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May 03, 2017

The First Step to Digitalization and Efficient Document Capture

By Special Guest
David Whitton, General Manager of Kodak Alaris - Eastern Cluster (Middle East, Africa, East Europe, Turkey & Russia)

There’s more to the capture step of document imaging than just putting paper through a scanner. Image capture is about making documents as sharp and legible as possible for online viewing, printing, and reading by data extraction software. There are multiple factors involved, starting with document preparation, document transport, image processing, quality assurance, indexing etc. Image quality variables are usually centred on scanning and image processing, but anything you can do to improve performance in any step can make your overall business process more efficient. As you evaluate scanner models, it’s important to look at how various combinations of features, speed, and cost impact the process and output, including reliability and total cost of operations.

Taking a close look at image quality

The goal of document imaging is to capture and share information visually, so clarity in all resulting formats is critical. What you capture is what you will wind up seeing, sending, and printing. Capturing reality (and possibly enhancing it without modifying it) is crucial.

Putting scanners to the test

Some imaging qualities can be measured. Engineers can evaluate a scanner’s ability to image areas of a standard test target without distortion or loss of detail. Horizontal and vertical lines should remain straight. Areas of fine detail should not fill in. Optical character recognition (OCR) performance is another measure. If error rates are high, it’s a sign that the imaging process is deficient and results aren’t sharp enough for accuracy.

Planning for productivity

When it comes to operational goals for an image capture system, the system should do as much of the work as possible. So you want to avoid

David Whitton

the need to rescan documents and reinsert them into your workflow. If we look at the different aspects of the imaging chain, it’s clear that minimizing paper handling is critical. The right scanner will allow you to spend your time on tasks that are more valuable than sorting paper.

Minimizing operator involvement

By limiting paper handling and automating image processes, your scanning system can minimize the time and labour required to get digital documents into your system. Here are some more important considerations to keep in mind that will let your people be more productive:

  • An intuitive capture system reduces the need for specialized training and dedicated operators
  • Automatic color detection, within a document batch, and image mode switching takes another task off an operator’s list
  • Capabilities to time- and date-stamp documents, index by bar code or OCR fields, and perform automatic data entry via OCR
  • “Trainable” features, such as self-learning electronic color dropout capabilities to handle more colors and color variations
  • Simplified routine scanner cleaning and maintenance will enable an operator to safeguard system performance in less time

Balancing features with total cost of ownership

Beyond quality lies cost. But there’s more to cost than the purchase price of a scanner and imaging software. Be sure to take into account the on-going expenses of labour, consumables such as lamps and feeder modules, service, and software upgrades. Look at any scanner’s design in terms of durability and ergonomics. A good guarantee and a strong service contract can also be valuable assets. Today there is a wealth of information in terms of specifications, user reviews, ratings and more to be found online.

Finding your scanning sweet spot

Each scanner design incorporates decisions made by engineers about optical performance and how the raw digital stream of ones and zeros is converted into an image. Because only you can decide if these choices are right for your needs, the best way to evaluate a specific scanner is to test it with your documents. Set the capture parameters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations for your application. These might be different depending on whether your mix includes photographs, multipart forms, bar codes, handwritten notations, diagrams, color content, or printed forms. Virtually every scanner is able to scan at multiple resolutions, which are measured in dots per inch (dpi). The higher the number, the more data transferred from the page. But higher resolution can mean a slower scan rate and larger image files. You want to achieve the highest speed for the lowest resolution that sufficiently captures the information that’s important to you.

Keeping in mind the considerations above will help you start on the path to productive document imaging and aid in selecting a scanner or scanners ideal for your paper volume, type of organization, and processes.

Edited by Alicia Young

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