ABS seeks new scanners for 2016 Census

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is expecting a large increase of electronic lodgement for the 2016 Census, however it still wants to boost its paper scanning capacity with up to 20 new high speed scanners to cope with more than 62 million paper forms

While the Bureau expects that 65 per cent of households will complete the Census online on August 9, 2016, it has issued a tender for five scanners initially. Following testing of throughput scheduled to take place in February 2016, the ABS is leaving open the option to purchase up to 15 additional scanners.

The ABS is continuing to use IBM’s Intelligent Forms Processing (IFP) software for optical character recognition (OCR) and Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR), as it has in previous years. (See http://idm.net.au/article/008734-how-australia-captured-census-2011)

The job of capturing the data submitted on paper forms for the last Census in 2011 was accomplished by over 750 staff utilising a fleet of 11 Kodak i1860 high volume scanners acquired for the task.

Scanners were operated from 7.30am to 6pm, 5 days a week, for 20 weeks. Overtime was worked on some weekends and, on some occasions, scanning spanned multiple shifts (i.e. scanning until 11:00 PM).

Processing for the 2016 Census will take place at the Data Capture Centre (DCC) expected to be in Melbourne.

The scanning workload for the 2016 Census processing is estimated at close to 62 million double-sided sheets, to be scanned in an estimated 50 working days.

Scanners will be required to scan the majority of forms to create black and white images.

According to the tender documents:  “It is highly desirable that the scanners can read a barcode printed on Census material (expected font Code 39). Each barcode is unique to and identifies individual forms.

“Once scanned, each barcode would be saved to our network (preferably by batch). This functionality is outside of IFP functionality and would need to be performed by the scanner.

“It is desirable that the scanners include user defined automated image quality verification.”

 ABS scanning volume requirements for Census 2016

Number of Forms Sheets/Form Total Sheets
Household Forms 5,000,000 11 55,000,000
Personal Forms 800,000 5 4,000,000
Interviewer Household Forms 40,000 29 1,160,000
Special Short Forms 7,500 1 7,500
Discrete Collector Record Book 5,000 50 250,000
Tally Sheet 80,000 2 160,000
Admin Material 500,000 1 500,000
Re-Scanning 200,000* various 1,000,000
Total Forms 6,125,750 62,077,500