Magazine Article | May 10, 2006

Protect Your Distributed Scanning Investment

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Don’t underestimate the value of a service plan for distributed scanners.

Integrated Solutions, May 2006

One of the big changes within document imaging over the past few years has been a move from centralized to decentralized (i.e. distributed) scanning. Distributed scanning has not only changed the scanning model, it has also changed the way end users and vendors view service and support. Decentralized projects use a number of lower-priced workgroup and departmental scanners for each application. Unlike the traditional document management challenge of maintaining skilled imaging professionals at headquarters, enterprises now rely on a myriad of workers who are responsible for scanning their departmental forms. The obvious benefit is work is captured closer to where it happens, requiring less communication between headquarters and each branch facility, less postage and handling costs to mail paper documents, and faster turnaround times on scanning projects. This doesn’t mean there aren’t a few potential pitfalls, however, especially relating to distributed scanning service and support. To make sure you’re capitalizing on your distributed scanning investment, be sure to heed the following advice.


If you’re in the process of purchasing departmental scanners for your company, you need to look beyond the immediate needs a scanner is going to fulfill. For example, perhaps the accounting department requests a scanner that is going to be used only for scanning invoices. It’s a safe bet that after accounting discovers how convenient and efficient it is to scan invoices, it is going to want to add payroll to the list. Then, after the CPA (certified public accountant) tells the purchasing manager how much time accounting is saving, the purchasing manager is going to want to use the scanner for POs (purchase orders). “Understanding how the scanners are potentially going to be used can mean the difference between buying a single, $500 scanner, or several machines at $1,000 each or more,” says Tony Barbeau, director of document imaging global services at Eastman Kodak Company — KODAK Service & Support. “Choosing the right scanner will ensure that departments run more efficiently and that enterprises select the right kind of service contracts.”

Another area in which enterprises sometimes miss the mark with departmental scanners is the service contract. After all, with scanners being so inexpensive, aren’t distributed scanning service contracts unnecessary? Only if several days of downtime isn’t a problem. “The primary problem is forgoing service contracts altogether,” warns Theresa Herweg, director of service marketing at Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Inc. “Because scanner technology appears much simpler than it was several years ago, end users can fall into an ‘I can fix it myself’ mentality.” Even though today’s scanners have GUI interfaces and easy-to-understand buttons doesn’t mean they are easy to repair. Finding this out the hard way not only costs more for repairs in the long run, it also creates a far worse problem — downtime. Fortunately, scanning vendors understand your departmental scanners need a whole different kind of service contract than what a high-end centralized scanner requires, and they have developed a variety of services to meet your needs. “Premium-level on-site service may not fit a customer with departmental/low-volume equipment, but a depot repair plan is a very popular choice,” says Craig Wallace, VP and general manager at Versitec, a division of Cranel, Inc. “A few kinds of depot repair services include advanced exchange, flat depot repair, or a repair credit program.”

Advanced exchange is a one-to-one service agreement. If a scanner breaks down, the end user contacts the depot center and describes the problem. Once the depot center determines the problem is more than a cleaning issue, it overnights a replacement model to the customer, and the customer ships the broken scanner to the depot center.

Flat depot repair works similarly to the advanced exchange model, but it allows companies that can tolerate a longer wait to pay less for their service contracts. For example, a flat depot repair service contract can be set up to include a 2-, 5-, or 10-day turnaround on a scanner repair.

A third type of depot repair service is a credit program that replaces the traditional ‘one service contract for one piece of equipment’ model with a one-to-many model. For example, end users can buy repair credits up front (at a lower cost than paying out of pocket at the time of a scanner breakdown) that can be applied to any of their distributed scanners in the event of a service issue. One of the primary benefits of this kind of plan is that it enables enterprises to budget for repair costs.

One challenge with departmental scanning is that an enterprise may use several scanner brands, requiring multiple service contracts that are expensive and time-consuming to maintain. A better plan is to find a service provider that offers one service contract for all your scanners. This can be achieved through a VAR (value-added reseller), VAD (value-added distributor), and sometimes a vendor. “If you’re going to set up a multiscanner contract through a scanner vendor, you need to make sure the vendor is certified to repair other brands,” says Barbeau. You also need assurance the vendor isn’t going to badmouth the other scanner brands just so it can get you to replace them with its brand. If your reference checks reveal any concerns, consider working with a VAR or VAD, which are more likely to treat multiple brands equally. “Whichever route you choose, it’s important the service partner has ready access to mobile parts inventories,” says Herweg. “This is essential to minimize scanner downtime by raising the odds your scanner will be fixed on the first call/visit.” According to Herweg, Fujitsu’s field service engineers carry mobile parts inventories and maintain a 93% success rate of fixing scanners on the first visit. Make sure your service provider can make similar claims.


In a distributed scanning environment, many operators don’t learn the basics about scanners. “Many hands touch the scanners, yet no one takes ownership for the upkeep of the equipment,” says Wallace. “A buildup of dust and ink can lead to a degraded image quality over time and premature breakdowns.” Make sure to inquire about training services as part of your service partner’s agreement. Also, customized on-site preventative maintenance service plans, which include routine cleaning service and consumables (i.e. rollers, belts) replacement, are something you should consider.

Distributed scanning is a good way to image paper documents at the point of work and avoid mailing documents to a central location. To capitalize on this business strategy, make sure you protect your investment by choosing the right service partner and selecting a customized scanner service plan that fits your needs.