Save Trees & Save Money — The Case for Abandoning Printed Materials

| By Editorial Staff

Businesses that have eliminated the use of one archaic item from their operations are saving millions of dollars. Whether it’s cars or phones or employee manuals, three of the largest companies in the world have discovered the tremendous benefits of simply ditching paper.

Chrysler and Cisco no longer provide printed user manuals with their products. Instead of hearing complaints from customers, they’ve discovered big benefits from DVD and online versions of their product manuals. Now that American Airlines has scrapped the use of printed flight manuals in favor of iPads in their cockpits, pilots are able to fly their planes smarter and more safely.

The move to digital is benefiting these three companies in profitability and much more.


Chrysler began their conversion to DVD vehicle manuals in 2010. Faced with progressively bigger and bulkier owners’ manuals, Chrysler took them digital, creating a whole new level of utility.

Video tutorials, large color photos and enhanced diagrams show owners everything they need to know about their new vehicles. DVDs provide them access to more information than paper manuals could possibly hold. Eliminating two, and sometimes three, paper manuals also frees up the glove box for customer use.

With the switch to DVDs, Chrysler reaps the obvious paper-savings benefits (tens of thousands of trees and hundreds of tons of paper). They have also lowered shipping costs. Chrysler estimates the weight of a manual-free car is reduced by an average of five pounds. As a producer of 15 million cars annually, that is a lot of savings in freight costs


In 2012, Cisco Systems made a very simple change to their packaging. The company removed hard-copy user guides from its IP phone packaging, and replaced them with online instructions. By eliminating one essentially ignored item, Cisco reaped more than $24 million in savings in the first year of implementation.

This one change eliminated paper costs and reduced by one third the amount of space needed for shipping. Now three IP phones fit in the shipping space where only two did before.

American Airlines

American Airlines ditched their heavy flight manuals and became the first major commercial carrier to introduce iPads in its cockpits.

The use of technology has plenty of advantages – safety and convenience being two of the biggest. Pilots can access their charts and flight information with a few touches to the screen, updates are almost immediate, and the iPad’s display is readable in different lighting conditions. With the old paper manuals, a pilot had to look up information, pull instructions out of the manual and then enter the data into the onboard computer.

Pilots love the iPad for its size. Instead of lugging an extra flight bag filled with books and charts weighing about 45 pounds, the iPad brings their burden down to less than two pounds.

American Airlines noticed the change from paper to iPad in its profitability. Any extra weight in an airplane requires additional fuel. The company estimates that eliminating flight manuals results in an average fuel savings of 400,000 gallons per year. The switch to technology also translates into 24 million pages of paper documents that are no longer needed.

Maybe this is a lesson to every company out there. Not only are these types of changes a tree hugger’s dream, they represent financial and operational common sense.


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