Paper Documentation


After I had moved into my office in the Coke & Iron Admin block, there was a whole pile of paper documentation stacked high into a corner, which on closer inspection proved to be torpedo status reports, presumably aimed at assessing the status of the refractories lining said torpedoes, and aimed at ensuring that there would be no hot metal break-out during its transportation from the blast furnaces to the steelmaking plant.

At the time there was no need to have it moved, since there was sufficient space in the office for two people without having to touch what looked like leftovers from previous occupants. But once Theo had joined as my replacement, we had to tidy the place up and get rid of the clutter. Which left the question: what to do with the torpedo reports ? They had clearly been part of an audit-and-control system, so how long did they have to be kept for, assuming they fell under legislation for control documentation.

So I went to ask a few managers who might gave some knowledge of the paperwork in question. Turned out that they all agreed with my assessment that the paperwork in its current status was totally useless for documentation purposes, and hence could be destroyed. Clearly, what had happened is what often happens to paper documentation systems, which is that it loses its integrity once its physical presence falls into disarray, making retrieval of specific documents impossible.

Which is why, with all its possible faults of its own, IT-based data systems are far more preferable, since they tend to contain an in-built classifying key which helps with both input and output, something that paper-based systems just are not capable of.

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