June 11, 2013 by Tom Zeliff Categories: Document Scanning

By now, you probably know the advantages of going paperless: instantaneous document retrieval, improved efficiency, cost-savings, searchable text, reduced space needs, more easily meeting compliance guidelines, etc. But how do you do it? Should you outsource the scanning of your documents to a local scanning company or do it yourself (DIY) by investing in people, equipment and software? Or should you consider some combination of both outsourcing and DIY?

Here are the Top 10 criteria for choosing the right document scanning solution for you:

  1. Volume – how much are you going to scan?
    If you’re going to scan a low volume of pages that don’t require extensive indexing, a desktop scanner may be the right solution. Larger volumes require more robust scanners (and capital expenditure), specialized scanning software (more than what comes with the scanner), office space, and dedicated scanner operators. Tip: you may need a large volume of paper scanned initially (what we call a “backfile”) but a much smaller number needs to be scanned on an ongoing basis. In these cases, it can make a lot of sense to outsource your backfile conversion and implement a DIY “scan-forward” system.
  2. Peak Times – can you handle the heaviest volumes?
    At the end of month, quarter, year or during busy seasons, you may face an increased volume of scanning.. You can invest in scanners and software that can handle the heaviest volume, but that can be expensive and volumes can change to be higher or lower. It may be better to invest in a system that takes care of “typical” volumes and outsource the “overflow” to a scanning provider.
  3. Regularity – how often is scanning needed?
    If your team only needs to scan a few documents on an ad hoc basis, it can make sense to use existing scanners or to buy a handful of desktop scanners or one departmental scanner used by multiple people. If you need to scan documents regularly, it may be more efficient to have all scanning performed by a dedicated scanning operator or to have a service pick up your documents, scan them and upload them to your system.
  4. Staffing Needs – how many people are needed?
    Scanning seems simple: place the document in the scanner and press a button. This works fine for a few pages but what about for 1,000 or 10,000? Scanners need to be fed continuously at these volumes. Additionally, physically scanning the paper documents only represents about 20% of the time needed for scanning. Most of the time is spent in document prep: removing staples and bindings, sorting, dealing with jams and multifeeds, and indexing each document afterwards. Depending on volume, you will need to evaluate whether a dedicated scanner operator should also do prep and quality control or if other people are needed for these functions, a practice we recommend. If labor presents a resource availability or cost issue, outsourcing can be a viable alternative.
  5. Turnaround – how quickly do documents need to be scanned?
    In most cases, documents need to be scanned in a certain timeframe, whether it’s to ensure efficient processing, high levels of customer service, meet moving deadlines, compliance, lawsuits or audit requests, etc. Documents with a fast turnaround time may require expedited scanning services. In these instances, consider outsourcing all of your document scanning or just those with the tightest turnaround times.
  6. Space Requirements – do you have the space?
    For document scanning, a significant amount of office and/or warehouse space is needed for people to prep, scan, perform quality control, and to store boxes before, during and after scanning.
  7. Quality Control – how will accuracy be ensured?
    When documents are scanned in high volumes at high rates of speed, someone needs to ensure that every document is prepped, scanned, indexed, and uploaded to a document management system properly and take responsibility to correct when problems occur. This is best appointed to a group who will specialize in quality control.Do you have the right people to ensure this is done properly and in a timely manner?
  8. Search & Retrieval – how will your scanned documents be searched?
    In order to quickly and reliably get back to the scanned images, your documents need to be indexed, which requires manual data entry, point-and-click indexing, the use of barcode sheets, or automatic data extraction via optical character recognition (OCR). Manual indexing is the most labor-intensive and time consuming, but OCR still requires a significant amount of user intervention, leaving point-and-click indexing a viable compromise depending upon the original documents being scanned. DIY scanning and indexing require expertise, labor and a capital investment in advanced capture software, while outsourcing is often a lower cost and predictable expense.
  9. Paper size and type– what needs to be scanned?
    Most multi-function printers (MFP) and entry-level desktop scanners can handle 8.5” x 11” paper down to a business card, and some can even handle legal size (8.5” x 14”). However, if you have 11” x 17” documents, you are going to need a more advanced scanner. If you have engineering drawings D size and above, you’ll need a large format scanner. Most document scanning companies have scanners that can handle up to E-size engineering documents and newer high volume scanners that can handle old, fragile onion skin paper without damaging the document.
  10. Vendor Selection – if you do outsource, how do you find a good partner?
    Here are three things you should explore with a prospective document scanning provider:

    • Visit the document scanning facility to view the process, people and place. Evaluate physical security, IT infrastructure for processing capability and ask questions about data security and confidentiality.
    • Ask about your potential partner’s level of experience scanning various types of documents for various applications. Gauge their ability to handle quick turnaround and deliver high quality images and indexing.
    • Find out if the scanning company have the flexibility to meet your needs with a choice of scanning services; document scanning in their production facility, a DIY solution inclusive of implementation and training or a combination of both.

Making the Right Choice

Determining whether or not to outsource, do it yourself or to utilize a hybrid of both will be key to the success of your document scanning solution including the quality of the resulting document images, reliability of indexes, and selecting the most cost-effective solution. From our experience, evaluating your document scanning options using these 10 criteria will help you avoid trying to take too much on yourself or choosing the wrong partner.

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