Magazine Article | June 1, 2003

Look Beyond Speeds And Feeds In Scanner Selection

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

A scanning hardware upgrade brings service bureau SOURCECORP, Inc. closer to its operational goals while increasing image quality and reducing rescans.

Integrated Solutions, June 2003

With 9,000 employees in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Mexico, value-added BPO (business process outsourcer) SOURCECORP, Inc. (Dallas) is constantly evaluating available document imaging hardware and software solutions. "SOURCECORP spends multiple millions of dollars each year to upgrade and refresh its high-speed scanner base, constantly optimizing our cost-effective deployment of operational labor," says SOURCECORP CTO Steve Davis. "Some of our largest document imaging processing centers scan more than 1.5 million pages per day through the use of 200-ppm [page per minute] scanning systems." In order to stay competitive, SOURCECORP's goal is that all scanning hardware be in full production at least 22 out of every 24 hours, 3 hours longer than the standard for most service bureaus.

In 2002, SOURCECORP began evaluating a variety of high-speed scanners to replace some aging units that were fully depreciated, and meet the demands of a growing customer base. In addition to purchasing hardware that could meet its rigorous duty cycles, SOURCECORP also hoped to improve image quality as well as OCR (optical character recognition) read rates and reduce the need for document rescans. "The evaluation of high speed scanning solutions is really part of a major corporate level initiative to continue to improve our field operation's capabilities to effectively process our existing customers' business, enhance our ability to win new business and increase our processing capacity at several of our large processing centers," notes Davis.

After evaluating the performance metrics of the various models, SOURCECORP purchased a pair of 200-ppm ImageTrac II scanners from Imaging Business Machines, LLC (IBML) (Birmingham, AL). "The ability to move a large number of pages through a scanner unit in a 24-hour period accurately is our key metric," says Davis. "However, the rated pages per minute on a scanner device is of little consequence to us; it's really all about how many productive minutes of use that scanner will achieve in a day's time. Things like ease of paper jam correction, frequency of preventive maintenance cycles, ability to rapid switch system setup between customer jobs, and overall 'bulletproof-ness' of the system are key attributes that drive this productive minute equation. All of the systems we evaluated had sophisticated double-feed detection. Because many of our locations process a variety of documents daily, scanning solutions in our environment must be able to handle different page sizes, paper types, and image capture options. The ImageTrac II was the only system that could meet our productive hours per day targets under those conditions."

Integrated Hardware And Software Support Workflow
SOURCECORP purchased the ImageTrac scanners through Captiva Software Corp. (San Diego) in conjunction with a software initiative begun in 2000. SOURCECORP has standardized on the FormWare platform from Captiva for indexing and imaging. To create specialized capture and viewing solutions, SOURCECORP uses SDKs (software development kits) from Pixel Translations, a division of Captiva.

IBML's SoftTrac software interface is used to set job descriptions for output and creates a batch definition file, which is sent to a NAS (network attached storage) device from Network Appliance (Sunnyvale, CA). Integrated with SoftTrac, FormWare retrieves the images in the batch definition file and sets off automated workflows based on the needs of that job. SoftTrac also provides performance metrics to evaluate the efficiency of the system.

One of the two ImageTrac scanners is used to process mortgage loan documents. Davis reports that this is one of SOURCECORP's most challenging applications because of environmental factors such as dust, high temperatures, and humidity. The second unit was placed in a setting where it was used for a wide variety of jobs, which challenges its ability to switch job setups quickly and deal with multiple paper types. For specialized purposes, SOURCECORP also uses ink jet printing capabilities of the ImageTrac, which simulates a stamping operation. ImageTrac also has pockets, which can be used to automate removal of separator sheets.

Once the images are processed according to the contract, they are provided to customers through a VPN (virtual private network), or on CD. SOURCECORP also offers an outsourced Web repository, Fastreive (a custom developed, Java-based document repository), which can be integrated with PeopleSoft applications, custom workflows, and mainframe systems.

Davis reports that image quality has improved by using ImageTrac, and he is pleased with the success of the double-feed detection. The open document transport allows users to recover quickly in the event of a misfeed. "The key measure of success is rescans," stresses Davis. "Compared to other scanners we have used, ImageTrac is much better at reducing the time spent scanning documents a second time." Because of its speed and throughput, the ImageTrac can also replace multiple smaller units, reducing space requirements and the number of operators required to maintain production. In fact, SOURCECORP has been so pleased with the productivity of the ImageTrac that it has purchased 14 additional units for use at facilities across the country.