The Hidden Cost of Paper

June 2, 2020
Discover the hidden costs of using paper in the workplace and how going paperless can benefit your business and the environment.

On the surface, it might seem that paper reporting is the most cost-effective option for railway construction contractors. It’s readily available, cheap and convenient.

But all too often, contractors are falling into the trap of basing their return-on-investment calculations on direct costs, such as purchasing and storage, but failing to consider the indirect cost. When making a comparison against paperless systems, it’s important to evaluate the added value and profitability to your business. The reporting system you choose affects productivity, income, client relationships and more.

Missing Or Poor Quality Information

Paper reports are often damaged on-site, poorly filled out or, worse, never arrive at the office at all. Quickly scribbled notes without any photo evidence, context or information about the shift are almost useless for project management teams. Poor quality information leads to mistakes as office-based teams are not properly informed about the events on site:

  • Payment applications cannot be substantiated without a fully auditable timeline of works.
  • Reasons for change and delay cannot be explained to the client.
  • Subcontractor and supplier applications cannot be audited.
  • Disputes are slow and difficult to settle, often resulting in losing a client relationship altogether.

Time Lost Or Wasted

Office-staff have to spend valuable time collating and typing up reports into a usable format when they could be utilising their skills to analyse, evaluate and improve project delivery.

Meanwhile, on-site, Supervisors and Construction Managers have to stay back after their shift to fill out paperwork. This cuts into an already demanding schedule and impacts how much they can rest, particularly those working nights and early shifts.

Communication Lag Between Worksites

Due to this time lag between field and office teams, project management staff don’t find out what happened on a shift until it’s over - or days later. This affects their ability to make proactive decisions and prevent overruns:

  • No real-time progress updates during a blockade.
  • Poor visibility of what labour and plant is on-site.
  • Close calls are not reported in a timely manner.
  • Project Managers cannot predict and prevent cost or schedule overruns without up-to-date shift information.

On the other hand, field-based teams can end up working to out-of-date project scopes, or having to re-plan a shift due to issues that arose overnight. Communicating change via paper, phone calls and instant messaging is messy, lacks detail and often causes audit and substantiation problems down the line.

No Long-term Value

At the end of a project, paper reports are filed away and only reviewed if there is a dispute weeks, maybe months later. Project data can, and should be used to benchmark future cost estimates, tenders, health and safety processes and schedules. Learning from your previous projects results in more accurate project plans, increased project value and a smoother delivery:

  • Calculate exact outputs and activity costs.
  • Identify recurring risks and bypass them.
  • Analyse access times and lost opportunity.
  • Evaluate resource requirements.
  • Impress clients with a fully evidenced tender.

So, when reviewing your reporting process, it’s important to take a holistic view and understand full ROI: from lost income or opportunity to staff time and wellbeing. Identify the key areas affecting your business and seek out solutions that cater to those needs.

That’s Where Raildiary Comes In…

Raildiary provides a data-collection and analysis software tailored to the rail industry:

  • Real-time progress reporting.
  • Data visualisation and analysis.
  • Bespoke reports covering key issues such as access, close calls and resource allocation.
  • Quick and easy sitediary records.

In conclusion, the hidden costs of paper-based processes in the railway industry can be significant, and rail companies must consider the benefits of digital transformation. By transitioning to digital processes, rail companies can reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve the customer experience. However, it is important that they carefully evaluate the costs and benefits, and that they have appropriate systems and processes in place to ensure a successful transition. Ultimately, the move to digital processes is a critical step in the evolution of the railway industry, and rail companies must embrace it to remain competitive in the digital age.

The Hidden Cost of Paper

Will Doyle


I am an experienced RICS chartered Quantity Surveyor​ with first-hand experience of how the consistent capture and analysis of data can transform global project delivery.

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