Magazine Article | November 30, 2006

Fit To Scan: Choosing The Ideal Solution For Your Document Capture Needs

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
Integrated Solutions, November 2006

Sponsored by HPSo you’ve decided to introduce document capture into your business processes. Perhaps you’ve gone so far as to map the workflows you’d like to target, educate stakeholders, and research potential vendors. Excellent. But before going any further — that is before making any purchasing decisions — it might be time for a refresher course in scanner classes and types.

Scanners are classified as low-, mid- and high-volume, based on the speed of the device and the volume of pages it’s designed to handle. The ability to reliably handle higher volumes at higher speeds increases with the cost of the device. Today, features have less of an impact on cost, with lower-volume devices now boasting much of the same functionality as higher-volume devices.

Low-volume (or workgroup) scanners are typically characterized by speeds of 10 to 25 ppm (pages per minute) or 20 to 50 ipm (images per minute). They can reliably handle 500 to 1,000 pages per day and cost between $500 and $2,000. Workgroup scanners are often used in distributed scanning environments with a variety of capture workflows. These devices are suitable for small businesses as well as larger environments where multiple installations can often replace higher-volume scanners and increase efficiencies by moving the capture closer to the work.

Mid-volume (or department) scanners are the hybrids of scanning technology, equally at home in either workgroup- or production-class settings. Characterized by speeds of 26 to 40 ppm/52 to 80 ipm, department scanners handle loads of 3,000 pages per day and are typically priced between $2,000 and $5,000.

High-volume (or production) scanners are designed for the rigors of centralized scanning environments. At speeds of 82-plus ppm/ipm, loads of 5,000-plus pages per day, and costs of $5,000 and up, these devices are integrated into large, sophisticated document management systems and are generally operated by rededicated scan technicians.

In addition to volume classes, scanners are categorized by scanner type: multifunction peripheral (MFP) or stand-alone. MFPs allow users to scan from either an automatic document feeder (ADF) or the scanner bed and include copy, fax, and print functions. Customizable front panels provide a flexible platform, making it easy for multiple users to scan, index, categorize, and send documents directly from the device. Easy integration with popular processing applications and document management platforms make these devices highly adaptable to existing environments and processes.

Stand-alone scanners are further divided into flatbed and sheet-feed categories. Flatbeds provide the option of scanning from either the ADF or scanner bed. The scanner bed accommodates fragile and odd-sized documents and, in some models, transparent media. Sheet-feed versions limit scanning to the ADF. Stand-alones also offer copy, fax, and other one-button command functions and integrate well with back end platforms.

The primary difference between MFPs and stand-alones is found in the execution of functions such as indexing and categorization. Where these features are accessed from the MFP’s front panel, a stand-alone’s features are accessed from the user’s PC.

Now that you’re familiar with what’s available, it’s time to take inventory of your capture and volume needs. You might find you need different classes of scanners for different workflows. Next, think about device type (single or multifunction). As with your capture needs, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. Your environment might call for a balanced deployment of stand-alone and MFP devices or require only one type of device. Some questions to ask yourself are:

n Will the device be dedicated to scanning? Will one or two people be responsible for the majority of scanning? If so, a stand-alone device might be best.

n Do you need a customizable interface that accommodates multiple users and workflows? Would consolidating the number of devices your organization uses for scanning, copy, print, and fax be beneficial? Yes answers indicate an MFP might be the best choice.

n Finally, consider the document types to be scanned, the number of people the device will serve, the proximity of its users, and networking requirements.

Armed with answers to these questions and an awareness of available technologies, you’re ready to begin investing in your solution. Just remember, with so many factors to weigh and so many options available, working with a vendor that can provide a broad set of solutions will be crucial in optimizing your new business processes.