Saturday, May 24, 2008

How do I identify my scanned files. . .

All the files that we scan and convert to digital image files have to be given some sort of identifying "name" (i.e. Smith-John.PDF, 1234.PDF, etc.). We do this by a process called "Indexing". Indexing can be a manual and/or automated process. Index data can also be used to name folders and sub-folders which the image files are placed in. There is also "Metadata"; think of metadata as data about the data (i.e. file creation date, file size, color or black and white image, etc.). PDF Text Searchable and PDF Normal files also contain metadata - the text contained within the document.

When considering a document imaging project, you will have to consider how the files will be named and organized. Typically, many companies have paper lists/logs describing the contents of a hardcopy document and where documents are located; in what file cabinet, what building, etc. Start transferring that information to an Excel spreadsheet - NOW! You will want to have all of your lists/logs stored electronically. The information contained in the spreadsheet can be imported into any database or enterprise content management system. The bottom line - make it electronic!

Having your data in an electronic format will help greatly aid indexing during the scanning and conversion process. In many cases, handwritten information contained in lists/logs has to be manually entered during indexing. Depending on the amount of information needed, this can add significant cost to any scanning conversion project. On the other hand, using existing electronic data will help to minimize the amount of manual indexing required, reduce cost and increase data accuracy. As an example, Twin Imaging Technology recently scanned and converted over 23,000 patient records for a medical group. The client required each patient file to be named using the patient’s last name, first name, and ID number. This would have been time consuming and costly to type in all 23,000 names. Our client was able to provide us with an electronic database containing all of the patient names and ID numbers. We used our batch scanning software, PSI Capture, to automatically "read" the patient ID number from each scanned file. Once the ID number was read (zonal OCR), PSI automatically looked up the name associated with the ID number and named the file. Manually naming a batch of 100 patient files would have taken 15 to 20 minutes. Using the electronic data provided by the client allowed us to index each batch (100 patient records on average) in less than 10 seconds.

Don't fret if you can't provide any of your data electronically. As I mentioned previously, we use a process called Zonal OCR to read text from a document. This is not always accurate, but does help to automate and reduce the time devoted to indexing.

Next time we'll talk about how you can structure your documents to be more scanner and indexing friendly.

Sean Martin, Vice President, Twin Imaging Technology

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Think Doc Prep NOW!!! and chuck your stapler while you're at it. . .

You may be considering a back file conversion of your archived and active documentation in the near future. You need to consider Doc Prep NOW! Doc Prep is short for Document Preporation. Before any paper can pass through a scanner, it needs to be prepped. Prepping a document for scanning involves the removal of staples, paperclips, post-it-notes, etc. Additionally, "dog eared" pages need to be folded flat. Post-it-notes and dog eared pages may cover page content that will be missed during the scanning process.

Document Imaging service bureaus have staff dedicated to preparing documents for scanning. Doc prep is a very labor intensive process and the more doc prep that is required, the higher your back file conversion cost will be.

Here are a few things to consider and implement where appropriate. . .

1) Use paper clips instead of staples where ever possible. A staple that is not detected and removed during doc prep will result in a double feed/jam in the scanner. Everytime a double feed/jam is encountered, the time required to fix the jam takes anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. Removing staples also takes a lot of time during doc prep so avoid using the stapler when ever possible! Paper clips Good - Staples Bad

2) Use a consistent method for all employees to file active documents. You know your filing system and how to interpret your documents, we don't. Bob in accounting likes to file his records with the most current record at the front of the folder. Mary likes to file her records with the oldest record at the front of the folder. Depending on how we seperate out the documents, this could cause confusion during the doc prep phase with the potential for documents not being separated and indexed correctly.

3) Print all of your documents single sided. I know many people are thinking "Green" these days and they want to do their part by using less copier paper. Printing and copying documents as double sided does save paper and it makes you feel better inside, however. . . when scanning a mixed batch of single and double sided paper, we have to scan EVERY page as double sided. This is not a problem, but the blank pages do have to be removed. We have excellent software that will remove most of the blank pages, but some will pass through and we will have to remove those pages manually resulting in more time and possible increased cost. Most of our customers have us shred documents once we scan them and the shredded material is recycled so you can still feel good inside even if you print single sided.

Doc prep will have to be implemented for all scanning projects, but if you can minimize the use of staples, file your documents consistently and print your documents as all single sided, then the amount of doc prep required will be minimal resulting is less cost and quicker scanning project turn around times.

We'll talk about indexing strategies next time.

Sean Martin, Vice President, Twin Imaging Technology

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Small hardware upgrade makes a big difference. . .

We had our Fujitsu fi-5750c serviced and the tech did an upgrade to the latching mechanism on the top camera hatch. When we first purchased the scanner, there were two metal dowels that the latching arms would slide over to lock the top hatch down. Over time, the latching arms would cut a groove into the dowels. Fujitsu upgraded the dowels so that they roll requiring less effort to close the hatch. Because the dowels are not stationary, wearing a notch into the dowel will be eliminated.

Great harware improvement Fujitsu!