In the age of digital communications, fax machines seem as obsolete as using a dial telephone or a cassette tape. Think about it: if a co-worker asked you to fax a document, you’d probably look at them in disbelief. But in Germany, fax machines have not yet been consigned to the history books, research shows.
Digital advocacy group Bitkom investigated 505 companies across the country and found that a whopping 82% of them still fax. Specifically, a third of respondents said their use of the 180-year-old technology is “frequent” or “very frequent.”
However, the intensity of use gradually decreases. Last year it was 40%, up from 62% in 2018. Accordingly, half of companies now send faxes only rarely or occasionally, while 16% have stopped altogether. According to Bitkom, this data shows that faxing in the business world is slowly but surely coming to an end.
To fax or not to fax?
But regardless of the declining trend in usage, one question remains: why use fax machines – well past their heyday – instead of simply emailing or sharing in the cloud?
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“The most appreciated thing about the classic fax machine is the ability to clearly trace whether something has been sent,” said Nils Britze, Head of Digital Business Processes at Bitkom.
Britze also pointed out another factor: “Once a communication channel is established, it usually takes a while to completely replace it – even if much more comfortable and secure means of communication have emerged.”
From a business perspective, this translates to the challenge of digitization. According to Bitkom previous research, larger companies are finding it easier to go fully digital compared to small businesses with less than 100 employees. Specifically, 42% of large companies surveyed had digitized their business processes by 2021, while 94% of smaller companies still used paper.
From a personal perspective, delaying the replacement of the fax machine refers to what Jonathan Coopersmith, history professor at Texas A&M University, calls:comfortable inertia.” That is, people’s tendency to cling to the familiar, and in turn their reluctance to change technology.
So it seems that classic old faxing has some good years left before it becomes a relic of the past – at least in Germany.