How does OCR software "read," exactly? All of us are taught to recognize words from a very young age. Later in life, we get to the point where meaning is revealed to us almost as soon as we look at a given text. You could say that, by then, we are programmed to detect and process written language effectively.
Some of us become so good at it that they think of words as "pictures." Those people can look at a page and see it as a painting, admiring and dissecting meaning off of it. Their eyes and brains are working in perfect unison to detect and process information stored within.
This is somewhat similar to how Optical Character Recognition (OCR) works. By and large, it is a mechanical or electronic method of turning handwritten, typed, scanned, photographed, and printed texts into machine-encoded, editable documents. Computers detect words as if they were pictures, thus they may still not understand their meaning, but they can process and reproduce writing, delivering it in a digital form. In other words, something like turning a jpeg document into a doc file in a matter of seconds is what the OCR software is for – but not only that.
By combining various text processing techniques such as pattern recognition (finding recurring shapes in a text), feature detection (detecting one's writing style – lines, strokes, angles), optical mark and barcode recognition (identifying answers in surveys, as well as products and their features), OCR software can "read" text from any given document, including invoices, letters, orders, contracts, reports, forms, personal questionaries' and many others.
This is why, these days, OCR technology is used mostly by companies to handle their paperwork better, improve data efficiency, and reduce operational costs. OCR software can, of course, come in various forms, including smartphone apps, desktop applications, advanced business platforms, and served-based solutions that can convert millions of documents without human interference. So, if your company has ECM or EDI software (More about: https://www.comarch.com/trade-and-services/data-management/edi/), you might consider getting an OCR reader as an additional feature.
So, what are the key benefits?
There are quite a few, let's say, general advantages resulting from using OCR software. Those include, for example, quick personal identification, effective preservation of historical data, and helping the visually impaired. As for the benefits for one's business, OCR is, first and foremost, said to be a great time-saver. You can easily reduce the number of documents that are processed manually. Archiving of one’s files takes minutes, and, as a result, gaining access to that information is also nearly instantaneous.
Next, there is an improvement in work management. It may sound banal, but with the right tools at hand, one's employees are much more efficient. That's because they can stop spending time and energy on mundane, repetitive tasks that need to be performed manually. Instead, they can focus on other duties – those that are equally essential for the company's growth.
Using the OCR software also means reduced operational costs. Today's companies spend about $20 to file a single document, $120 to find a missing one, and $220 to recreate a record that was lost. OCR technology helps minimize the number of human errors and eliminates a great deal of manual labor. Thus, this is an investment that pays off very quickly.
There's also a matter of security. All business documents, such as invoices, contracts, and personal forms, must be stored in places that we can call "virtual vaults." This is why OCR is often part of another solution, such as EDI, which makes sure that all of your data is safe and sound at all times.
Plus, implementing OCR means less paper will be used for running various business operations. That's the thing about going digital – it is good for the environment. Given that we are doing our utter best to try to save this planet these days, it should be mentioned that incorporating OCR is a way to both becoming eco-friendly and gaining a competitive advantage.
How to make the right call?
While OCR technology is still being perfected, it is said to become a new standard all around the world. There are many IT technology providers, such as Comarch (News - Alert), for example, that already made OCR part of their systems and services for improving business efficiency. If we were to give you any advice on how to choose the right IT platform, it would be this - choose a solution that suits your company best. Remember, there’s no need to rush things – take your time. The quality of your data depends on it.