This blog series highlights the components of a successful physical filing system. In part one, we introduced the concept of a complete filing system and took a look at the first three components, including storage equipment, container and coding.
Now we dive into the final two components by highlighting helpful file management tools and the keys to implementing a new filing system.
4.0 File management tools
In addition to the essential components detailed in part one, there are a number of helpful tools which minimize search time and save labor costs.
— File tracking software. Offers RIM professionals a single, secure software solution to organize, manage and mobilize both physical and digital information together.
— Outguides. A helpful tool to identify and control records removed from the shelf. Outguides mark the spot where a file needs to be returned and hold incoming material while the folder is out.
— Charge-out slips. Used in conjunction with outguides, charge-out slips track the name of the borrower and when the file was used.
— Unit boxes. Provide additional protection for files and enhance the effectiveness of color-coding. Specific shelving types accommodating these, and these can be easily back-shifted to make room for new records.
It’s important to have a plan in place before starting to implement a new or updated filing system. You want to make sure the security of your records remains intact and there is minimal disruption to your daily operations. Depending on the scale of the change, you may opt to do it internally or feel the need to reach out to an experienced partner.
A few of the conversion project scenarios to keep in mind:
— File renumbering
— Conversion to space-efficient folder formats and shelving styles
— Conversion to color-coded labels for faster file retrieval
— File audits, reorganization and reassembly
— Merging of two or more filing systems (often the result of a merger or acquisition)
If the plan is to tackle this project internally, a suggested starting point would be implementing a day-forward approach. After training employees, you’ll pick a date to start using the new filing system with all new records. This allows you to go back and adjust the old files over the course of a few weeks or months without making additional work every time you create a new record.
Other factors to consider during implementation:
— Consider the need for additional storage equipment. Depending on how many files you produce in one year, your existing equipment might last a limited amount of time.
— Create a plan for determining when files are removed from your active filing collection and archived/destroyed to make room for new incoming files.
—Remember there is a capacity to each major system. Make sure the file sequence you choose can accommodate new records.
Why it matters
Whether you are the final decision maker or you need to convince someone else, you’re going to need to ‘make the business case’ before launching a new or updated filing system. While discussing the change, it’s important to remember the benefits and savings associated with a comprehensive filing system.
— Reduce misfiles and lost files. If everything is labeled and a color-coded approach is installed, the number of misfiles and lost files can be reduced.
— Labor savings. In addition to reducing the time it takes to locate a record by up to 40%, you’ll also reduce the time it takes to process new records. Simply place a label on a side-tab folder and put away according to your color-coded system.
— Clean up filing room. An organized office will increase productivity, reduce stress and keep employees engaged. A comprehensive filing system helps you get and stay organized.
— Space savings. A move to high-density mobile shelving can increase space by up to 339%.