Office automation is vital for managers who pursue efficiency in the day-to-day operations of their companies. The equipment and systems used in an automated office are some of the most important investments a company will make. Automation is about improving productivity and enhancing efficiency, not making people redundant but freeing them from repetitive and time-consuming tasks better handled by machinery and software. Freight-forwarding companies and other heavy fax users have turned to fax services provided by companies including Hongkong Telecom and Worldwide Telecom rather than tie up their own staff at fax machines. Copying can also involve staff standing by a remote machine when they could be better employed elsewhere. The development of the 'mopier' or multiple copy printer with expanded memory and print capacity promises to do away with the need for separate copy functions for many offices. Mail is another easily automated office function. Companies can cut down on the amount of paper mail they send by replacing it with electronic mail but, for many applications, there is no adequate replacement for the paper version. In Hong Kong, most people have heard of e-mail but its application is far from universal. A recent survey commissioned by Motorola found that more than 60 per cent of Hong Kong executives lack access to an e-mail system at work. This is unlikely to be because of cost with the large number of Internet service providers ensuring keen price competition. It is more likely to be a case of companies being slow to adapt new technology to their needs. Respondents to the survey, who did have e-mail access, reported sending nine to 10 messages a day and receiving an average of 11. Physical mail is here to stay for many reasons, including its visibility for marketing purposes and the law's respect for original documents. But, for heavy users of the postal system, there are ways to streamline the mailing process. American mail specialist Pitney Bowes has signed many of Hong Kong's biggest mail users to its Postage by Phone service which allows users to refill their postage meters by telephone in less than 90 seconds. The service, offered with the approval of the Hong Kong Post Office, avoids the costly process of sending staff to the post office to refill meters. Many companies have come to appreciate the productivity benefits that can be achieved through integrating advanced telecommunications techniques in their operations. Motorola AirCommunications is a leader in this field. Early last year, the company teamed up with Microsoft to offer two-way solutions combining the max wireless data service with Microsoft's Exchange Server and BackOffice platforms. Users of the max wireless modems have access to a sophisticated two-way mobile messaging service allowing the transmission of faxes, wireless Internet e-mail and access to LAN-based e-mail. The maxmessenger service involves a wireless modem, a modem card in a notebook or palm-book computer operating on Windows 3.1 or higher and a subscription to the service. The self-powered card can receive and store messages even when it is not installed in the computer, flashing a LED display warning to tell the user a message is waiting. Motorola believes the maxmessenger service contributes a great deal to office efficiency by making more efficient use of executives' travel time.