Scanning Basics

Scanning Basics

Scanning Basics

Something as simple as scanning can actually initiate workflows that get business done. Getting hold of the right data for business use is difficult if you don’t have the right tools to capture it. And data capture essentially often starts with scanning! Scanners have become an essential component of integrated digital transformation technologies like Intelligent Process Automation (IPA). Scanning devices are now integrated with AP invoice processing software or sales order automation software to create a continuous process chain from capture to reporting.

We’ll discuss the basics of scanning — one of the first tools you need to begin your journey towards digital transformation.

What Does Scanning Achieve?

Scanning essentially refers to recreating an exact copy of any document in digital format. Digital documents offer immediate advantages in that they can be accessed from anywhere, instantly. Document collaboration and sharing is a big plus point for teams looking to get work done remotely. Additionally, digitization allows for storage and retrieval of files from a central repository by anyone, ensuring democratization of information. In today’s highly integrated & collaborative workspace, the need to extend documentation and document management to other business applications has become imperative to enhancing productivity. This imperative is duly fulfilled by attaching scanning to document management and workflow automation applications — a digital document trail offers easy data availability to line-of-business applications.

Document Preparation for Scanning

But before documents can be scanned, a lot of effort is needed to present them in a form that will ensure 100% capture. Ordinarily, this document preparation entails manual effort and is time-consuming. For scanning, documents must be sorted and pages must be separated to be able to capture the contents of each page. Along with scanning & capturing documents, each document or page must be indexed.

Indexing is a way of cataloging documents or assigning an attribute such as title, author, description or keywords, date, etc. Without indexing, it becomes impossible to find and retrieve documents. But it involves heavy data-entry work to label each and every document with a unique index. Indexing also helps with a very critical step in documentation, which is classification. The right document classification helps reduce manual routing considerably, which means you need to get the indexing right.

What Does a Scanner Do?

Document Preparation for Scanning

A scanner captures and stores an image of a document as a digital file — each digital image consists of pixels in binary code. Binary values assigned to each pixel denote the size, color, and location of the image. The immediate disadvantage with a digital image is that you cannot manipulate the image to change its size or shape without distorting the resolution — calculated as the number of pixels per inch. Resizing a digital image means resizing each pixel in the image, which naturally gives a distorted look. These binary coded images are called raster images. Your typical image files like .PNG, .TIFF, .JPEG, .GIF, etc. are all raster images. Scanned raster images are stored in these files in binary form. OCR is used to scan textual materials, which are digitized and converted into computer-readable formats.

Scanner types

When it comes to scanner types, there are four standard ones. A typical scanner used for business is the Flatbed Scanner. Here, the document (paper sheet or book) is placed on a flat surface below which rolls a scanner to capture the image. One of the more common types of scanners is the one you find in your home, and is called the Sheet-Fed Scanner. Sheet-Fed Scanners are just that, sheet fed, where a sheet of paper rolls over a scanning device that captures the text or image. More advanced types include the built-in or Integrated Scanner and the Drum Scanner, which reproduces images of a high resolution.

Image Preprocessing

Captured images that are converted to digital format may not always be of the best quality. The aim of image pre-processing is to enhance image features that help with easy extraction and further processing. The technique involves removing or suppressing any distortions that make the image hard to read. Various enhancement techniques are used to uplift an image. These include:

  • Cropping: to remove unnecessary borders
  • De-speckling: to clean the image of any specks or spots
  • Rotating: rotate as portrait or landscape
  • Thresholding: changing the pixels of an image from color to black and white for better readability and recognition
  • De-skewing: to straighten up an image

Web Scanning

Web scanning enables remote intelligent capture of business data and documents at the point of service or from the edges of an organization such as a global distribution center or site office. Along with the standard thick client, which takes care of document scanning locally such as a back-office, you can now scan from the thin client using any TWAIN-compatible scanner directly to your computer. Web scanning thin clients support remote capture of data and documents.

Summary

With an Intelligent Process Automation platform, a lot of manual steps to prepare documents for capture and processing are eliminated. Documents enter the IPA folder after being scanned. From there, the IPA bots capture and extract the required details from the documents using predominantly Machine Learning technology and also OCR/ICR. OCR limits the degree to which data from scanned documents can be extracted. This is because OCR technology is essentially context-based and works to capture details only from standard, known templates. In the case of new documents that have a different template, OCR technology fails to or misses capturing the required details as it does not have in-built logic to recognize new document types. This is where Machine Learning comes into play. Intelligent Capture technology powered by Machine Learning accommodates for document variability by learning new template formats identified by human action or keystrokes. The IPA bot applies this learning to process subsequent documents unattended. Scanned documents are automatically indexed with the help of metadata extracted from documents. Indexing helps automatically sort and assign specific workflows to documents.

Workflows are assigned to extracted data and documents based on business rules. These intelligence-based workflows perform automatic data validation and approval routing of documents to a verification manager, post which the approved data is exported to an ERP system or line-of-business application for business use.

Scanning is one of the first steps towards document process automation, which is why it pays to have a good scanner to upload documents to intelligence-based workflows.

Artsyl Intelligent Process Automation for Data and Document Capture is a single platform solution used to scan, index, extract, validate, verify, and export approved data to an ERP system or other back-end applications. The Artsyl Web Scanning Thin Client offers the same document process automation capabilities to remote sites as well — fully supporting intelligent document processing and data availability to ERPs and other line-of-business applications from the edges of an organization.

Talk to Artsyl to know how you can sort out your document-based processes and accelerate business.

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