Increase ECM Automation Processes With Higher Resolution Scanning

Source: Business Solutions Magazine


Written by: Kevin Neal, product manager – production scanners, Fujitsu Computer Products of America

When we talk about software automation, it’s safe to say that we truly live in remarkable times. Automation, as it will be referred to in this article, can be defined as allowing a computer to accomplish tasks that traditionally took human intervention and/or action to complete.The rapid adoption of automation via software is driven by several basic technical factors, including high-powered, affordable CPUs (more cycles and lines of code executed per second), drastic increases in memory capacity in conjunction with reduced prices, as well as the ever-evolving intelligence within software packages. The computing resources behind all of the advancements are helping to reduce costs, improve efficiencies, and assist with compliance and regulation.

Software automation is becoming more pervasive among ECM (enterprise content management) and document scanning solutions. The virtue of implementing ECM solutions has historically been cost reduction, which could have meant decreased headcount or reallocating employee resources to other business units. It may even have been tangible costs such as reducing mailing and shipping charges, eliminating expensive fax transmissions, or increasing physical storage space too, by removing cabinets and file drawers.

Because of computing advancements, businesses and organizations are no longer asking the questions of whether ECM systems are truly viable. Instead, they are asking more pointed questions about how much the return on investment is and how quickly they will realize the ROI. In fact, according to Gartner, Inc. the worldwide ECM software market is expected to grow more than 12% per year through 2010, from $2.6 billion in 2006 to more than $4.2 billion in 2010. These days, it’s more about which hardware, software, and services best fit the needs rather than whether or not to put a solution in place.

With most of the pain points of the DIP (document image processing), DIM (document image management), and/or ECM solutions behind us, we now have an opportunity to do more remarkable automation tasks with software. But the success or failure of the entire system is closely tied to the ‘on-ramp’ of electronic document automation and your document scanner, in particular. In the next few paragraphs, I’ll examine several important software automation solutions from some of the premier forms processing and capture software companies in the industry.

High Resolution Maximizes Recognition Results (Contributed by ABBYY)
When scanning for OCR (optical character recognition) or data capture, start with an excellent quality original. This may be the single most important consideration to achieve optimal results for recognition and capture, as well as for the purposes of long-term preservation. In fact, using a high-quality image takes on increasing importance as more users depend on electronic documents to take the place of paper-based originals because of the searchability and cost savings. On the downside, once scanned, the paper document is often no longer available — so it is important to retain maximum quality from the outset.

Today, 300 dpi (dots per inch) color remains the gold standard for scanning. However, high-quality grayscale is an option when color is not achievable (since color scanning often results in 32-bit files). Whenever possible, maintain color images. Color provides additional depth, which enhances the ability of recognition software to gather additional information about the scanned document in order to maximize accuracy. In short, consider quality first when scanning for recognition and archiving.

Classification Of Forms (Contributed by ReadSoft)
Organizations are turning to one portal for all incoming documents — no matter if they arrive on paper or in electronic form. Technology is available to automatically sort incoming documents and classify them according to case. This enables the simple inputting of all incoming mail into a scanner (without any separator sheets) and lets the computer sort the documents. If documents arrive in electronic form, they are also easily incorporated into the flow. By digitizing paper documents through high resolution scanning, users can easily search and retrieve all incoming mail. What will this do for an organization? Efficiency increases when each and every document is distributed correctly. Fast access to status reports and audit trails gives users better control over information flow. In addition, a smooth integration with back end systems such as customer management applications, databases, and archives boosts the performance of IT systems. The overall result of high resolution scanning is automated classification and sorting — less need for document preparation, one portal for all incoming documents, (paper and electronic), electronic distribution to authorized staff, and control of information flows.

300 dpi — Friend Not Foe For Automated Document And Data Capture (contributed by AnyDoc Software, Inc.)
The idea that scanning documents at 300 dpi will create backlogs and bottlenecks within automated document and data capture solutions is an outdated myth. In fact, within many solutions, product settings default to 300 dpi to maximize character recognition with little or no adverse impact on processing or transmission speed or storage capabilities — and with a great positive impact on recognition accuracy. And, when processing healthcare forms such as explanation of benefits (EOB), Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) and Uniform Bill (UB04s) — known for their notoriously small font and extremely high character density per page, proper resolution is critical. At a 300 dpi setting, recognition engines are optimized and file size is still very manageable. Because the average size of a 300 dpi 8.5” x 11” bi-tonal TIFF image is 40 KB, it means approximately 3,000,000 document images can be stored on a standard 120 GB hard drive.

In decades past, files competed for space that was limited and expensive, but no more. Now, a 40 KB file travels on today’s fast networks at what can be conversationally considered to be the speed of light. A lower scanning resolution can negatively impact data recognition, which is not offset by the saving of space — no longer the limited commodity it once was.

And, some of the better document processing packages will process at 300 dpi, but output at a lesser (i.e. 200) dpi, giving you the best of both worlds. Scanning at a higher resolution can dramatically improve data recognition, decrease the need for human intervention, and increase the efficiency of all downstream applications without negatively impacting electronic transmission or storage space.

More dots per inch (dot) for increased automation
So, maybe now you’re thinking — “Of course I want everything automated and I’ll scan everything at 300 dots per inch and/or color, or both.” Well, not so fast. First, we must consider the risks versus the rewards for this type of a decision as we addressed in an upcoming article entitled “Trends Towards Higher Resolution Scanning.”

To quote Gartner, “The quality, performance, and ease of use of software products will improve.” This will help drive adoption; however, an inefficient document capture solution, due to settling for anything but the most software automation, should be unacceptable these days considering the pros and cons of higher resolution scanning.

In a day and age where no two ECM solutions are built alike, and organizations have choices for software automation components, it’s important to implement the best-of-breed solutions that garner optimal automation results. Whether it is OCR, ICR (), forms processing, separation, classification, unstructured forms, bar code recognition, etc., each step in the automation process and the rest of the automation workflow is directly related to a prior event, and it all starts with document scanning. As more desktop scanners are deployed throughout organizations, there is certain to be an ever increasing demand for ease-of-use and automation. Give your ECM solution the best chance for automation success and don’t underestimate the trends towards higher resolution scanning.

For more information on topics covered in this article or more information in general please visit:

Fujitsu –


AnyDoc Software –

ReadSoft –

Kevin Neal, product manager – production scanners, with Fujitsu Computer Products of America has been involved in the document scanning/enterprise content management industry for over 18 years. He has held various customer service, sales and management positions for many hardware and software products during his career. In addition, he has years of experience installing, configuring, and troubleshooting networking components as a consultant and network administrator. Currently he handles product management responsibilities for Fujitsu’s complete line of production scanners.

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High-Volume Scanners Up Their Game

Business Solutions, July 2006

Written by: Ken Congdon

Once defined solely by speeds and feeds, today’s high-volume document scanners now incorporate new features that enhance image quality and transaction processing.

According to InfoTrends research, an expected 80% of the growth in the scanning market this year will come from the workgroup segment. This same research suggests that high-volume production scanners will have a flat sales year and may even lose ground in the years to follow. Despite this data, many scanning hardware vendors have quietly enhanced their high-volume devices with new features that move beyond increasing scanning speeds and duty cycles, but focus on enhancing image quality and reducing manual imaging processes. In addition, many high-volume scanners have become more affordable to consumers — a combination that many industry professionals believe will prove the InfoTrends research inaccurate.

“The increased affordability of many high-volume scanners has made them an attractive supplement or alternative to many distributed scanning applications,” says Kevin Neal, product manager for Fujitsu Computer Products of America. “For example, in a distributed deployment, a company may not only need to buy 10 scanners, they may also be required to buy 10 PCs, upgrades and updates to those PCs, and 10 scanning software licenses. Meanwhile, one high-volume production scanner may be able to deliver the same end result at a lower total cost of ownership over time. This scenario illustrates the opportunity for growth that remains in the high-volume segment. Contrary to the InfoTrends research, I believe high-volume scanner sales will gain ground at a modest 5% to 10% over the next few years.”

Image Quality Enhancements Improve Forms Processing
Improved affordability is just one side of the high-volume scanning coin. New features are also adding to the appeal of these devices. One feature that has become standard on most high-volume scanners is the ability of the device to be run at its full-rated speed at 300 dpi (dots per inch) resolution in monochrome, color, or grayscale. “High-volume scanners are primarily used for forms processing applications,” says Neal. “In these environments, image quality is often more important than speed. In the past, if an end user needed to scan a document at 300 dpi or higher to increase OCR [optical character recognition] and ICR [intelligent character recognition] accuracy, the scanner would slow down to a crawl. However, now users can get a high-resolution image without sacrificing speed.”

Other image enhancement features are also being brought onboard many high-volume scanning devices to improve forms processing. Features like autocolor dropout, despeckle, and line removal are all becoming fixtures on high-volume scanners, and all enhance forms processing accuracy. Autocolor dropout is particularly useful in eliminating the red table backgrounds that can often impede OCR read rates on HCFA (Healthcare Financial Administration) claim forms.

High-Volume Scanners Streamline Transaction Processing
Advanced image processing features are being added to high-volume scanners not only to improve forms processing accuracy, they are also helping to eliminate many manual document preparation activities. “Features like autocolor dropout not only improve OCR rates, they prevent the user from having to presort documents based on paper color and reduce the number of times the scanner settings must be adjusted during the imaging process,” says Eric Olsen, product marketing manager for Eastman Kodak Company. “Similarly, an autocolor detect feature automatically switches the scanner to color output mode when a preset level of color content is detected. This reduces the need for presorting and for making image processing changes while scanning.”

Other features that reduce document preparation labor include automatic page rotation and automatic blank page deletion. If the scanner can automatically rotate documents, it eliminates the need for the operator to place all the documents into the feeder in the proper orientation. Likewise, if a scanner can automatically delete blank pages, there is no need to separate single-sided documents from two-sided documents.

Some of today’s high-volume scanners are also incorporating new technologies that use the images they create to streamline transaction processing. “There is a demand for scanning to drive new incremental benefits into a transaction from its point of origination,” says Robert Sbrissa, executive VP of sales and marketing for Imaging Business Machines LLC. “In this case, a transaction is any item that needs further processing beyond archive. This capability demands more intelligence during in-line document processing and requires us to move deeper into the business applications beyond data capture.”

High-volume scanning technologies having an impact on the way a transaction is processed include using the image of the envelope that a document or set of documents was mailed in as a transaction separator. This technology saves customers time and money by eliminating the need to insert bar code separator sheets between batches or individual transactions. Furthermore, it ensures transaction integrity is maintained.

A select few vendors are actually incorporating a platform for document classification with the scanning hardware itself. This technology combines topographic image analysis with business rules to identify the document type (e.g. application, invoice, form). This eliminates the need for an operator to presort documents by type and streamlines transaction processing by accelerating each document through the appropriate workflow.

VARs Must Evolve With New Scanning Trends
With all the new capabilities today’s high-volume scanners provide, getting the appropriate training from your chosen scanner manufacturer is essential. “A VAR is required to master a number of different components to deliver a truly successful imaging solution,” says Neal. “For example, there are thousands of possible scanning hardware and ISIS driver configurations that a VAR can employ to enhance the image quality for its customers’ specific applications. Plus, you need to consider the operating system on the PC, the network, other software integrations, and a number of other variables. You should develop a good relationship with your vendor partners and take advantage of all the training they offer to ensure you have the latest product integration knowledge.”

Understanding the product is important, but perhaps more important is being able to decipher how the scanner addresses your customers’ pain points. “It’s unlikely that your customers are going to ask for most scanner features by name, much less understand why they are important — they will only know what they want the scanner to ultimately do,” says Olsen. “This makes it crucial that VARs effectively align their customers’ needs with the scanners that offer the best features to meet them.”

Finally, with the changing landscape of the scanning industry, VARs must ultimately alter the way they attack the market if they wish to continue to be successful. “Low-cost speeds and feeds are easy to get from a number of vendors,” says Sbrissa. “However, this makes it difficult for VARs or integrators to have a unique differentiator in their solution. Understanding the higher end of this market and moving into more of the transaction processing stream will ensure your solutions have appeal, resulting in higher margins and longer applicability in the market.”

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The opportunity of Network Scanning

Network Scanning

By Kevin Neal

fi-6000ns_scan-searchableWe live in a connected world”.  It’s a simple phrase, but it means so much.

At the present time, most of us take for granted things like cell phones, blackberries, PDA’s,  Bluetooth, pagers, etcetera.  All these communication devices are examples of being “connected” all the time;  however this wasn’t always the case.  Not all too long ago we lived within a very disconnected world in comparison to the technology currently available in 2007.  With the dramatic adoption of the Internet over the past decade, more people  than ever are connected via their home computers with a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), Cable modem or even broadband  wireless.  According to Gartner, the number of households with broadband connections will double between 2005 and 2010.  The rate of business connectivity is a great deal of the same, just on a grander scale with greater bandwidth and a higher level of service guarantees.

With this rapid growth of computers and servers connected with high speed networking, the likely next step was to connect peripherals.   One of the most prevalent examples of a connected peripheral in an office environment would be a laser printer.  There are many advantages to having a networked printer, including sharing among groups of users, because the volume of printing for each user did not dictate a dedicated printer.  Network printers are fairly common these days; however a new, emerging trend is to use network connectivity to INPUT information into computer systems via a scanner instead of OUTPUT via a printer.


Networking Scanning enters the connected world

Network Scanning is the concept of taking a scanner engineered specifically with mission critical scanning considerations.  This includes paper handling, image quality or advanced multi-feed technology, subsequently connecting them directly to a network without the need for a computer system to be physically connected to the scanner.

These advanced scanning solutions, on the other hand, should not be confused with digital copiers or multifunction devices, which most of us are familiar with. While these sorts of devices are handy for extremely low-volume  scanning requirements, the majority of these devices lack either the physical attributes or true integration desired to effectively utilize them in the connected business world.  As an example, when performing  automated forms processing with advanced data extraction techniques such as Optical Character Recognition, or OCR, good image quality and excellent paper handling provided by dedicated network scanners, could dramatically increase the automation process, thus, decrease human intervention.   This undoubtedly increases efficiency, reduces costs and improves customer service.


Concepts and Terminology of Networking Scanning

Basic  connectivity is the most rudimentary to direct network attach solutions used for a scanner.   This translates into a scanner, which can be used as a network device and the scanner appears as a local device on the network. Or, as I like to refer to it “extends network connectivity”.  This is the least expensive, yet most restrictive option.  It is ideal for ease of use and is cost effective however it is deficient on flexibility for true integration.

Biometric connectivity is the ability to attach a scanner directly to the network exactly as in the Basic connectivity scenario;  however, it incorporates much more intelligence into the scanning process.  For example, with a biometric scanning solution, users could merely walk  up to a supported scanner, position their documents in the scanner, place thumbprint on, or hover their palm over, a biometric device then initiate scanning of the documents based on pre-configured profiles, destinations and/or applications.

‘Push-Scanning’ refers to a scenario where the scanner operator walks up to a scanner, drops the documents into the automatic document feeder, or places them on the flatbed, then initiates the scanning process to send the images to the desired location on the computer network.   This could perhaps be a “watch folder” for high-volume OCR processing for example, or it could be a shared network drive of the scan operator’s personal computer.

‘Pull-Scanning’ is a term  characteristically used when a scanner  operator controls the scanner to connect to a device, scan images and transmit, or pull these images from the scanner to a certain location.   The ability to pull these images can be achieved in many different ways and one of the most common ways is to scan via a web browser.   In other words, the user would enter the name of the device and would have the ability to scan images as well as send them to the destination of their choice.

ECM Scanning.   Enterprise Content Management, or ECM, scanning takes one or more of the above Network Scanning concepts; however, it adds an additional powerful layer of functionality.   ECM scanning incorporates a network scanner directly into content management systems via software drivers and scanning software.   The document imaging industry has seen a dramatic focus on the importance of document capture, for example.   These are extremely focused software packages so as to assist in the ability to extract important business data from scanned documents.

ECM + Secure  Scanning  is the next logical step in the networked scanning connected world.  Now that the benefits of document imaging have been proven via return on investment, increased productivity or compliance reasons, more than ever mission critical business data or highly confidential information resides in a digital format and not on paper.  It’s crucial to secure this sensitive information during the entire lifecycle of the data.  From the instant the data is scanned, when it’s hosted on the network, until the time of its destruction, or the end of the retention period.


What could be the future of Network Scanning

Now that connecting persons and computer systems for personal and business uses is nearly common-place, emerging technologies are being introduced that will continue to stimulate connected systems.  One of these emerging methods being utilized by Information Technology (IT) departments is called “Service Orientated Architecture”, or (SOA).  SOA is a way to create new business applications by re-using or better utilizing current technical assets within the organization.  Connected systems played a major role in developing the SOA model with industry standards such as HTML, XML and Web Services.  In a nutshell, SOA is a way to add functionality and features to a computer networks without the disadvantage of closed or proprietary systems.

SOA plays an important role for Network Scanning in particular.   While the conceptual design of SOA may be applied in traditional scanning configurations with a dedicated computer controlling the scanners operation, there are a few important considerations making a Network Scanner quite appealing to network administrators, Chief Intelligence Officers and end users.  These  important considerations include system security, updates/patches and ease of use, just to name a few.

•  From a Network Administrators point of view, the SOA Network Scanner allows them to deploy network scanners in a controlled  method  making future firmware/software updates much easier.

 •  System Administrators could ship one integrated device, or a scanner plus a network connectivity device, directly to any location where they  would like to deploy scanning.  Once the physical hardware is received the user would simply plug the network cable into the hardware and one could, in theory, be scanning in minutes.   This eliminates the costly and time-consuming tasks such as updates operating systems with patches or installing new software when versions change.   In addition, the Network Administrator would be able to diagnose any technical issues or view usage reports easily from one intuitive interface.

CIO’s, or Chief Information Officers, must earnestly consider a Network Scanning SOA approach from the understanding of compliance, security and regulation.  A scanner attached directly to a network via SOA architecture  gives the organization the ability to provide activity reports based on the individual device for example, which could help play a major role in assisting with adherence to these corporate policies and governance.

Finally, ease of use for the scanner operator plays a chief role in that it is driving the adoption of network scanning within the SOA infrastructure.  In fact, should a corporation wish to use the Pull Scanning technique, they have the capability to assemble a system that could in effect eliminate the need for any sort of user intervention whatsoever.  Imagine the power of this total SOA/Network Scanning approach.   Let’s use a Customer Service example to illustrate a few of the benefits.

In our example, the Customer Service scanning deployment will demonstrate too many remote site locations.  Our IT department benefits from the fact that they would avoid building a computer system to act as the connectivity/scanning device; we simply ship the hardware to the remote site and they plug it into the network.  Subsequently, for Pull Scanning, all the user would be required to do is physically place the items to be scanned on the scanner itself, and someone in a completely different part of the connected world would initiate scanning; receiving all of the resulting images.


The opportunity of Network Scanning

While Network Scanning is quickly becoming the buzz among the industry, there still are certain technical deficiencies that will need to be addressed with some of these devices in order to be considered part of a true IT integration.

As the connected world continues to improve infrastructure and new, innovative ways  to communicate emerge, the industry trend towards more Network Scanning should continue.  For example, organizations most likely will move forward on plans for additional remote location “Telecommuting” of individual workers and satellite office locations.  Couple factors that include ease of use, simplified IT management of hardware and software resources as well as additional adherence to compliance and regulation standards and the future of Network Scanning seems bright.


Frankie-the-frustrated worker dealing with lack of direct Line of Business integration and Manual Data Entry

1For this particular blog post I would like to use a light-hearted approach to a major problem.  The problem is lost productivity and user frustration around populating data into Line of Business applications via Manual Data Entry versus Automation.

To illustrate my point let’s take one of the most popular Software as a Service (SaaS) applications ever,  And while the application is absolutely simple to use and easy to manage, what lacks is the ability to take information from paper and/or an image and put it directly into database fields.


1.  Let’s take a moment to go through the steps to import data into and follow the steps Frankie-the-frustrated worker must take to get this task done.
2.  Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:


“Frustrating!  Step 1 of 7????”


3.  Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:




4.  Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:




5.  Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:


 “FORGET IT!!!!!!!!!!!! 
 THIS WILL NEVER END!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
 ISN’T THERE AN EASIER WAY????????????????” 




Education and modern technology reduce Frankie’s frustration

Are we still living in the stone age when it comes to data entry into computer systems?  Isn’t there a more efficient method to automatically populate data in your software application instead of costly manual data entry?  It’s 2012 after all, not 1912.  Why do we accept such primitive methods of data entry?


Answer:  Because we need to educate the market on the capabilities of capture technologies.  We also need to strive to make integration and usage as easy as possible.  If you build it, they will come.


Eliminating Frankie’s frustration with Ubiquitous Information Capture
Realizing the dream of Ubiquitous Information Capture directly into applications is much easier than you might think but we must educate the market on current capabilities.  The idea is simple, yet highly effective.  Embed the ability to take photos with a smart phone and/or capture paper documents from a scanning device directly into your software application.  Note that all I’ve done in the screen prints below is add a small icon of a camera and scanner directly into my CloudConnectMashup software application.




Now, I can offer my users a truly great user experience because contributing information is nearly effortless and removes pain associated with manual data entry.  This translates directly into reduced operational costs, improved efficiencies and an overall better work environment.


Think about all the lost opportunities to drastically reduce labor costs, most likely in the billions if not trillions of dollars, associated with manual data entry in just the use cases below:


1.  Transportation applications with Bills of Lading, Proof of Deliveries, Trip Sheet or Scale Tickets


2.  Field Service applications with Proof of Work delivered, Vehicle Identification Number, Work Orders or Assessment documentation


3.  Contracts Management applications with Amendments, Terms and Conditions or License Agreements


4.  Invoice Management applications with Invoices, corresponding Packing Lists or Proof of Performance


5.  Sales/Contact Relationship Management applications with Business Cards, Agreements or Correspondences


Do you know a Frankie in your organization?  Do you have a story, good or bad, to tell?  I’d love to hear your feedback.



Fujitsu fi-5900C Mid-Volume Production Scanner

I was the proud, and extremely passionate, product marketing manager for the life cycle of the Fujitsu fi-5900C Mid-Volume Production (MVP) Scanner in the United States, Mexico and Latin America.  In the Mid-Volume Production Scanning segment Fujitsu had historically been #3 market share or often worst behind Kodak and Bell & Howell.

The truth of the matter is that I was lucky with timing, but it was also a lot of hard work, team effort and excellent execution of a plan and we eventually achieved #1 market share in MVP for the first time ever.  I proudly helped establish Fujitsu as a player, in fact, THE #1 player for years and when I left the company in 2011 we were still #1 in spite of Kodak acquiring Bell & Howell.

Below is a collection of image memories of the awesome fi-5900C which revolutionized the industry!

article_4 article_d1 5900_london_1 fi-5900C johnsondiversey Corry Publishing: BuxCo Domestic Relations for Quality Assoc. In