Decentralized vs. centralized scanning: Differences, advantages and disadvantages

As explained in the last article, companies can optimize their processes through early scanning and thus save time and money. In addition to the decision to use Early or Late Scanning, i.e. when to scan, there is also the question of whether to scan centrally or decentrally. Since companies usually have to process a large number of documents, this is a very important decision and both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, this is by no means an easy decision and requires careful consideration of the respective circumstances and needs. What exactly distinguishes decentralized scanning from centralized scanning and what the advantages and disadvantages of both options are, will be explained in the following.

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Central scanning: Centralization of the handling of frequently performed processes

Central scanning is usually used when a company frequently carries out a process. Accounts payable accounting would be a good example of this. Depending on the industry, there are also specific processes. In the case of an insurance company, for example, this could be the processing of claims. With central scanning, a separate mailbox and e-mail is created for frequently performed processes. In this case, all invoices are sent by the business partners only to this one postal address or the specified e-mail. In the case of the insurance example, these are all insurance claims that are sent to a central mailbox. Once the documents have been received, they are processed centrally and the whole process is handled at this central location.

Central scanning has some advantages and disadvantages. Firstly, it makes sense to purchase more expensive equipment, as a high volume of documents is scanned and processed. A large scanner or even a scanning line as well as an automatic mail opening machine can then certainly be an economical investment. In the case of centralized scanning, therefore, a separate service centre is set up for the most common processes, which does nothing more than scan. With the help of these machines, productivity can of course also be significantly higher than with decentralized scanning. In addition, dedicated personnel can be trained to focus solely on scanning. This in turn can result in an additional increase in efficiency and thus also bring cost advantages.

A disadvantage of centralized scanning is a certain loss of flexibility. Documents must always first be sent or emailed to the central mailbox in order to have them digitized there. An employee who receives a document from a customer cannot simply scan it in the branch office on site, but must send it to the central office. So it takes more time, which can limit flexibility. Central mailboxes can also mean that a day may be lost in mail delivery.

Decentralized scanning: advantages through speed

With decentralized scanning, as the name suggests, the documents are scanned decentrally. This means that there are no central service centres with machines designed for large volumes. Instead, many smaller scanners are used and there is no dedicated staff to operate them. The documents are received and processed by all branches. And instead of specially trained staff, the scanners are operated by many small teams.

An advantage of decentralized scanning is the speed. The documents can be scanned on the spot and do not have to be forwarded to a central mailroom first. Often tabletop scanners or smaller multifunctional devices are used for this purpose. With this method, documents can be made available and further processed in a system much faster.

Another advantage for internationally operating companies or even Swiss companies can be the independence from the language region. For example, if the central service center is in a French-speaking region and a branch office is in a German-speaking region, it must have at least one employee in the central service center who speaks both languages.

Golden mean as the most common solution

Most companies use a mixture of centralized and decentralized scanning. The specific processes that have a large volume, such as invoice processing or core processes of certain companies, are then handled centrally at a single location. For smaller processes, speed is often preferred and the volume is not large enough for the purchase of expensive machines. Employees must often be able to scan a document and have it in the system 30 seconds later. Therefore, in processes where speed is paramount, it makes sense to handle them decentrally. These considerations are important and should first be well thought out before digitizing the company’s incoming mail.

Early and Late Scanning can be done both with centralized and decentralized scanning. Here, however, Early Scanning is clearly ahead and offers considerably more advantages.

What I would also like to add is that for data extraction with machine learning-based software it does not matter whether centralized or decentralized scanning is used. The main thing is that the scan meets the quality requirements for successful extraction and is forwarded via an interface. How to scan correctly and what constitutes a good scan will follow in another article.

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