Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Part 3 of 4: Technical Limitations are Diminishing with MFPs

This blog series will attempt to make a case for MFP and other office product dealers to reevaluate how content management offerings can play into their business model and increase their overall profitability. 

The first step in this is identifying the differences in the technology landscape, as well as the usage of these devices in the modern work environment. These differences can be boiled down to:

  1. Ergonomics and mechanics of sharing a centralized machine. (bottleneck issues)
  2. Technical limitations - compression, image issues, network traffic, and automated extraction
  3. Business compensation models don't allow for consultative sales, both in refining skill sets and in practice.  

In part three of this four-part series, we'll look at how technical limitations are changing. 

The technical issues behind sharing the copier machine to scan documents have now become less problematic, as there are several issues which have also been addressed in recent years.

The first is that networks now can handle more bandwidth and traffic than ever before. Internal networks running gigabit switches are a far cry from the 10MB networks that were prevalent. Because of the way that MFPs traditionally handled image traffic, this could create a bottleneck (think fire hose quantity through a garden hose) in delivering the scanned image to the desktop of the user. In addition, MFPs are smarter now, with embedded hard drives and embedded processing engines, which means that they are sending compressed images, as opposed to the original uncompressed image which was needed for image processing later.

In addition, creating web ready images, and enhanced image processing requires grayscale images, which further increased the potential load on networks. Gradient contrasts, highlighting, and other paper handling mechanics and activities before the paper was scanned required higher resolution images to be processed, potentially through a grayscale processing engine to intelligently extract the text. 

Automated processing, which is critically important, requires a quality image, and until recently, documents weren't created with the idea that they would be scanned. Some automated processes might include bar code extraction, zonal OCR, or text extraction with pattern matching.

This brings up another point regarding the quality of the images, and speaks to the fact that paper handling now often assumes that scanning is the ultimate destination and office practices are changing with regard to how (or how often) papers are grouped together via staples, or binding, or other activities which make document preparation for scanning more time intensive and costly. 

Another drawback that precluded the use of MFPs earlier was the need to adjust settings to handle documents, which required the ability to see the image as it was scanned to ensure that a clear, readable image was produced. Now that paper handling has matured, and documents are scanned earlier in their lifecycle, batch controls (i.e., number of pages scanned, grouping documents by document types) and "rules based" routing, if the image produces unreadable text, can allow for easier quality check points. When used in an ad hoc scanning environment, this isn't as critical as a production environment, but the right methodology now gives a methodology to take advantage of the high processing speeds that a quality MFP allows.

Our next post will round out our discussion of the new landscape of opportunities for MFP and other office product dealers in the world of document/content management. 

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