Magazine Article | September 21, 2006

Send Distributed Scanning To The Field

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A social services company replaces 35-pound copiers in the field with mobile scanning pens.

Integrated Solutions, October 2006

The move to distributed scanning is one that many organizations are making, all in an effort to capture data where it enters the enterprise. If frontline offices are equipped with document scanners, a company can reduce administrative costs by eliminating central scanning departments. Also, frontline employees, being knowledge workers, are familiar with the documents they are scanning and can more easily note when there is a problem.

Distributed scanning can pose a challenge when the frontline employees are not in an office but in the field, driving around in cars, and when the document needing scanned is not something the employees can take back to the office with them. This is the situation Dunn Mental Health Center, a private nonprofit organization in Richmond, IN, was in. One of the programs at Dunn Center trains and supports foster parents. Social workers at Dunn Center work with these foster parents, who become ‘employees’ of Dunn Center. This ‘hiring’ is done during the social workers’ routine visits to the parents and, as with any hiring, requires getting images of driver’s licenses, social security cards, and foster parent licenses. These documents are the type that can’t be taken to an office and mailed back or brought back on the social worker’s next visit.

One approach Dunn Center took to address this challenge was to have social workers drive back to the office, copy the documents, and drive back to the foster parents. This was sometimes a 60-mile round-trip, wasting gas and time. Another solution was to equip workers with portable copy machines to bring into the foster parents’ homes to make copies of the documents. “These machines were called portable, but they weighed about 35 pounds,” says Karen Creamer, project management specialist at Dunn Center. “It wasn’t convenient for our workers to lug the heavy devices into foster parents’ homes, so more often than not, the workers would drive back to our office or to a FedEx Kinko’s to make copies.”


MOBILE SCANNERS ARE DESIGNED FOR THE FIELD

Dunn Center knew there had to be a better way to capture these documents, and Creamer found the answer while searching for solutions on the Internet. She found the Planon DocuPen R700, a mobile scanning device weighing less than a pound and measuring 8 inches by ½ inch. The device, which costs $200, can store 100 pages in its memory at a resolution of up to 200 dpi (dots per inch) and scan a page in less than eight seconds. “The small, lightweight device was perfect for our social workers,” says Creamer. “They could carry the pen right in their laptop bags and not even notice the weight.”

Dunn Center purchased one pen to test it, and when that pilot project was successful, purchased one for each of its 12 field foster care offices. Dunn Center trained a representative from each office how to use the pen; that representative then trained the other workers at the office. A social worker heading out to visit foster parents takes the pen with her. During the visits, the worker scans the necessary documents with the pen, then brings it back to the office secretary. The secretary connects the pen to her PC (where the DocuPen software has been loaded) via USB port and downloads the scanned documents, adding them to the foster parents’ file.  “We decided to try giving every office a pen, rather than every social worker,” says Creamer. “If there were problems with demand, we’d purchase more of the scanning pens, but there hasn’t been much overlap so far.”  With mobile scanning, Dunn Center has greatly reduced the costs associated with the social workers driving back and forth to make copies. Also, the workers are no longer burdened with carrying the heavy copiers to and from their cars.                     

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