Tech Doc: Choosing a Scanner and Related Costs
Updated: November, 2002 Introduction
Document Management offers many benefits including: improved customer service, better communications, reduced retrieval time, enhanced security and the ability to easily share documents across the internet. Over the past decade many document intensive industries have invested in systems that scan, store and retrieve documents to help improve business productivity. The capture portion of any document management system is the most cost and labor intensive portion of the solution. Capture consists of two categories: Scanning and Indexing. Scanning, or digitizing documents, is the act of processing documents through the scanner, creating digital files or images of the paper being processed. Indexing is the act of extracting information from scanned documents, imputing it into database fields associated with a particular document for future retrieval or reporting. The information contained in this document pertains to the scanning porting of capture and is intended to help make an informed choice when choosing a capture device. Every document management solution is specific to each customer, so it is imperative that the right decisions be made regarding capturing of paper documents.
Document Volume and Scanner Capabilities
Three ranges of scanners are used in Production Document Management systems. Manufacturers build scanners to suite a specific market’s needs for: price, volume, features, type of document and durability. High-Volume Production Pages Per Minute: Price: Volume: Mid-Volume Production Pages Per Minute: Price: Volume: Low-Volume Production Pages Per Minute: Price: Volume:
60 pages (120 images) to 200 pages (400 images) $30,000 to $100,000 10,000-30,000 pages or more per workday 40 pages (80 images) to 60 pages (120 images) $12,000-$29,000 5,000-10,000 pages per workday
25 pages (50 images) to 40 pages (80 images) $6,000-$12,000 5,000-14,000 pages per workday
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Duplex and Simplex Scanners
Simplex scanners scan one side of a page at a time. Duplex scanners capture both sides of a page at the same time which improves efficiency and reduces errors. To scan a double-sided document with a simplex scanner, a scan must be done of each side of the document and then collated electronically which is time consuming and prone to error. Technology improved drastically in recent years driving the cost of duplex scanners down significantly. In general if more than one third of your document are double-sided, it will pay to invest in a duplex scanner.
Scanning speeds are typically quoted in either pages per minute (ppm) or images per minute (ipm). These speeds are published by the manufacturer and are based on scanning documents in a landscape orientation at 200 Dots Per Inch (DPI). This results in a higher scan speeds due to the shorter paper path (8.5 inches). Because of this, one must be careful when choosing a scanner. In some instances, the scanner is only capable of scanning in landscape mode which may not work for all of your documents. Some software applications are not capable of automatically rotating the documents electronically at the time of scan. Throughput is how many documents per minute are passed through the scanner in production. While difficult to estimate, it is essential when estimating the capture requirements of a document management system. Throughput is affected by: document preparation time, document size, document color, document quality, scanner speed, resolution, gap between documents, system performance and the software controlling the scanner. A good systems integrator familiar with document management capture will be able to accurately assist in estimating actual throughput. In general, performing a beta test with live documents and personnel for a given number of hours or days will yield the best results.
Actual throughput, daily volume limits and features will help determine the appropriate size scanner(s) for a particular application. Choosing a scanner based on peak volume (maximum daily volume) will provide expansion room for re-scanning and miscalculations in actual document volume. Many organizations underestimate document-scanning requirements resulting in the associated labor to perform the scanning operation. Choosing a single high-volume scanner vs. several mid-volume or many low-end scanners is a decision each company must make on their own. It depends on how the corporate structure is setup, the departments needing documents captured, budgeting concerns, etc. A document management solution provider assists the customer in this area. Items to consider are: location, scanner operators (one or many), how the scanner and system will be supported, servicing in the field and by whom. Another metric that can be used when choosing one or multiple scanners is the Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). This is a manufacturer rating helping buyers estimate maintenance costs over time for a given volume of documents.
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Color and Bitonal Scanners
In the past, production level scanners have been prohibitive for many reasons. Cost and speed were two major problems, but wide range support for tools such as document display and optical character resolution (OCR) by Document Management vendors also limited their acceptance. Additionally, the file sizes of color documents are significantly larger than scanned black and white documents. In the past few years, scanner manufacturers as well as software providers have addressed these issues. Additionally, with the introduction of JPG2000, file sizes can be kept to a manageable level. Color offers many advantages including: accurate re-production of originals, ease of visual recognition and improved accuracy of recognition tools. Many argue that it isn’t needed and bi-tonal images display more accurately due to how a computer screen represents a black pixel versus a color pixel. If this is true, why are nearly all of the computer monitors in the world color? Color scanning: Simplifies document capture Captures more image content Captures documents accurately Delivers a much higher-quality image at half the dpi resolution of a bitonal image Provides color image files that are not significantly larger than bitonal image files If a company works with color documents now or in the future, it is a good idea to plan ahead. Most color scanners offer bitonal and grayscale output options. The company can have a scanner capable of doing either bitonal or color for not much more money.
Document Capture Process
Regardless of the document’s physical nature needing to be scanned, the strategic importance of document capture resides in the information needing to be processed, stored, accessed, managed and distributed throughout the document lifecycle. Document scanner functionality provides the means to turn raw data into a strategic corporate asset. In doing so, the right scanner makes it possible to lower costs, reduce cycle time and enhance the value of the captured images in subsequent uses of the information. The process is comprised of three stages: Document preparation Scanning and image clean up Quality Control Each stage contributes to the equipment’s total ownership costs, which consist of the acquisition and maintenance costs of the equipment, labor, and the costs associated with space allocations to perform each function. Conservative estimates hold that over a three-year period, labor represents as much as 70 percent of the total ownership costs to prepare, scan, index and output documents, and perform Quality Assurance. Document scanners, while reducing document preparation and eliminating rescans, have the ability to generate substantial reductions in ownership costs over the life of the equipment. At the same time, it’s important to note that capital and maintenance costs contribute as little as ten percent
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to the true cost of scanning. This strongly suggests the purchase price of equipment is much less significant than the scanner’s ability to contribute to process and productivity improvements over time.
When assessing productivity, the size, weight and uniformity of the documents are among the factors needing to be considered. The unit’s paper handling capabilities, image quality and scanner reliability also have a considerable impact on scanner productivity. Document preparation can involve as much as 40 percent of the total labor in scanning, especially in document capture environments, which are subject to a great deal of time-consuming sorting, batching and other manual intervention – such as removing staples. Documents that are crumpled, torn, or folded present special challenges as well as “odd”-size documents such as memos, “sticky” notes, folders and envelopes. Under these conditions, the scanner’s document handling system must have the ability to process these exceptions without jamming. Key elements in estimating actual cost of ownership to consider: Number of documents to scan per day Scanning rate per minute in portrait orientation Purchase price of the scanner Purchase price of the computer and interface cards needed to operate the scanner Cost per hour of the scanner operator Monthly charge for facilities Annual cost of repairs Preparation costs: labor, space Scanning costs: scanner price, PC, Interface, Software, maintenance, labor, and space Quality Control costs: PC, Printer, Labor, and Software, space
Scanner choice is tightly tied to the system being implemented, which is based on an individual company’s needs. It is critical that an experienced document management expert implement the “right” solution. Implementing a centralized scanning model or a distributed scanning model will depend on many factors, which are all part of the discovery and system sizing process that needs to take place prior to hardware and software procurement. Because scanning is a major component of any document management system and very labor intense, it is important to choose a scanner minimizing misfeeds and producing the highest quality images possible. This will greatly reduce the labor required for the Quality Control process as well as improve throughput. Careful selection of a system integrator with expertise in document management as well as the use of quality hardware and services will ultimately lead to a successful implementation of your document management system.
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