DO’S AND DON’TS OF BOXING
There are two basic methods used to keep track of archival records – we call them the Box Marking Method and the Index Method.
Box Marking Method
The most common method is to simply write the contents of the box on the outside of the box. This is usually done by document type, time period, file number or alphabetically (phone book). The advantage of this system is its simplicity. Other than the obvious lack of detail, the greatest disadvantage is inconsistency and lack of uniformity that can occur when several people do the filing.
When the box marking method is used it is difficult to know if a file really exists. For example, medical records use a terminal digit numbering system in which the last digits are the key filing unit. A box might contain a number sequence of say, 08-6801 to 08-6888. However, by the time the box has reached the storage center not all of the files in that number range are necessarily in the box. Over the years, files may have been renumbered, removed, purged or stored elsewhere.
The second method is to number each box and maintain an index of the contents of the box, usually in an Excel file or internal system. The advantage of the Index Method is that each file’s existence has been recorded and the location of each is known.
If you use the Index Method, Carolina Records Center can import your Excel or CSV file into our system and apply our records retention tracking to your archived files. We have over 60 user defined file fields available to customize even the most detailed requirements.
Remember that preparing records for archival storage is not the most pleasant of tasks for staff. It is repetitive and boring and therefore prone to simple errors such as number transposition (86 instead of 68) or number sliding (moving number one or more places without changing the order 68.80 instead of 688).
What Happens At The Record Center
It may be helpful to understand what happens to your boxes at the record center.
- Whatever is on the outside of the box (up to three fields not counting your name or your box number) will be input into our system.
- Regardless of any number you may have assigned, we will assign our own unique records center number for our internal use.
- A thermal transfer bar code label will be affixed to each box. Thermal labels are more durable than laser labels and can better withstand the handling that occurs in the warehouse without losing the readability of its barcode.
- We stack boxes three high and two or three deep on pallet rack shelving. This means that each location has 6 to 9 boxes of which only three have labels readable without moving boxes. Information must be written on the front of the box – information written on the side of boxes is never useful to us.
- Any box that has lost its integrity will be reboxed. We cannot store collapsed boxes.
- Non standard box sizes will not be stored and will be re-boxed. Standard Sizes are shown below.
THINGS NOT TO DO.
1. DO NOT PUT DOCUMENTS WITH DIFFERENT RETENTION PERIODS IN THE SAME BOX.
When a box contains documents with different retention periods, the box cannot be destroyed efficiently. Either each file must be pulled and destroyed separately or the box must wait for the longest retention period to expire before it can be destroyed. Either way, the storage and destruction costs are higher than need be.
There are commonly hundreds more files than boxes meaning the chance for error are greatly increased when destroying by file rather than by box.
While we will store boxes with different record series types we will not activate records retention tracking for them.
2. DO NOT USE LARGE BANKERS BOXES OR TRANSFER FILES!!!
OSHA recommends standard 12” x” 10” x 15” size boxes as they are easy to lift and carry and do not cause the injuries of the heavier and bulkier bankers boxes and transfer files.
Paper is heavy weighing 20 to 30 pounds per standard archive box and as much as 50 or 60 pounds for larger bankers boxes (12” x 10” x 24”) or transfer files.
These larger boxes are very difficult to handle and the cause of many injuries to arms, wrists, hands and backs.
When stacked on top of each other these heavy boxes tend to bow at the sides and then collapse. Transfer files (the ones with the pull out drawers that don’t pull out and the plastic handles that break off) are an odd size because of the extra space required for the outside sleeve. This means that they will cost more to store size they do not fit easily into the high density storage racks used by most records centers. Remember storage is a cubic foot business and anything that wastes space will cost more to store.
3. DO NOT USE ODD SIZE BOXES. Any size or shape other than a standard archive box 12” x 10” x 15” is likely to require reboxing or an extra storage charge.
4. DO NOT OVERSTUFF YOUR BOXES. Boxes that are over packed tend to bow at the sides and eventually collapse. This means extra expense for re-boxing.
5. DO NOT USE BOXES WITH DETACHABLE LIDS. Lids tend to separate from their boxes and pretty soon you have a mess.
6. DO NOT ATTACH PAPER LIST TO THE OUTSIDE OF THE BOX.
Boxes get handled frequently both when being transported to storage and when they are moved around in the records
center. Scotch tape (regardless of how much you use) will not hold up over long periods of time. Tape becomes brittle and loses its stickiness and will fall off when moved.
The records center will attach a bar coded thermal transfer labels that withstand much greater abuse than laser printed labels. The label must be attached securely to the box and anything scotched taped to the box that prevents a secure attachment will be removed by the record center.
THINGS TO DO.
1. CHECK OUR BOX PRICES. We buy boxes by the thousands and get very good pricing. We sell boxes to our clients at prices far lower than Staples or Office Depot. Often times we can save customers up to $1.00 per box. Moreover, our boxes are designed for document storage and are durable.
2. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Mark only the essential information on the outside of the box. Generally, department, record series type, range (either dates or number sequence) and a brief description (if necessary). Remember, the records center will automatically track retention periods by record series type so the box type and end date (most recent date) of any file in the box should be written on the front of the box.
3. BE CONSISTENT. Regardless of the alpha or numbering system be consistent. For example, if you use an alpha system don’t use “Barclay to Bower” on one box and “B’s” on another.
4. PLACE LIST INSIDE BOX. Place a list of the contents of the box INSIDE the box where it will not be damaged or lost.
5. KEEP A COPY OF THE BOX CONTENTS LIST. This will be very useful when searching for files in the future years. If the list is maintained in columnar form in excel; or word, we can easily import it to our records center software.