U.S. Bancorp is replacing paper and microfiche with optical disk technology for storing reports, a project bank officials say will cut costs, provide quicker access to data, and improve information management.

Portland, Ore.-based U.S. Bank, with more than $21 billion in assets, is using a Filetek Inc. optical storage system - a computer server attached to the bank's mainframe - that lets users working on dumb terminals and personal computers view reports on their screens.

About 2,200 users are now given access to reports on4ine, said Stephen Casey, U.S. Bank's manager of office technology. The number of users will grow to 5,000 when the conversion from microfiche to optical is completed by yearend, he said. Dates for full conversion from paper have not been determined, he added.

Saving $1 Million in Paper

Timothy Meier, manager of the bank's information services division, said that cost savings from the project are expected to exceed $1 million annually in paper alone. With 14,000 employees and 470 branches in five states, the bank now produces and distributes 2,300 management reports daily on microfiche, plus 6,500 reports on paper.

The reports range from two pages to about 75,000 pages, equal to 275 microfiche cards. Mr. Meier said the bank uses 20 million pages of paper monthly.

Besides averting the costs associated with storing reports on paper and microfiche, the project will provide information faster and make it more widely available, said U.S. Bank officials.

Rather than having to go to a fiche reader, or request a photocopy of a page in a fiche report, or wait for a printed report to be delivered, managers will be able to call up the information on screen. Previously, they would have had to wait until late morning for reports, or until next day.

With reports on optical disk, the bank will also be able to improve information management, said Mr. Casey. Bank managers will be able to find out which reports are being used and how frequently, enabling them to weed out unneeded reports. With microfiche, usage can't be determined unless the whole bank is surveyed, he said.

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