- March 24, 2014
How Today’s Businesses Use OCR
Since it was first unleashed upon the world in the 1990s, OCR recognition has come a long way. OCR is better able to discern a variety of languages and symbols. It’s also capable of re-creating your documents’ original layout, fonts, even reproduce color and type size.
Which is why these days, many organizations use software that combines OCR with other intelligent features such as PDF export (such as the kind your friendly PDF software offers you) that enable you to pull data out of photocopies of archived forms. This lets them transition it into their databases and put it online in order to breathe new life into it and make it more usable and available in the modern era.
Modern OCR methods can recognize a wide variety of colors, and they can tell the difference between the background of the document and its contents. They de-skew, remove stray dots and marks, and even use 3-D image correction so that they can handle low-resolution images that come from smartphone cameras, are taken off the Internet and even come into the organization via fax.
Thousands of organizations worldwide rely on OCR to capture and process data from business documents—and with good reason. OCR is used to meet corporate goals, such as print on demand or online publishing initiatives where the desire is to reduce, if not totally eliminate, the need for paper.
You can use OCR to:
• Expedite documents into your workflow by getting them off of paper or other inaccessible electronic formats and into universally accessible formats such as PDF using corporate software systems that combined PDF software and OCR software, among other functions
• Eliminate manual data entry, a process that drains profit and productivity
• Reduce the hidden costs that come with manual data entry, which often occurs across an organization, with each employee doing some portion of data entry, which means the costs can go unnoticed for years
• Improve data accuracy by reducing human error, which can occur while the data is being input.
• Minimize manual sorting
• Improve customer service
• Evolve your solution as your business grows
• Aid compliance with secure, controlled access to sensitive documents
All that said, here are some specific examples of how businesses today are putting OCR to work for them.
Realizing a mobile workplace, many organizations are moving their documents to the cloud to make them 100% accessible to employees who are on the go. These road warrior workers are using tablets and smartphones, not surprisingly, and they can:
• Access the company’s repository
• Find documents using text search
• Edit them using versioning features
• Collaborate with colleagues
• Perform workflow responsibilities such as approving invoices
• Synchronize folders when using offline
Larger organizations are using OCR on a massive scale to automate their mailrooms. Here’s how it works. Incoming documents are automatically analyzed, sorted and sent to business teams. Key data is extracted from these documents and listed in indexes that allow the company’s systems to be populated and provide teams with fast access to the information they need. This enables companies to incorporate documents and the data that they contain directly into the heart of their company’s systems where it can be used immediately by business teams.
Businesses of all sizes scan paper invoices or import electronic documents into their systems. The extracted data is validated automatically to ensure accuracy and enable proper categorization. From there, it can be brought into any accounting or financial system that needs it, making the Accounts Payable department’s professional lives better and more efficient.
Similar to invoice automation, form automation enables organizations to automate form processing by scanning paper forms and importing electronic forms into their systems as they come in. Again, the data is validated for accuracy. And the digital forms, as well as any relevant attachments, can be exported into the organization’s
Document Management System (DMS), where they can be tracked and stored, as well as made available as universally available electronic forms in PDF from embedded PDF software functionality.
One of OCR’s key benefits for businesses really comes down to the searchable PDF format. Business systems use OCR software that can convert paper documents and image-only PDF files into searchable files. Searchable PDF files are similar to normal PDF files, except that, in addition to the scanned bitmap image of your paper document, they include an invisible overlay containing searchable text. This enables you to use your digital file system as a searchable database to find keywords, names and phrases that can help you locate the information you need.
All of this goes a long way to make OCR—and of course, the electronic information it creates—an indispensible part of these organizations’ DNA.