented in the law firm’s main office. Based on positive feedback, we are discussing plans with the firm to roll out the new system firm-wide. The solution illustrates how automating workflow can support a company’s commitment to implementing new ideas that help it leverage innovation and continuous improvement for advancing business success in the days ahead.

Ken Neal

is a certified enterprise content management practitioner (ecmp) and director of corporate communications for Canon Business Process Services, a leader in managed services and technology.