The advantages of a numeric filing system

Written by joan whetzel
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The advantages of a numeric filing system
Numeric filing system advantages include organisation, efficiency, confidentiality and speed. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

All organisations require good records management, from the time records are generated until they are purged from the system. Nonexistent or poorly planned filing systems lead to difficulty in filing and retrieving records or to lack of efficiency in managing the flow of information. They can also set up legal issues due to lost records or sloppy record-keeping. Well-designed filing systems employ alphabetical, alphanumeric or numeric coded labels, generating efficient records management and producing more professionally run organisations.

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Numeric Filing Systems Explained

Numeric filing systems assign numbers to each file or record containing information. Numbering could be drawn from the record itself (i.e., purchase order numbers), numbering files in order of record generation (from 1 to 1,000), using sectional numbering where files numbered under sections -- or categories -- as 100, 200, 300, etc., belong to specific subject subheadings or using decimals (similar to the Dewey Decimal System). Numeric filing systems frequently include a file index to aid in record retrieval.

Organization and Maintaining Order

Numeric coding allows shifting of entire sections of records while maintaining proper sequencing. Records are filed consecutively, from right to left and top to bottom. Straight-numeric files are organised in consecutive, ascending order -- lowest to highest number. Duplex-numeric files have two or more number sets, separated by dashes, commas or spaces, and filed by the opening set followed by subsequent numbers. Chronological-numeric systems index files by year, month and day. Terminal-digit-numeric systems allow for grouping files on the shelves, organising files by the last number (two to four digits long) as the primary filing element, and filing records consecutively by last number, middle number, then first number. Shelf space requirements are easily determined by grouping records by numerical sections -- 10s, 100s, 1000s of records per shelf or shelving unit. Additionally, record organisation is further augmented by file indexing.


High-volume filing systems -- files retrieved and refiled frequently -- combined with colour-coded labels make file retrieval and re-shelving quicker and eliminate confusion where the number falls in sequence. In terminal-digit systems, for example, the final number is coded with one colour, the middle number gets a separate colour and the first number gets its own colour. As the first, middle and last number changes, so does the colour. The colour acts as a visual clue to increase speed and efficiency in filing.

Filing Speed

Numeric filing systems combined with colour coding increase record filing and retrieval speed -- even when retrieving a file means referring in an index to identify the file number -- because the file clerk has an instant awareness of file location by file group. In the event of organisation mergers, where the individual organisations have different numbering systems, the numeric codes don't need to be changed. Adding files to the file room is quicker because smaller numbered files (6-digit) are filed to the left of higher numbered files (7-digit).


Numeric filing systems positively identify specific records while maintaining confidentiality, which is especially important in medical, customer and employee records, by eliminating any personal identity markers. Numeric filing systems readily comply with HIPAA rules.

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