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What’s a fax doing in the office? Looking old!


Technological progress: from fax to EDI

There are things that young people see as a remnant from a bygone era. One of them is the good old fax, which the young generation wouldn’t even know how to use anymore. Any yet, while it is hard to believe, many offices still use this technology that dates back to the 19th century. No official data exist for Austria, but in Germany, according to the industry association Bitkom, a whopping 43 percent of surveyed businesses either used faxes “frequently” or even “very frequently” in 2021. This situation is probably similar in our country. Seriously!

While in-person business meetings have become rare in times of Covid-19, next time you meet someone face to face, just check if people’s business cards include a fax number. You will be surprised to see how common this is even today. Or just take a closer look at the contact information in e-mail signatures. You will be in for a surprise there as well.

Faxing is still common practice in many Austrian industries

In September 2021, the Austrian online portal Futurezone tried to get to the bottom of this issue and asked the regulatory authority RTR as well as the mobile phone provider A1 how many fax machines were still around and how many faxes are being sent in Austria. This attempt failed because both organizations do not distinguish between phone calls and faxes in their research. After all, landlines are used for both technologies. Faxes, which is a technology that dates back to the 19th century, are still frequently used at government offices, at pharmacies, in the pharmaceutical industry, by physicians, lawyers and by some small or even large businesses.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is gaining ground

If you think about it, the use of outdated technology is not only rather tedious, but also questionable when it comes to data protection. Ultimately, sensitive and/or personal data such as patient records or client information are involved on a regular basis. Paper consumption is yet another issue.

Another problem with these system inconsistencies is that documents do not include structured, i.e., machine readable, data. For example, if one business partner sends an order to another business partner by fax, the second business partner needs to record data manually first so that they can then create other documents such as despatch advices or invoices. This approach to data processing is not only tedious, but also leaves a lot of room for error.

Data from Germany are indicative of the situation in Austria

The situation in Austria can be inferred from an ongoing study by the association of the German information and technology industry (Bitkom) about the frequency of fax use at companies. After all, behavior in Austria tends to be similar to the behavior in this large neighboring country. According to this study, digital communication is on the rise, but even in the year 2021, 43 percent of surveyed businesses indicated that they used faxes “frequently” or even “very frequently.” The surveyed businesses were not small companies or even one-person businesses as you might think, but companies with 20 or more employees.

In 2021, a total of 43 percent of German businesses still used faxes “frequently” or “very frequently” (see 2021 Bitkom Research , page 5).

Digital communication statistics

Channels for internal and external communication – from fax to smartphone.

If you find the high share of fax users of 43 percent in 2021 surprising, you will be quite astonished to learn that in 2016, which was only 5 years ago, this number was at a whopping 79 percent (see 2020 Bitkom study, page 41). In 2018, the share went down to 62 percent and to 49 percent in 2020 (see chart). The tendency is clear. In most cases, faxes are getting replaced by e-mail, which allows for automated and integrated data processing. Ultimately, this is only a half-hearted attempt at digitization because there really is no way around EDI anymore.

If you would also like to benefit from digital process automation, just give us a call. Please use the contact box on the right to send your inquiry. Together we will make sure that the tedious use of fax machines will truly be a thing of the past.

EDIrico_Portrait_back-of-the-headAbout the author

Clown Edirico
“No more faxing!”


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EDITEL, an EDI service provider, is the internationally leading provider of EDI solutions (EDI = Electronic Data Interchange). The company specializes in the optimization of supply chain processes for companies of all sizes and in all industries.

Symbolic picture copyright iStockphoto, XiXinXing

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