Monday, May 17, 2010

Document capture, OCR and ... everything

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Short on time and money, but need to be more efficient than ever with your document processing? New document capture technologies can help save the day. KeyMark, Inc.'s Brian Becker ( explains:

You may already be familiar with the benefits of using digital images in place of paper files – less costly than physical file storage, improved access to documents, etc. – but are you up to speed on the latest tools available to you for capturing those digital images and extracting data from them?

Even the most basic document capture tools have undergone dramatic improvements in recent years; improvements in speed, accuracy, reliability, and productivity. Where implementing document capture once made sense in a few specialized cases, it is now beneficial to most any business process that involves paper documents, helping both to reduce costs and raise the bar on the results you can expect.

And while those improvements are great for simple document capture, those same speed and accuracy increases have also paved the way for some powerful new tools that can transform and automate many painfully manual processes.

Taking It to the Next Level
Going beyond the forms-only processing of the past, software tools available now support automation for the majority of printed documents. These tools can automate functions such as:

- Capture of index values from unstructured documents (such as insurance or mortgage documents, or even correspondence);
- Classification of documents based on content in addition to format or layout;
- Document separation for many document types without the need for separator sheets.

By leveraging these capabilities you can bring automation to entire operational areas. For example, to automate your mailroom you scan documents in the mail-room, classify, separate and index the documents using automation, and then pass the documents to a workflow for automatic and immediate routing, even to distant locations.

Fully Automated (or Not)
Using software to automate document classification or indexing (even simple indexing) will reduce operator workload, but it generally will not eliminate it. Since machines and software are best used to handle general cases (the tedious stuff that machines are good at), the best systems use automated tools to handle the bulk of the work, while also making it easy and efficient for people to handle the rest. Your operators review any documents that the software did not confidently read and process and also handle any business-rule violations detected by the software.

Efficiency improvements vary by situation, so there is no general rule of thumb, but we often see improvements that yield a return on investment of eighteen months, or even twelve months or less. And in addition an automated system will typically improve consistency as well simply because these types of systems are ideal for handling repetitive work the same way every time without getting bored or distracted, so the results tend to be the same every time. Configure and tune them well, and they produce great results.

So with the system automation handling the bulk of the repetitive tasks, your operators can focus more on the challenging exceptions, leaving most of the tedium behind. Your people become more productive, and also do their best work.

So Much Work, So Little Time
The right system applied to the right problem should save you money – not burn through your budget. It might even pay for itself in short order. But a good automation system can also be a godsend in situations where you are faced with reduced staffing and too much work.

Anywhere that paper-based processes are currently used, moving to image-based automation for data entry and/or work flow can sometimes double or even triple efficiency, with a bonus of increasing job satisfaction and quality at the same time.

Come Up to Speed
Document capture, indexing and automated data entry are faster, more accurate, and more capable than ever. Add the ability to automate semi-structured and unstructured documents (made possible by the next-generation tools available now) and you will no doubt want to look not just at how you might improve your existing document capture systems, but also at how to bring automation savings to your most painful paper-based processes.

Do your research, and then find the best solution provider you can. They will help you create the optimal approach to address your specific needs so that you end up with a system that both pays for itself and improves your bottom line.

What do you think?

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