Outsourcing document recognition

Apr 28

It’s common for organizations to outsource their scanning and document conversion. Organizations find it sometimes that the skill required, the convince factor, and liability is worth the additional cost. Other organizations that have one time backlog conversions save money by using an outsourcing company vs. bringing the software in-house. In recent years, service bureaus and business process outsourcing companies have dramatically improved their use of recognition technology and prices have dropped substantially. Though as an organization who chooses to outsource, you are removing the responsibility of picking document conversion technology. Shouldn’t you want to know what technology your service bureau is using?

YOU SHOULD! Absolutely you should be concerned about the OCR and Data Capture technology that your outsourcing company is using. It’s just as important than if you were bringing the technology in-house. It’s your job to make sure your vendor is using the best technology but also in the best way. The education level between outsourcing companies is different and they each often specialize in one document type or one type of processing. Proper evaluation of a service bureau will include reviews of sample results. You should have your prospect service bureau or BPO run a good number of your production documents and provide you with results. Make sure the technology they used to produce the results is the same that is used when in production. Don’t be afraid to ask the vendor what engine or engines are being used and even what version. Make sure you understand how your vendor handles exceptions.

While it’s easy to overlook these items when you are looking at a service instead of a technology, it’s still important that you are educated. Service bureaus make money based on how much they save. This can occasionally create motives to use poor technology to gain greater margins. Some outsourcing companies put customers into categories by volume and those with the greater volume get the best technology. Most of the outsourcing companies out there are very good at ensuring their document quality, and many will even go as far to give you a guarantee on quality. But the nature of production environments is such that you cannot check everything always. It’s about relationship. Sometimes paying a higher price per page for a better solution is worth it!

Chris Riley – About

Find much more about document technologies at www.cvisiontech.com.

Path to simple yet robust document routing

Dec 30

When it comes to the input path that documents follow, for many it’s as simple as scan, convert, save, but others require more complex work-flows. The good news is there are tools out there to perform even the most advanced work-flows you could imagine. The bad news, they are expensive. I’m here to tell you about a way of combining your scanner and data capture, OCR, and document conversion software to make more complex work-flows without the premium.

By using settings that come with most document scanners and the ability of most data capture, OCR, and document conversion products to utilize hot-folders ( watch folders ) you can create robust multi-step work-flows out of the box. What you need is a scanner that supports multiple destinations usually 9 or more. This is indicated by an LED on your document scanner which at the point of a batch scan allows you to pick a destination number. Second you will need all the software required to perform the conversions needed for final result. In our example we will want to be able to OCR, data capture, compress and archive.

Basically the task is to create a funnel for your documents and the end result is saved where you want final destination to be. If your scanner supports what is called duel-stream then you can be working with two funnels simultaneously making your work-flow all the more robust. The first part of the funnel is identifying the document type. Each of the 9 destinations on your scanner should be configured for one document type ( you may want it to be one destination per business process instead ). The configuration would include the scan settings, 300 DPI of course, and what folder the document will go in. This is just the staging folder for the next step. Lets assume that we setup destination 1 for invoices and our scanner supports duel-stream. We want the invoices when it’s all said and done to have one copy to saved in a search-able directory, where the file is both compressed and in PDF/A format. Then we want another copy of the same invoice to be data captured and put in a working directory for someone to review. Lets put it all together.

Destination one on the scanner is configured for invoices. The first copy of any invoice will be saved to a hot-folder that the PDF conversion utility is watching, the second copy will be scanned into a hot-folder that the data capture product is watching. Because these are hot folders, both copies are picked up instantly and processed by each application. Our requirement for the second copy was only to be data captured and exported to a working directory, so we have now completed it’s task. For the first copy we have more conversions to do. The PDF conversion utility saves the OCRed search-able PDF to a hot-folder for the compression utility, the compression utility compresses the PDF and saves it to a hot-folder for the archive utility, and FINALLY the archive utility saves the result in our final destination for all invoices. Below is a basic diagram of the work-flow we created for invoices ( destination 1 )

Scan >PDF Creation >Compression >Archive >Final Result
> Data Capture >Final Result

Although it may have been slightly difficult to read, hopefully it’s clear that above is just one work-flow getting the most out of the tools offered by both the document scanner and conversion software packages. Now you can proceed to program each other destination with different document types and their associated work-flows. Programmers and tech savvy individuals will be able to easily envision ways to add scripts to make the process even more robust with email notifications etc. This approach is not a replacement for advanced work-flows but a middle ground between no work-flow and very pricey work-flows.

Chris Riley – About

Find much more about document technologies at www.cvisiontech.com.

Cross-Platform document conversion

Sep 20

It’s not a secret that when it comes to the latest and greatest document conversion technologies, they all exist on Windows machines. For some this might be very frustrating. The OCR, Imaging, and Compression packages found for the Mac, Linux, and Unix, are very often ports of older versions of their Windows equivalent. On average, a Windows equivalent will be 3 or more versions ahead. This means big changes in accuracy, stability, and core-functionality. The reason this happens is simple, the initial development of these applications (engines) was on Windows, and the vast majority of the demand is also Windows.

So what happens in an environment that demands accurate document conversion but is not a Windows based system? Not all is lost. While in a perfect world all the latest technology would be on your platform of choice, sometimes you have to make exceptions, and this is not a big one to be made. Because document conversion, and compression products are all designed to have a mode where they run unmanned, it is possible to utilize the technology on a Windows machine but drive it from ANY other platform. Once configured, the stability of a dedicated document conversion machine is very good. They require low maintenance and very little interaction. Simply by networking folders for all other machines to see, no matter the platform, you can from any network device transfer images to your document conversion machine and download results.

OCR itself takes about 50 man-years to develop, so I don’t foresee in the near future technology on other platforms that is at the level of Windows machines. But what I do know is there is no reason NOT to leverage the most advanced technology with a method of set it and forget it automated document conversion machines.

Chris Riley – About

Find much more about document technologies at www.cvisiontech.com.