According to Imaging Technology Group (ITG), maintaining an electronic record of business transactions by means of its document imaging system offers
According to Imaging Technology Group (ITG), maintaining an electronic record of business transactions by means of its document imaging system offers multiple benefits. Chief among these reportedly is significant cost savings due to reduced paper consumption, elimination of preprinted forms, and minimal manual intervention. Document imaging also speeds up collection of receivables, the company adds, and improves loss-prevention capability.
Moreover, product developers emphasize, all accounting documents, including batch tickets, invoices, credits, statements, purchase orders, and A/P checks, are captured electronically without any changes to existing accounting software. As each batch ticket, invoice or statement is printed, a copy is sent automatically to the imaging server. The imaging server extracts index fields such as Customer Number, Customer Name, and Ticket Number, adds that information to the image index, and stores the image for future use. Any document can be retrieved in less than five seconds, and millions of pages can be stored on even a small imaging server.
As the system’s basic element, the Document Imaging module provides all software and tools needed to capture data electronically; scan in paper documents; automatically match signed delivery tickets with original electronic copies; and, print, fax, or e-mail any document in the imaging system. The document imaging server Û the heart of the document imaging system Û is a standard Pentium-class server computer running Windows 2003 Server. All imaging information, licenses, images and indexes reside on the imaging server, which is installed in the computer room and connected to the network. A small ÎclientÌ program is installed in each Windows PC that will be used to access the imaging system. Thus, any authorized user can see the information in the imaging system, regardless of location.
The imaging server looks like a printer to the rest of the software. A slight modification in the printing process results in two copies whenever an invoice is printed: one copy goes to the printer; and, without any user intervention, a second copy is sent to the imaging server.
When the print job comes to the imaging server, software identifies the type of form, e.g., batch ticket, invoice, credit memo, statement, etc. It then extracts relevant fields, such as Customer Number, Ticket Number, Invoice Number, and Invoice Date, according to the form type, adds those fields to the indexes, and stores a copy of the document. The printing process thereby generates one paper copy that accompanies the driver for a customer signature upon order delivery; and, an electronic copy in the imaging system, indexed and filed in the appropriate customer folder.
The printed paper ticket displays a bar code that will be used to match the signed copy with the original electronic copy. After the customer verifies acceptance of delivery by providing a signature, the signed ticket becomes the key Proof of Delivery document to be stored for future reference.
When the driver returns with signed copies, they are simply dropped into the scanner. After each ticket is scanned, imaging software uses the bar code, a unique number, to find the original electronic copy. The signed copy is then attached to the original without any manual indexing or data entry.
When a customer calls with a question, imaging can retrieve both the original electronic copy and the signed scanned copy. Both documents can be viewed on the screen, printed to a laser printer, sent directly to the customer as a fax, or mailed as a pdf attachment to an e-mail address.
Imaging also provides tools that facilitate invoice preparation, ITG affirms. Invoices can be printed with copies of either the original tickets or the signed tickets attached. Accordingly, invoices come off the printer as a first page followed by one or more pages of backup documents. Imaging does all the sorting, organizing and collation with no user intervention.
Many clients store copies of credit applications, sales tax exemption certificates, insurance policies, truck maintenance records, and employee files in the imaging system. Since anything in paper format can be scanned and stored in the system, secure backup copies of all the important documents are easily created.
While imaging is often deployed first in the Accounts Receivable department, it works just as well for Accounts Payable. Purchase orders, audit reports and A/P checks can be captured electronically, just as invoices and statements, bills of lading, receiver documents, and vendor invoices can be scanned into imaging.
A companion product to Document Imaging, Output Advisor acts as a print manager that enables data from various software programs to be captured and stored with one document imaging. Installing OA makes possible the capturing of documents from virtually any Windows or UNIX program, including batching and dispatch, accounting, and payroll software.
To use OA, a new logical printer is installed on each server. Once the new OA ÎprinterÌ is set up, users can select it for a print job, just as they would any available printer.
Tables, templates, and parse rules comprising OA provide instructions on appropriate handling of each form or report. Additionally, OA has the ability to create custom forms for print output. Every form Û even batch tickets consisting of multipart dot matrix forms Û can be produced on plain paper using a laser printer. Templates for each form can be provided to include logos, lines, boxes and text that presently appear on preprinted forms. Further, bar codes can be added and data fields moved to create a completely customized form to suit exact needs.
Since OA can produce any form on plain paper using a laser printer, the considerable cost of preprinted forms is eliminated. Clients report expenditures anywhere from $10,000 to as much as $30,000 per year for preprinted forms. To demonstrate the savings potential, ITG offers an example: if preprinted forms cost $0.12 each, and 400 forms are printed per day, the forms cost per day is $50. Operating six days a week results in $300 per week, $1,200 per month, and $14,000 per year.
Applying OA to print a batch ticket, for instance, entails a streamlined process. The order is placed, and batch ticket information is generated by existing software, as usual, except that the OA printer is selected instead of a dot matrix printer. When the batch ticket goes to OA, tables are referenced to determine proper processing for a batch ticket. It first creates a form overlay containing all logos and lines, adds a bar code, and then sends two copies of the batch ticket to the laser printer. If the laser printer has multiple paper trays, OA can pull white paper from one tray and blue paper from a second, so that each copy is easily identifiable. It can also label each form as ÎOffice CopyÌ or ÎCustomer CopyÌ.
OA then formats one copy of the batch ticket, extracts the index fields, and sends that copy along with its indexes to the imaging server for archival storage. And finally, OA can create a pdf version of the batch ticket and e-mail that copy directly to the customer. Printing the batch ticket is the only intervention required by the user.
The optional Web Access module provides customers around-the-clock Internet access to their own files. For this feature, a web page is created featuring a company’s logos and graphics, plus three or four Îfill in the blankÌ boxes typically identifying ÎTicket NumberÌ or ÎInvoice NumberÌ, etc. Customers must have a valid user ID and a password before they can access the information, and the client company alone determines what is available for viewing.
After a customer has submitted a request, the information is sent to the imaging system, which retrieves documents matching the search parameters. For security reasons, Web Access never permits a customer to reach the live imaging server. Instead, all customer information requests are directed to a separate, hosted web server set up in ITG’s California data center. No one is allowed to pass a company’s security and firewalls.
A further benefit of Web Access is the creation of a secure, off-site mirrored copy of all data on the client’s imaging system. Every night, the live system updates the hosted web server with new information, thus keeping the hosted web server current and allowing customers to request latest documents. By such means, an added level of disaster backup and recovery is also provided. In the case of damage to a live imaging server due to fire, flooding, a broken water pipe, or any other unforeseen event, the hosted web server can be used to keep the imaging system in operation with all documents immediately accessible.
ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE CAPTURE
The optional Electronic Signature Capture module eliminates the need to scan in signed paper batch tickets by capturing customer signatures electronically. To use this module, some type of handheld signature-capture device is required. While a number of different devices have been tested, the primary requirement is that the device must run PocketPC and have a bar code reader.
When the driver makes a delivery, the customer signs on the handheld device, just as for a UPS package. Upon the driver’s return to the office, signatures are uploaded to the imaging system, which then matches the signatures with original electronic documents. Û www.itg1.net
Escondido, Calif.-based Superior Ready Mix Concrete, L.P., reports that the ITG system far surpasses its previous document imaging solution, which was time-consuming and required a great deal of manual input. Using templates and bar codes on tickets Û ITG Document Imaging System components Û saves valuable time previously spent sorting, scanning, and filing, says Superior’s Luke Faber. As it now processes between 1,500-2,000 documents a day across 20 ready-mixed and aggregates operations, the company estimates a return on investment of about one year. Recurring costs are pretty low as well, and we have had no downtime in accessing our database, observes Faber. Basically, the system has met or exceeded our expectations for a document imaging solution, he adds. That experience has prompted the company to implement ITG’s batch fax/e-mail/print feature in the future to save postage costs by electronically delivering documents to its customers.