Would Dunder Mifflin’s ‘limitless paper in a paperless world’ strategy survive in 2022?
18 February 2022
If you’re a fan of the American sitcom The Office, you’ll recognise the name of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. If not, the show follows an average group of people and their day to day lives working in the office of the Scranton based Dunder Mifflin, where there are more antics than actual work getting done. It’s filled with subtle humour, office romances and the ups and downs of co-worker relationships.
John Krasinski and Rainn Wilson in the ©NBC show: The Office season 9 episode 22 (2013).
During Ryan Howard’s temp years, he announces in a seminar at his business school his assertion that Dunder Mifflin will be obsolete in a number of years. Of course, the show battles on for another six seasons proving Ryan wrong but in the real world, would a company that distributes paper to other businesses survive nine years later in the digital era when everything appears to be going paper free?
The threat of digital
It’s a running theme throughout the show where manager Michael Scott battles against ‘the machines.’ Like the website Ryan tried to introduce after his big rise from the temp to corporate executive, which was designed modernise the way they did business before it fell apart and he was charged with fraud. In the brief era of the website, Dwight enters a self-declared race to beat the computer with his own sales and Michael charges out to visit ex-clients with gift baskets and sweet talk in an attempt to woo their business back from cheaper, larger competitors.
Now that we’ve moved into the digital era, the Dunder Mifflin business model would have to adapt in order to survive. Offering online orders, an active digital presence and strong brand identity would be needed. It would be time to upgrade the old ‘website under construction, coming Christmas 2002’ and get up to speed with the kind of user experience consumers are now accustomed to.
How would they have fared during the pandemic?
Despite imagining the dedicated yet eccentric Dwight Schrute taking it upon himself to sell and deliver paper in a hazmat suit amid the worse of the covid-19 lockdowns, with empty offices it might have been to no avail.
However, with the toilet paper panic buying and demand for packaging to fulfil home deliveries, there could have been an opportunity to diversify into different markets for paper to help meet the demand and keep themselves afloat during such uncertain times. Enabling their clients to receive smaller and more personalised orders to facilitate changes in their usage of paper products would also help to maintain existing client relationships.
Allowing the Dunder Mifflin employees to work from home part of the week would likely result in even less productivity than we see on screen. Jim would have to get increasingly creative to prank Dwight from afar, Michael would be phoning everyone constantly and Stanley would finally get the peace and quiet he desires to do the crossword and nap.
On the one hand, while this could easily cause the downfall of the business, perhaps without the lack of endless distractions the characters find in the office they might find themselves bored enough to do some actual work.
The production of paper and pulp remains a large industry which impacts our forests. It accounts for 13-15% of wood consumption from trees and 33-40% of industrially traded wood is used for making paper. A paper company like Dunder Mifflin would need to take steps to reduce their environmental impact and operate as sustainably as possible.
Replanting trees, sourcing recycled paper and encouraging clients to recycle used paper are key actions that they could take. Publishing a statement which outlines their commitment to sustainability and exactly what action they are taking to do their part would also allow them to compete in today’s market where corporate social responsibility is becoming increasingly important.
In any case, it would take more than Dwight dressing up as his self-created ‘Recyclops’ character for earth day and declaring that humans are terrible for the environment.
Paper free processes
More than ever, modern companies are reducing the amount of work that’s done on physical paper and being mindful of avoiding printing documents where possible. People using less and less paper would probably be Dunder Mifflin’s biggest threat as a paper supplier.
It may take a few creative solutions to diversify and find new markets, which is where Ryan Howard and his zany start-up ideas would come in handy. However, it’s more likely they would end up being bought out by another bigger company like Sabre in season six of the show.
Given the benefits of paper free processes it’s not surprising this would be a challenge:
- Less waste
- Better collaboration
- Secure documents
- Sophisticated document management
- Easy to retrieve what you need
- Reduced risk of mistakes
In this day and age, an electronic document management system is a must for organisations, especially those operating in highly regulated industries. Leave the business of 'limitless paper in a paperless world' to the fictional Dunder Mifflin and explore our software solutions for centralised document management.
Paperless document management
Find out more about the benefits of managing documents electronically.