Jobs

Dealing with mountains of papers

U.S. businesses use about 21 million tons of paper every year. That’s about 175 pounds of paper for each American. Some of it ends up in landfills, others in filing cabinets, and now, thanks to the digital age, many companies are digitizing the information for easier storage, protection, and record keeping.

Boston-based company Iron Mountain offers services to help manage the explosive amounts of information that companies generate, including secure shredding, storage, and data protection. In an age of security mandates, organizations need to comply with complex regulations as well as concerns about disaster recovery.

But it’s easier said than done. With billions of paper documents, for many companies, the challenge is transitioning from physical to electronic processes. This often requires some good old-fashioned scanning – on average, Iron Mountain’s Imaging Centers handle over 50 million per month. That’s an awful lot of documents to scan.

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That’s where Nerys Nieves enters the picture, a production imaging specialist for Iron Mountain. She takes boxes and reams of paper from legal, medical, and financial industries, among others, and scans upwards of 1,000 pages a day, uploading the text and images for digital storage. She does the “prep work” – removing staples, paper clips and unfolding any creases as well as feeding the documents into industrial-size scanners. A pre-printed barcode sticker is attached to each document, giving it a tracking electronic identity while it goes through indexing via a Web interface.

Although some would call it menial labor, it’s a job that Nieves does with pride. Formerly a data entry clerk, Nieves works quickly to feed sheets of paper into the machines – and she claims never to have accidentally dropped a batch of files or mixed up any pages.

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Q: How fast can your scanners go?
A:
Our high-speed scanners can scan 150 pages per minute. We also have flatbed scanners that scan larger size pictures or pages, and a PDF scanner, network connected photocopier, fax machine, and more.
Q: What happens to the documents after they’re scanned?
A:
Clients can choose to have the information e-mailed, burned onto a CD or DVD, or accessed via an online Website. I also need to do quality control, which is looking at random pages and make sure that there are no lines or wrinkles or that pages aren’t too dark or light to read.
Q: Who else is on the team that you work with? Information management has experienced tremendous growth, hasn’t it?
A:
My department has doubled in size since I started three years ago. Career opportunities here range from accounts payable, service delivery and operations, customer service, information technology, sales, and software development.
Q: Do you ever sit and read the stuff you need to scan, just out of curiosity?
A:
No, not really – I don’t have the time. I need to keep moving and working.
Q: Has this job changed the way you handle your paperwork at home – say your kid’s schoolwork or your bills?
A:
Well, I have scanned in my children’s pictures, but I was always good with paperwork anyway.

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