Magazine Article | April 18, 2007

A Buyer's Guide To Document Scanners

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Whether you’re in the market for a desktop- or production-level document scanner, there are some universally applicable criteria you must include on your checklist.

Integrated Solutions, March 2007

With a new year under way, companies of all sizes and across a host of industries are making firm decisions on capital expenditures. Many of these decisions will include technology purchases, and a high percentage of these 2007 purchases will involve document imaging equipment.

For many of these companies, this will represent their foray into digital document imaging. But for a growing majority, it will be the continuation of, or an expansion on, their efforts to digitally transform their paper-intensive environments. In fact, in an AIIM, the Enterprise Content Management Association, survey conducted earlier this year, 73% of respondents said just that.

For the other 27% — the ones who are just getting started — the questions are largely focused on "what?" What equipment should I buy? What exactly is our intended application? What do I need to do to prepare my staff?

The 73%, or majority group, is largely responsible for one of the trends we've seen in the past year — an increasing coexistence between distributed capture and production scanners. It doesn't have to be the either/or scenario that many businesses envision when they embark on their digital transformation. A growing number of companies are choosing to maintain a healthy level of both.

For instance, for a company with a large home base as well as multiple branch locations, a combination of distributed scanning and centralized scanning might provide a more ideal solution. This is a growing trend that we are seeing, particularly within insurance companies, as well as in banking and other financial institutions.

For larger companies, the questions associated with their document imaging capabilities are chiefly about "how?" How do I ensure that the various phases of the project integrate successfully? How do I optimize my network's performance? How do I best use the information that I've captured?

While the questions imaging newcomers and veterans ask may be markedly different, both expect to derive many of the same benefits from their document scanners. Whether they are purchasing production or distributed capture scanners, more and more companies are looking for:

Ease of use — End users want a device that is easy to use, affordable, and capable of scanning even difficult documents, such as those with multiple colors and highlights, while still producing exceptional images on the first scan. While today's distributed capture scanners come packed with more features and functionality, they are far easier to use than ever before. So, some simple operational instruction may be all that is required. That said, it is vital for all members of an organization to understand not only the mechanics of the distributed scanning process, but also the role that the solution plays or the specific function that it performs within the organization's process.

High image quality — Since a digital record is, in most cases, serving as a replacement for its hard copy original, it is vital that the information the digital file contains is accurately and authentically replicated. One of the contributing factors driving digital imaging growth is regulatory compliance. This is a trend that shows no sign of winding down anytime soon. Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) lead a list of such rules that now affect businesses of all sizes. Since there can be severe penalties assessed for noncompliance, these regulations have impacted disclosure practices and reduced reporting cycle times, creating the need to more quickly and accurately capture, safely archive, and easily retrieve critical business information.

Increased productivity — The bottom line for any company undertaking a digital transformation is to make their operational structure both more efficient and more effective. Digital cameras and cell phones have fueled the expectation of instant information transmission. Today's office personnel want that same instantaneous capability to apply to their business information. There have been a number of improvements in mid- and low-volume scanners, such as improved paper handling, the ability to scan irregular and long documents, double-document detection, and auto color detection. The introduction of sheet-fed technology in workgroup and departmental scanners — as opposed to the single sheet flatbed — has enabled users to increase their throughput and productivity. At the production level, ergonomic design is playing a role, since surveys have shown that features like adjustable height can have a significantly positive impact on productivity.

Document imaging can make many tasks go easier and faster, performing in seconds what manually took minutes or even hours. Explore your options. I'm sure you will find a solution to keep your business both efficient and compliant.