Volume 10, Number 26 -- July 20, 2010

inFORM Introduces High Speed Batch Scanning

Published: July 20, 2010

by Dan Burger

There's little question that business documents can be better managed and workflows streamlined by converting paper to digital files. Cost savings related to information that is easy to access for a variety of workers come along with that. How to tackle the conversion process and what to pay for the software are questions that face numerous companies. So a new product release by inFORM Decisions that brings batch scanning, at a low price point may surprise some of you.

inFORM Decision's new recognition-assisted document capture product with batch-scanning capability in an IBM i environment is called iScan. It integrates with inFORM's Web-based document archive and retrieval solution, iView, to make electronic copies of paper contracts, purchase orders, invoices, forms, and other documents, available to authorized users, anywhere and any time a browser connection is available.

The combination of iScan and iView can be used to move paper documents to digital files using two optical character recognition (OCR) techniques. The first is to scan the entire document. If the document is an invoice, for instance, the information would probably include the invoice number, customer number, customer name, invoice amount, and other information generally found on an invoice.

The scan results can vary based on the condition of the document. If it's ripped, badly crumpled, or otherwise barely legible, the reproduction will not be 100 percent accurate. That's why some systems are set up to only grab the invoice number, for example, and the rest of the data can potentially be captured from existing DB2 tables. Some documents make use of barcodes as the one item that the scanner needs to pick up. That, too, links to data already residing in the database. Either way, the information is imported to the IBM i-based server.

iScan will interface with any mainstream scanner. In the process, an operator assigns the document fields that will be captured via OCR. The operator also defines the validation expectations based on alpha-numeric characters so the software can do the specified validation tests. If the scanned data conforms to expectations, the scanner moves to next document. If not, it kicks out the document so the operator can confirm or reject the information.

"iScan is a product well suited for organizations with limited technical and financial resources who need intelligent scanning and indexing, but also need a product that's affordable and easy to install and implement," says Dan Forster, president of inFORM Decisions. "It's perfect for those who are just getting into batch scanning or who need to scan, index and archive large numbers of structured documents."

iScan can be installed, configured, and scanning documents within a matter of minutes, Forster says.

The software is designed to integrate with any Windows-compatible scanner, which in turn is integrated with a workstation. For batch scanning, the scanner works like a photocopier in that documents are placed in a stack and fed into the scanner. No custom programming is required to interface the scanner, the iScan software, the workstation, and the IBM Power System i on the back end.

The software interface allows the indexing functionality to be set up automatically.

As with most--if not all of the vendors in what I'd call the entry-level document management market--the scanning technology is OEM-ed. In this case, inFORM wrote an interface to a scanning engine produced by Datacap that would integrate to other inFORM products as well as the IBM i operating system running on Power Systems servers.

"There aren't any other solutions that are this powerful for this price point," Forster says. "Compared to the big boys (in the document management market), this doesn't have all the features, but it has high-speed, batch scanning, with automatic indexing using OCR for under $5,000."

iScan is priced at $4,800. iView is approximately $10,000. So the total package is less than $15,000, without including the cost of the scanner. Similar products typically are priced in the $20,000-25,000 price range, Forster says. High-end document management systems generally begin around $100,000 and the prices escalate from there based on added functionality.

Other modules within inFORM Decisions' iDocs suite of document management solutions include iMail, iFax and SmartRouter, which supports alternate distribution options.

"We had a simple scanning solution before," Forster says, "but it wasn't high speed, or batch. It did not have near the capabilities of iScan. Most of our customers have been interested in archiving and retrieving 'digitally born' documents, but that interest has expanded to a paperless file cabinet replacement. Companies are still receiving a lot of paper documents from outside customers and suppliers. The iScan and iView products are for those who want to convert paper documents to digital for easier handling and improved workflows. Over time there will be fewer documents sent and received on paper, but for now it remains common. A lot of file cabinets are being filled with paper."

In support of document management solutions, the trade organization AIIM makes a claim based on its surveys that document scanning and capture--when part of a specific process improvement--can produce considerable cost savings in time frames as short as 12 months. AIIM's job is to support document management efforts, so take that into account. However, return on investment is a magical term for many CEOs, and document management seems to make a strong case.


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Editor: Alex Woodie
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik,
Shannon O'Donnell, Timothy Prickett Morgan
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