Magazine Article | January 23, 2008

Document Scanner Update

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Workgroup scanners show the most growth in the market today, but how do you know which one is right for you?

Integrated Solutions, February 2008

Infotrends performs worldwide market research and analysis on digital imaging and document scanning solutions. When it comes to understanding market trends and opportunities, the company has become a respected industry source. In this interview, Sandra Collins, a senior consultant, shares some insight regarding selecting a scanner in today's market. 

Where is most of the growth occurring in document scanning, and what do you see happening because of that growth?
Collins: We believe the distributed market is growing by leaps and bounds, especially in the workgroup segment. What we are finding is that the majority of the growth is in the lower workgroup space, driven mainly by small businesses putting these machines into distributed applications where just a handful of people are using them.

Are you seeing a trend of lower volume devices incorporating ease-of-use features such as one touch or single touch?
Collins: Yes, definitely. When you get into a distributed environment, you have to make things as easy as possible, or employees are not going to comply. Companies are interested in finding out how  they can automate the scanning process so that the operator does not have to go through multiple steps. The one-touch buttons are very important, but I also think people are really looking at how they can optimize the way the software that drives the scanner can integrate with their own systems.  As more of that is being automated, IT specialists really are starting to understand and move forward with the technology. 

How can an end user accurately evaluate its scanning volume requirements to know if a workgroup scanner will meet its needs?
Collins: This is a tough question. For companies that have a large volume of documents, there may not be any way to get around working with a VAR or consultant that can do a thorough needs assessment. I think this is really the best way, and if a company isn't going to do that, it's going to be difficult. If a company is not willing to do that, it will need to sit down and look at what applications the scanner will be used for and try to determine volumes from there. These companies need to work closely with their knowledge workers — the people who truly are  managing the business processes in question — and then probably double the volume estimates. You're much better off getting equipment that's too robust than not robust enough, since it is very likely the applications will increase as the company realizes other applications the scanner can be used for.
Every scanner has a rated scanning speed that often differs from the actual throughout. Can you clarify the difference?
Collins: Scanning speed is how fast the paper is moving through the device. In reality, throughput is a whole lot more than that. If you are going to start looking at throughput, why not start looking at the entire time continuum, from document preparation all the way through to what happens to the document once it is scanned? Paper quality, image quality, and operator error all impact throughput. From a manufacturer's point of view, you really can't measure throughput because it depends on so many things.
How can an end user test the effectiveness of a scanner and what should be kept in mind when making the purchase?
Collins: Scanners are usually very durable pieces of equipment, so unless you are really overtaxing something, they are pretty reliable. Many manufacturers publish duty cycles, and companies are going to want to be sure that daily or monthly volume is going to be below what the manufacturer publishes. Paper-handling is another item to consider. If an application has difficult originals, such as very light or heavy stock paper, or if they want to scan small items like business cards and receipts, users need to check the specifications against the scanner manufacturer's published paper weights and sizes.  Likewise, any type of card application, especially embossed or inflexible cards, are going to be important considerations, because not many scanners will feed embossed cards or inflexible material at this point.
Service plan is another thing to consider. In the case of a small scanner, the only option may be depot service or something similar. With a high-speed, large scanner, a company should ask about on-site service and who performs that service. These machines don't require service very often, but that would definitely be a consideration.
If companies are working with a VAR or consultant, they should listen to the recommendations that are made in terms of which piece of equipment to purchase. In general, VARs and consultants don't handle every product line out there. They will handle only a handful of them, because that is the equipment they have found to be reliable. They do not spend huge amounts of time and money to install it, it doesn't have service issues, it doesn't break, etc. In general, it is usually something they already have installed in a lot of places.