Successful digitalization requires that information which is present on paper is transformed into electronic processes quickly and reliably. Key components of such successful digitalization are production scanners. In selecting the right device, certain important criteria and relationships ought to be considered. Peter Schrittenlocher, scanner expert and managing partner of the high-performance scanner specialist Datawin, provides valuable tips from practical experience and thereby clears up some widespread misunderstandings.
Tip 1: Speed and throughput are two different pairs of shoes
High scanning speeds are a prerequisite for high throughput. But just as important as speed is the “endurance” of a scanner, that is, its ability to scan without interruption for many hours or complete shifts. Only then can one reap the benefits of high scanning speeds. And only in this way do high throughputs come about. The basic functions and features for uninterrupted, process-efficient scanning are above all dependable paper feed, safe paper control, maximum user-friendliness and, not least, top image quality.
Tip 2: Don’t make compromises where image quality is concerned
The image quality exerts a substantial influence on a scanner’s process efficiency: the better the image quality is, the fewer re-scans are necessary and the greater is the daily throughput. Furthermore, the image quality has an effect on many downstream operational steps. Thus, applications involving classification and indexation are only successful when the data and the information from the images are clearly discernible. Therefore, do not accept the deterioration of image quality in favor of higher scanning speeds. A good production scanner is capable of doing both simultaneously: it scans with superior quality while at the same time operating at the highest speed.
Tip 3: Don’t stumble into the units trap with respect to throughput
Different scanner manufacturers specify the throughput of their devices in different units. That in itself is confusing enough. However, it becomes positively deceptive when dubious abbreviations and alleged translation inaccuracies are added to this so that the reader almost gains a misinterpretation in favor of the manufacturer. For example, “ppm” actually stands for “sheets per minute”, but it is sometimes used for “pages per minute”. That may be legitimate from the standpoint of the technical translation, but it is seriously misleading in terms of the contents. Since a “sheet” of paper has two “sides” and if one isn’t careful to pay attention here, one can interpret a throughput specification 100 percent higher than it is. So don’t settle for “ppm”, “ipm”, “dpm” and the like. Insist on units in your own language that are written out or unequivocally abbreviated, such as for example, “sheets per minute” or “doc/min” (documents per minute), or even explicitly “pages per minute”. Caution: the specification “images per minute” is only apparently concrete, since scanners equipped with multistreaming actually deliver ten or more images (snippets) per page. Yet that does not alter the fact that just one page is scanned.
Tip 4: Give preference to “Made in Germany”
Companies in Germany are innovation leaders with respect to production scanning. This is the consequence of significant expenditures for applications for research and development as well as continual investments in the technical qualifications and training of employees. As a result of close contact to customers and partners current demands on the market are consistently addressed and implemented in product development. Added to this are efficient service and support operations with short and direct routes to the proper contact person. Furthermore, “Made in Germany” means production that is environmentally friendly and socially responsible.
Tip 5: Maintain the greatest possible flexibility during operation
A flexible production scanner can be retrofitted and converted on site without difficulty. Thus it can grow along with your growing requirements or also cope with completely new demands. The upgrade and update capabilities should thereby go beyond mere scanning speed and also include functions for image optimization and image processing. And besides this, flexible scanning systems are designed in such a way that future product improvements can be put into effect very easily: for example, by the replacement of components or by means of software updates.
Tip 6: “He who buys cheaply, often buys a second time”
This old truism also applies to production scanners. Inexpensive products always have a catch. Whether it be that substandard components are installed or the production takes place in countries with low wages or questionable environmental standards. Quality has its price. What’s more, the purchase price of a scanner reveals little about its total operating costs. These costs are determined by the expenditures for wear and spare parts, the service life of the components installed as well as the maintenance friendliness of the scanner. An intelligently designed scanner can be independently cleaned by the user to a great extent and, when necessary, serviced by him.
Tip 7: “Look well before you leap …”
Always remain critical during the purchasing process. Take sufficient time to compare the various models with one another based on a list of specifications. Put practice to the test: arrange for a trial installation and test the devices thoroughly. Operate a scanner exemplarily in production mode for several days and analyze what the image quality is like in black-and-white and in color and also at high speeds, thereby determining the detection rates that you achieve.
Tip 8: Retain your independence
Don’t make yourself dependent, whether it be with regard to the hardware and software components or with regard to external consultation of a supplier. Accept support and assistance but retain sole control of your scanning workflow at all times. Give preference to suppliers that offer you competence pools. These pools combine the experience and knowledge of a manufacturer and his partners with respect to the topic “digital document acquisition”. Utilize this know-how for competent consultation or necessary integration measures, but always keep the reins in your hands.