Improving document capture applications

Improving document capture applications

Practical tips for image scanning and indexing, and a look at what is new in the market.

By Hannah Birtles

Most companies see document scanning as being fairly straightforward, simply determining the appropriate volume, the scanner to be used and the service cost involved. However, according to Paul Whittard, regional sales manager with Kodak Australasia, using this formula has led many records managers to spend two-to-three times more than their original budget because they were unaware of other aspects relating to the scanning and document capture process at the outset.

He said companies must recognise that key process bottlenecks occur in the areas of preparation and batching, feeding and jam clearance, skew and image quality rescans, and the indexing of documents. Hidden cost factors include labour, volumes, throughput, productivity factors, process design, robustness and duty cycles, indexing, ergonomics, interface and integration costs, office space costs and maintenance and service costs.


Seamus McGuinness, national manager with the ACA Pacific Imaging Centre, said once a decision has been made to image enable a company's documents, several key issues need to be considered. These include: whether documents are required to be scanned, stored and retrieved electronically on a periodic basis; if they will form part of a workflow/document management system where documents will be routed through various departments; or will documents be scanned purely for electronic archival?

Once this criteria has been established, the next step is to pick the application that best suits these particular requirements.

Mr McGuiness said there are applications available for the small system through to the very large and most can be customised for particular requirements. His advice is to shop around and test a number of products before making a final choice.

The next important step is choosing a scanner. "Choosing a scanner is not simply looking at the volumes of documents to be scanned and then choosing one based on required throughput," Mr McGuiness advises.

He said current production scanners have capacities ranging from 15 pages per minute (ppm) to 200 ppm but companies should consider that they will not always receive this throughput hour by hour.

Likewise, Mr Whittard said companies must always remember that scanner speed is not the real throughput that will be achieved.

"Throughput is an estimation of the practical maximum scanning capacity in real-life. It depends upon paper type, size and quality; orientation - portrait or landscape; batch type - same or mixed; simplex or duplex; resolution; operator proficiency; document preparation; scanner reliability; robustness, and service and uptime," he said.

"Less stoppages and higher productivity can be reached with fewer and higher speed scanners, more reliable and robust scanners, automated indexing (barcoding, OCR/ICR) and an ergonomically designed scanner and process," Mr McGuiness said.

Considering the above factors, experts advise that it may be best to work on the basis that approximately 60 per cent of the rated throughput of a scanner will be achieved during a normal day.

Once an application and a scanner have been sourced, the next aspect to consider is the actual work process involved in scanning and indexing.

Mr McGuiness suggests that businesses look at reproducing what is currently being done electronically, while keeping in mind that the most important aspect of any document imaging application is the ability to retrieve the document.

This is where proper indexing at the point of capture is critical. In its basic form the index field(s) is what enables the document to be retrieved. Index fields can be completed using barcodes, OCR or manual entry.

According to Mr McGuiness, it is important to keep the number of index fields as small as possible - otherwise, the capture process is slowed down and may result in backlog. "The simpler the index structure, the faster the throughput," he said.

An example of this would be to have a filing cabinet with individual files for each client, with the client name as the index/retrieval rather than indexing individual pages within a client file.

Firms have to take into consideration new developments that are constantly occurring in the document capture industry.

One of the biggest of these is the advent of colour scanning.


In May, Kodak released its new 3590C colour scanner with the ability to capture 240 bit colour at 85ppm. Kodak believes that the industry is more than ready for colour and that market forces are pushing for the widespread adoption of colour document scanning.

Kodak says this evident in the fact that many source documents are in colour, display mechanisms are in place and that colour documents scanned at 100 dpi are more acceptable than today's 200 dpi and 300 dpi bi-tonal and grayscale images.

Craig Cobb, national dealer and technical support co-ordinator with Canon, said another big advancements in the field is multiple devices which offer scanners, faxes and photocopiers in one. As well as devices, which offer a complete, scan to store solution such as Canon's 4046 model. He said this device is finding increasing support in the market in particular in the legal and healthcare industries.

New releases in document capture software are also seeing businesses have the ability to locally scan and index documents and then send them to a central site for processing and storing across the Web or other existing networks. Therefore providing a reduction in overall costs.

The conversion of paper records to digital format is a major undertaking for any organisation no matter the size of the project. Although the costs of scanning technology is falling, businesses still have to consider the various logistics and possible pitfalls of the operation to ensure it is a cost-effective exercise in the long run.

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