The fundamental difference between self-storage and records storage lies in the extent of what they offer customers. Self-storage offers space. Records-storage offers space as well as management, tracking and servicing of inventory. Service can add an additional 45 percent in revenue to a records-storage business annually, but to properly track and bill, you need software.
Traditionally, software is viewed as a cost. But if you consider the efficiencies software brings to an operation, including its ability to automate your business and ensure you get paid for everything you do, you quickly find it pays for itself over and over again. Invest in software on day one, and you will have a solid foundation for your business. Purchase software later, and you will pay three times: once for the software, once for the conversion, and a third time in lost revenue.
In a records center, software is your tracking device. It tells you the location of every record in your facility, giving you control. Place barcodes on containers and shelves, associate the two with a scanner, and you can fi nd an item in seconds with 100 percent accuracy. Try to accomplish this with manual tracking and you’ll lose boxes and fi les, which will guarantee lost business. Let’s look at a real-life example.
FACS Record Center in Phoenix was tracking more than 130,000 boxes with its own system. It used a four-part transmittal form that contained a unique box number and handwritten location number. Part one of the form was returned to the customer so he could request his box when he needed it. Part two was used for data entry. Part three was adhered to the box, and part four was archived. The system worked—or so the staff thought until they became truly automated with barcodes.
With the FACS system, the entire box-accession process took about four minutes. With the new automated system, the per-box time was reduced to 45 seconds. “The old system, although functional, was time-consuming and left us open for errors. This was dangerous,” says Chuck Doucet, general manager.
Automation makes sense for tracking boxes, fi les and locations. But in a service business, it is equally important to automate the process for billing. If your customer-service personnel manually tracks boxes, data and supplies, you have opened the door for human error and, more important, lost revenue.
Following are typical records-center charges. This list refers to boxes, but you would charge similarly for files and tapes:
- Charge to store boxes
- Charge to deliver boxes
- Charge for rapid delivery of boxes
- Charge the customer to access his boxes at your facility
- Charge to destroy boxes
- Charge to pull boxes from shelves
- Charge to pick up boxes from a customer’s location
- Charge to put boxes back on shelves
- Charge to enter data or index information about boxes
- Charge for printed reports that itemize indexed information
- Charge for supplies, e.g., box sales
With software, these basic services, as well as many others, are automatically billed whenever a work order is issued. At the end of the month, an operator simply prints his invoices, which are populated with service totals. Human error is removed, accuracy is increased, and profits are secured.
Once FACS Record Center automated its system, boxes were discovered that had never been billed. “With our old system, a customer called in a box by location and box number per his transmittal sheet,” says Doucet. “If the data-entry sheet had been misplaced on our end, we may have never entered the box into the system, even though it was physically present. We could pull the box from the shelf, but we were not billing storage. It was only during the move and scanning that we realized a portion of our inventory had never been billed.”
Software automation and wireless scanning ability streamline an operation. Employees can complete more work in less time with greater accuracy. ArchivesOne, a multi-site records center, charted its revenue increases when it implemented a newer records-storage software package with wireless scanning, point-to-point tracking and other features. (See table below.) Its success demonstrates an increase in labor efficiencies as well as bottom-line profit.
Software is a necessary part of a records-storage operation. The right package will increase your profits and help secure long-term success. Doucet’s facility experiences average growth of about 20 percent per year without dedicated salespeople, and that is the industry average.
From tracking to billing to labor, this tool will affect every area of your business. Don’t start a records center today and implement an automated system tomorrow; that error that will cost you many times over. Invest in the software and buy your last system first. Then sit back and enjoy the additional revenue service will bring.
Anne Sommi Edmonson is the director of marketing for O’Neil Software Inc., which provides records-storage software and full-featured, commercial and corporate record-center tools, including the company’s newest software product, RS-SQL. O’Neil supplies barcodes, laser scanners, printers, industry education and more. For more information, or to read more about FACS Record Center and ArchivesOne, visit www.oneilsoft.com.