For the high-volume scanner, consider these features:
- Blank page removal. Makes dealing with a mix of double and single sided documents much easier.
- Scanning tab inserts. Yes indeed, there are scanners that can accommodate scanning tab inserts (feed the hole-punch side into the scanner). This can be a tremendous time-saver, otherwise you are removing tabs in inserting 8 1/2 x 11 pages with the corresponding tab number.
- Hole punch removal. Speaking of hole punches, some scanners can detect-and-remove the image of the 3-hole punch, producing a nicer scanned result, especially if you might be reprinting the document.
- DPI choices: smaller (or less) DPI is better in terms of scan-document size, as long as the scan is legible. Experiment with your scanner of choice to see how well you like 150, 200, or 300 DPI.
- Deskew and Despeckle: these features can really clean up scans that go through misaligned, scans of older documents or scans of 3rd or 4th-generation prints that have lots of “artifacts” on the pages that often originates from residue on the machine glass. These features are worth testing to assure they perform as expected.
- OCR is a typical feature of most scanners today, but quality can vary when compared to OCR tools (like Acrobat for example). Be sure the OCR feature can be turned on/off because you may decide to have OCR performed by software outside the scanner itself.
There are several software components to consider when planning your paperless office project:
- Scanner Controller: Almost any scanner you select today, will have an accompanying piece of software to control scanner functions. On lower-end scanners, this software will operate on a workstation connected to the scanner. On higher-end scanners, the software is “embedded” in a built-in device hardware panel.
- Process Controller: This piece of software is the “heart” of your paperless solution. The process controller should let you define workflows so that scanning tasks can be moved among staff.
In either case, take a look at how the software operates. Can you create scan “profiles” for faster access to features? Can you boil down the process to one click or the press of a button? Ease of use is essential. Be sensitive to the end user who is not technically savvy. Other people may not achieve proficiency because they have a role with infrequent usage needs.
What are the tasks in the process? Selection (incoming paper, open file paper, closed file paper?), classifying, document prep, scanning, quality control checking, and disposition. Assignment of paperless office “tasks” to different users so that the work matches the pay grade. That sounds indelicate, but tasks like coding paper documents or doing document prep work need to be performed by employees who are paid much less than knowledge workers.
Look carefully at how the process controller facilitates quality control. Someone should be comparing scanned documents to the hard copy. This is done to confirm the scan is legible and not missing any pages. This is usually done by visual inspection. Random sampling is effective so that checking every scan is unnecessary.
- The system of record for the electronic document: You have one, whether it is Dropbox, a formal case management application or a document management system. Your Process Controller, the core of the scanning solution, should integrate directly with your system of record. Extra steps to move scanned documents into the system of record are a waste of time and money.
- OCR: There are several choices – but OCR is an essential step and a huge value-add when scanning paper. In the ideal world, your core scanning solution, the Process Controller, includes an OCR solution to make the OCR step seamless.
Gains in efficiency can lead to significant gains in productivity, especially when those gains are reflected across the firm with a repeatable process like document scanning. Imagine the number of steps each person completes when scanning and multiply that across number of paper documents and the number of people involved in the scanning process. You get the picture.
Henry Ford discovered this first: Doing work in batches makes a difference. The scanning process in this context looks like an assembly line. Recall the steps recited above:
- Selection (incoming paper, open file paper, closed file paper)
- Document prep
- Quality control
Each of these steps may be composed of several tasks. Arrange tasks in batches wherever possible and assign steps to the right pay grade to achieve significant gains in productivity.
Here are a two examples: