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Box-it North West facilitates hundreds of thousands of archive boxes and tens of millions of files in our secure storage document storage centres in Cheshire, Manchester, Liverpool, North Wales and other areas in the northwest. We talk to Peter Willis, Managing Director of Box-it North West, about ‘traceability’.

Peter explains: “Box-it North West moves millions of boxes, files and documents each year. There are many reasons why we have to move boxes, either in or out of storage, or from one location to another within our own facilities. We are frequently asked about traceability by clients looking to store with us; in other words, the systems and processes we have in place to locate, track and record all archive movement. This enables us to precisely locate a whole box, or even a file within a box.

Why is traceability so important?

Traceability is at the heart of our document storage services, from the moment we collect boxes from our clients to their precise location within our document storage centres and any subsequent movement in and out of storage when retrievals are requested.

Traceability is critical to efficient document storage and retrieval, and is a pivotal part of the document storage service offered by Box-it North West. Broadly speaking, ‘traceability’ is the ability to locate all items we store, whether boxes or files, demonstrating an accurate audit trail of all movements. Such systems for traceability also record other information such as proof of delivery, and who has requested or is holding the box/file.

It is imperative for a reputable document storage provider to have such systems in place. And significantly, systems that are simple, duplicable processes that are not prone to human error. Without such a system, reliability and reputation are at stake. We always need to know where boxes, files and documents are.

The other point to make is that as part of our ISO 9001:2008 quality accreditation, traceability tests are carried out within the audit, so processes and standards can never slip.

What systems are in place to initiate this?

We operate a barcode track and trace system using world leading software which records all movement. Barcodes are applied to boxes and files and scanned on collection by our drivers. They are then transferred by our Box-it GPS tracked vehicles to our secure document storage centres in Cheshire. They are scanned on receipt, security strapped, and scanned again to record their shelf location. The information is then securely logged on our systems. The same scanning procedure applies if a box or document is moved out of storage, for example when a customer requests a retrieval. The system doesn’t forget or erase the history and provides a comprehensive, accurate audit trail which is kept as a record of movement, and retained for one year after the time documents are destroyed. This is essential to our service.

What the main reasons for boxes or files to move?

The client may request whole boxes, or even files out of a box, to be moved back to their premises; some may have multiple offices so we need to know exactly who has receipted the box or file, and which location. We may have to move files and documents to a scanning station within Box-it, as part of our ‘Scan on Demand’ service or add new files to existing boxes which we already hold in storage. There may be cause for an internal move within Box-it, such as when re-boxing is required, or we may receive instructions from our clients for the destruction of documents as they reach the end of their lifecycle. These are just some of the reasons why boxes and files move whilst in storage. Of course, being able to efficiently track and trace them is essential, as well as providing an audit trail. It’s worth saying that our customers often need to demonstrate traceability and accessibility during their own audits.

What happens if there are anomalies?

Our Operations Supervisors review and manage ‘exceptions’ on a daily basis. This enables them to identify any anomalies or issues in the daily log of activities. Should any arise, they are highlighted and dealt with immediately.