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What is Scanning and Indexing in Digital Mailrooms?

Document scanning and indexing is the linchpin of effective information management.

From processing costs and cycle times to information security and responsive to customer inquiries, effective scanning and indexing impacts the entire information management lifecycle.

That’s why scanning and indexing should be a top consideration of a digital mailroom project.

According to a 2023 survey by Keypoint Intelligence, 70 percent of organizations have implemented or plan to implement a digital mailroom solution. What’s driving this demand? For starters, digital mailrooms are a critical part of digital transformation initiatives for organizations of all sizes, Gartner concluded in its report, “The Future of Document Management: Trends and Strategies for Digital Transformation.” Additionally, organizations that have implemented a digital mailroom increase employee productivity by an average of 15 percent, per the Association for Intelligent Information Management’s (AIIM) report, “The Digital Mailroom: A Valuable Asset for Organizations.”

This article takes a deep dive into scanning and indexing in digital mailrooms.

What is scanning in digital mailrooms?

If your organization still manages lots of information on physical documents, you are not alone.

Scanning converts physical documents received through the mail and other channels into digital images, to streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve information control and accessibility.

Here’s how the scanning process typically works in a digital mailroom.

  • Receipt. Incoming mail and other documents are collected in a mailroom.
  • Scanning. High-production scanners, table-top scanners, multi-function peripherals (MFPs), and other devices convert physical documents into digital images for processing and archival.
  • Enhancement. Scanned images may be enhancements to correct skewing and other distortions, reduce speckles and other noise, and adjust for brightness and contrast.
  • Routing. Scanned documents are systematically exported to various workflows or to legacy systems, such as a document management platform, based on pre-defined rules. Seamless routing makes it easy for organizations to integrate physical mail into their digital processes.
  • Archival. Scanned documents are digitally stored in a repository for safekeeping and easy retrieval. More organizations store images in a centralized cloud-based archive.

These capabilities have a big impact on the success of a digital mailroom initiative.

What is indexing in digital mailrooms?

Indexing builds on the benefits of scanning in digital mailrooms.

Once physical documents are scanned and converted into digital format, indexing ensures that the date, sender, recipient, and other relevant information about each document is associated with it. Indexing helps identify and categorize documents and make them easier to search and retrieve.

Here’s how the indexing process typically works in a digital mailroom.

  • Capture. As documents are scanned, relevant information is captured either manually or using optical character recognition (OCR), barcode recognition, or other automated technologies. Extracted data may include the content of the document and its file properties.
  • Metadata. Metadata or index values are assigned to each document, based on the captured data and the type of document. For instance, the metadata assigned to an invoice might include the invoice number, the receipt date, the supplier’s name, and other relevant details.
  • Organization. To make it easier to locate specific documents, indexed documents are organized and categorized based on their metadata. Users can then quickly and accurately retrieve archived documents using keywords, dates, document type, and other criteria.
  • Integration. Indexed documents can be systematically integrated into digital workflows.

Effective indexing can improve overall information management efficiency, speed the retrieval of archived documents, reduce the possibility of lost or misplaced documents, and strengthen controls.

How scanning and indexing are done

Emerging technologies are making it easier to scan and index documents in a digital mailroom.

The process starts with the receipt of physical mail and documents. A barcode or unique identifier may be assigned to documents to assist with tracking through the scanning and indexing process.

Physical documents are then converted into electronic format using high-production scanners, desktop scanners, MFPs, or other devices. The best high-production scanners can scan large volumes of co-mingled documents, reducing the need for documents to be physically sorted in the mailroom.

Barcode recognition, OCR, artificial intelligence with machine learning, and other technologies are typically used during the scanning process to extract names, addresses, amounts, and other relevant machine-printed and handwritten information from documents. Some high-production devices can capture data in-line during the scanning, accelerating the processing and routing of documents.

Some scanning and indexing solutions also can discern the type of document – a purchase order versus an invoice, as an example – and apply rules for how the document should be processed.

Quality control checks are performed to ensure the clarity and accuracy of images and data.

Scanned documents are then indexed based on their attributes. Finally, digitized documents and their metadata are stored in a repository or enterprise content management (ECM) system for fast retrieval.

Automating the scanning and indexing of physical mail and documents improves operational efficiency and paves the way for a strong return on investment from digital mailroom automation.

Conclusion

If your organization is struggling to manage the physical mail and documents it receives, it is not alone. Many organizations still receive, process, and store lots of paper. Some organizations are experiencing an increase in the volume of physical documents that they receive. Scanning and indexing physical documents as part of a digital mailroom initiative can help. By scanning and indexing correspondence, orders, invoices and other documents, organizations of all sizes can streamline their information management processes, eliminate the cost of paper and paper-related consumables, enhance stakeholder collaboration, and improve control over sensitive documents.

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