Magazine Article | May 24, 2006

Buyer's Remorse, Begone!

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Check out these five questions to ask your VAR before buying a production scanner.

Integrated Solutions, June 2006

Buying a production scanner is a lot more complicated than buying a digital music player, but the two have one thing in common: The most popular model is not necessarily the best fit for either your budget or your needs. A value-added reseller or integrator can be a good guide to help you sift through the vast array of features and models on the market. And by asking the right questions, you can make a more informed decision and feel more comfortable with your choices.

Is the scanner a good fit for my imaging needs?
Be clear about your objectives. For intelligent, high-volume document imaging, consider a scanner with advanced camera technology and image processing. This will provide sharper images that ensure accurate optical character and bar code recognition at lower resolutions. The smaller image files it produces will require less storage space, and the near-elimination of manual data entry will reduce errors and operational costs.

Although many high-end scanners can be easily configured to meet almost any imaging need, don’t rule out a plug and play scanner if it can do the job for you. Today’s powerful desktop scanning bundles for workgroup and departmental applications are packed with advanced functionality and contain everything you need to set up and operate an efficient low-volume or distributed imaging system.

How will the scanner fit into my current infrastructure?
Consider what you have before you buy. Integrating new equipment with existing systems is challenging. Standardizing hardware, software, and processes across an imaging system can simplify technical support, minimize operator training, and make it easier to add new scanners, PCs, or storage as your needs change.

If you plan to install a large-scale imaging system, don’t do it all at once. Integrating a system in phases allows you to check and test the technology to meet your document management needs and provides a sturdy platform for future expansion and enhancement. 

Does the scanner’s usability match my staff’s know-how? 
Don’t neglect the human aspect. Whether you have dedicated operators or not, a scanner that is reliable and easy to use and maintain can reduce training time and maximize operator efficiency.

Intelligent scanners can be preprogrammed during installation to meet specific needs. Advanced features like autorotation, blank page deletion, and autoimage cleanup allow you to configure scanner settings to run flawlessly. Image enhancement — PC-based software or built into the scanner’s hardware — helps deliver the best possible digital image without end user intervention. While you don’t need every aspect of your imaging system to be automated, an imaging operation with minimal downtime and easy error resolution can increase scanning efficiency.

How do the scanner’s features promote overall productivity?
Maximize your throughput to get the job done. Smart scanner and software features can improve the overall productivity of your imaging operation. Ultrasonic multifeed detection, for instance, reduces document preparation time and captures mixed batches of documents accurately. Ignore-by-size functionality allows a scanner to handle envelopes and attach photographs and sticky notes without mistakenly identifying them as multifeeds and interrupting scanning. Automatic color detection produces image outputs in color or bitonal based on a user-defined threshold, eliminating the need to manually sort color and black-and-white documents. Value-added features and bundled software are good criteria for narrowing your choice of scanners to those that will save you time and expense and improve overall productivity.

What is this really going to cost me?
Look beyond list price. Always consider a scanner’s total cost of ownership, which goes beyond list price to include the upfront and ongoing costs of connectivity, consumables, system upgrades, and maintenance.

Warranty coverage and availability of technical support are important considerations. Some scanners are equipped with user-replaceable consumable parts and alert the operator when it’s time to clean the scanner or change the lamps. Self-maintenance can reduce service calls and operational costs.

Ask your VAR or integrator for more information about the post-installation support services they offer. Recognizing and planning for the actual costs of running an imaging system ensures that you stay on budget. There is a production scanner out there for your budget and needs — you just need to ask the right questions to find it.