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Wednesday, October 02, 2019 10:00 AM

Clean out the Basement


Picture this: It's 1995, you're responsible for managing 200 tonnes of physical records, and you know where every single one of them is - EVERY ONE!

You can walk into your basement (or your compactus, or the sub structure of the disused building you inherited because Council had it spare back in 1960) and know where to find what you need. Your physical file management system is up to date because your processes are faultless, and your team know exactly what they're doing.

Then, 2010 arrives, and the impact that paper records used to have on resourcing has lessened, and people are working in a hybrid environment (paper and electronic files). You're not contributing to the paper mountain as much, and your regular disposal practices have reduced physical record storage requirements. Your need to store large volumes of paper is decreasing, and there is talk that the space could be better used for office space, community space or for storage of other assets.

Now, it's 2019.  For a number of reasons, physical records are out! It could be that your organisation has embraced a 'Born Digital, Stay Digital' approach, approval methods have become electronic, or you have a robust digitisation and disposal process in place. That space being used for records storage has become more valuable to the organisation. So, what do you do with your physical holdings?

Many organisations are choosing to move to an off-site storage model for their physical records.  There are many benefits to this model, including:

  • Cheaper storage
  • Less physical requirements for your team, better work health and safety
  • Staff can undertake more meaningful work, driving business improvements
  • Records can be scanned upon retrieval, meaning that users can remain working in their electronic environment

While there are many benefits to using an off-site storage provider, your transition to this model should be considered thoroughly.

The team here at WyldLynx have put together some points for you to consider and address when looking to transition to off-site records storage

1 - Work Health and Safety

To prepare your records for off-site storage, they will need to be relocated from shelving into archive boxes.

The average file storage box can weight 14 kilograms and over, and your team may not be physically equipped to manage this load (200 tonnes can equate to around 14,000 boxes!). Further, old records can be fragile and potentially contaminated, so people need to be aware of what to look for and how to handle these records.

Some tips to help mange this include:

  • Undertake a WHS inspection using a reputable provider. Understand how your workers should be lifting, moving and handling your records.
  • Ensure safety equipment and advice is provided. A solid step ladder, protective equipment and appropriate clothing is a must (no, heels are not appropriate in the basement!). Teaching people how to lift and move will stave off physical injuries and ensure your team are delivered home safely from work each night.
  • Consider leaving the heavy lifting to the professionals - can your off-site storage provider provide workers who move boxes all day, every day? These workers will have proper safety knowledge and equipment already provided.
  • Finally, ensure people understand what a contaminated record is and how to manage it. That fire or flood back in 1972 may have seemingly been addressed at the time, but what impact has it had on your paper records over time? Pay close attention to records that have been exposed to moisture and/or chemicals.

2 - Current Storage Space v Future Storage Space

Your current storage space is under the complete control of your organisation. This means that you can group like records together, restrict access to sensitive or protected records, and maintain your own climate for important records (where possible).

When your records are taken off-site your control doesn't have to diminish.  With preparation and a good relationship (and key terms) set out with your storage provider, you can maintain your storage requirements to the same standards.  Some important points to consider are:

  • What items are currently held in climate control and will need to continue to be?  This may not just be paper, but also backup tapes and other media used for longer term storage.  Quantify this and advise your provider.
  • How do you currently manage access to sensitive or protected items?  Your storage provider may have options for sealing and protecting boxes to reduce access breaches.
  • How will you label your boxes?  Storage providers practice utmost confidentiality when dealing with customer's records, however highlighting where items are sensitive or protected on the outside of the box may draw unwanted attention if an item is misplaced in transit, for example.

3 - File Management System

How do you currently capture where a record is located?  Do you use the Content Manager Assignee field, or are you fortunate enough to use the Space Management module?  Either way, you will need to prepare for the transition by scoping out the various locations you will need to build within your environment. This may not need to be shelf or compactus anymore, you may just need to know that it is with the provider.

Note that some providers also support integration with their online file management systems, which can integrate with your Content Manager.  This facilitates requests, deliveries and an understanding of where your records are at any point in time.

4 - Using Barcodes to Your Advantage

Are the bulk of your files barcoded with a Content Manager barcode?  If they are, this can be a massive advantage for relocating thousands of files.  The Content Manager barcode can be scanned using any universal  barcode scanner, and with data matching and the use of Dataport you can update your holdings in bulk.

What does this mean in terms of efficiencies?

Rather than your team scanning (or, heaven forbid, manually assigning) files into a box, your provider may be able to offer a service to action this using their barcode scanner. You can then be provided with a consignment list to use to update your Content Manager holdings in bulk.

Further, the barcode will be directly uploaded to the storage provider's system, so if a file is required during transition, you can simply provide them with the Content Manager barcode and the file can be retrieved from the truck/shelf/box very quickly.

5 - Permanent Records

A transition to off-site records storage presents an opportunity to work with your Archives body and transfer important records to them for long term preservation.  You're transferring them to somewhere else anyway, right?  If you no longer require the records, it is best to place them in the hands of the ultimate experts and reduce any double handling of the important stuff.

When is a good time to start this conversation with Archives?  NOW!  They will always welcome your important records with open arms.

6 - Closed Records v Open Records

It goes without saying that most closed records are perfect to transition to off-site storage, provided you don't need to access them regularly.  However, do you have many open records and a need to access them?  Some ideas for managing this could include:

  • Maintain a small compactus on-site to facilitate ease of access.
  • Assign and deliver the record to the relevant owner for return upon closure of the record.
  • Scan before transition - does the owner need the physical copy or will electronic do?  Note, this will only work where no further physical items need to be contributed to the record/file.
  • Closing records before they are sent off-site allows you to box records together with similar retention periods or destroy dates. This makes longer term off-site storage management much more efficient, with the ability to destroy whole boxes at once and reduce your footprint costs.

7 - Returns/Requests

There will always be a need to retrieve records from your storage facility.

Identifying the most efficient way to manage this, prior to making the transition, will put your internal customers at ease.  Two key options are available to manage this, and both may be required, depending on the scenario:

Physical retrieval

You can always recall your records from your storage provider at a low cost and within an agreed timeframe.  This is both cost effective and allows the internal users to have a tangible experience, similar to the way they have always operated.  Storage providers also have a service for urgent deliveries, and can often return records from storage almost as quickly as you have always done.

Electronic Retrieval (Scan on Demand)

'Scan on demand' services offer the ability to request for a record to be scanned by your provider and returned to you electronically.  Whilst this is often more costly, it can serve a number of benefits, including quicker retrieval, the ability to readily access the record if required again in the future and, depending on your scanning and disposal policy and processes, potential destruction of the physical record.

Successfully managing this record transition process is an important step in improving your organisations record management situation.  When considering a partner to assist you in this process, note that WyldLynx has managed several transitions to off-site storage providers for local, state and federal governments as well as private sector customers, and can help streamline this process with you.

If you would like assistance with the planning or execution of your own record transition, or even to discuss what benefits such changes could bring to your organisation, please call or contact us today on contact@wyldlynx.com.au.

Like to know more about how WyldLynx can help your organisation? Contact us today!