Document imaging vs. document scanning

As mentioned in a previous article, Machine Learning-driven document extraction can be used to optimize processes. In concrete terms, you have the opportunity to significantly reduce throughput times, costs and error-proneness. And what company doesn’t want that?

In the course of this process optimization, the evaluation of a changeover to Early Scanning is one of the things you should do. This article explains what this is and why it is recommended. In addition, you should take a look at the scan quality requirements of your use case.

Now there is something else to consider when digitizing documents. Because scanning is not just scanning. There are several ways to digitize a document: specifically, Document Imaging and Document Scanning. For most people, scanning and imaging are like interchangeable words, but they are different in some ways. Both aim to digitize a document, but the methods differ in terms of their usability in downstream processes. It is therefore important for companies to understand why they are digitizing documents so that they can choose the best method for their context. What defines the methods and what advantages and disadvantages they have is listed below.

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What is Document Scanning?

Document Scanning should be a familiar term to most of you, or rather, it should evoke relatively clear associations. It describes the process of digitizing a paper-based document using a scanning device. Scanning converts the document into a format that can be edited and transferred. PDF is probably the best known file format used for such scans, although there are some differences in types available.

Since this type of conversion is not just an image, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) can be used with high promise of success to recognize the information on the document. The documents can be indexed and the extracted information can be transferred to a document management system for further processing.

What is Document Imaging?

Document Imaging, as the name suggests, is the process of converting a document into a digital image – in other words, only a photograph of the physical document is taken. In most cases, the documents are converted to PNG or JPG files.

Of course, the contents of the image can usually still be recognized well or very well by the naked eye. However, performing OCR is often less promising in this case, as images may be curved, skewed or have a poorer resolution, resulting in the loss of valuable image material for character identification. This means that although the image is accessible, the document cannot always be read out cleanly.

As a result, documents digitized by Document Imaging represent a potential vulnerability for downstream processes that can reduce or even prevent automation.

Advantages and disadvantages of both methods

OCR data extraction for further processing

A major advantage of Document Scanning is the promising use of OCR software, which can recognize the scan and convert it into a searchable text file. However, if the documents are not scanned for further processing, but only for archiving purposes, Document Imaging should be totally sufficient.

Better findability thanks to auto indexing

When scanning documents, they can be tagged to make them easier to find. Documents of the same type can be divided into groups and provided with the same tag. This reduces confusion and frustration when searching for the right document and can save employees time and nerves.

Hide sensitive information with Document Redaction

Document scanning, unlike imaging, can also use Document Redaction. This is the permanent removal of visible text and graphics from a document. If a document contains sensitive information, this can be blackened and thus made illegible.

This is not possible with Document Imaging, which can be a disadvantage depending on the application and context.

So is Document Scanning the better solution?

This cannot be said in a generalized way. It all depends on the company’s intention to digitize the documents. If it is only for space-saving archiving, Document Imaging is ideally suited for this. If, however, Early Scanning is introduced to enable digital processing of the documents, then Document Scanning is clearly recommended.

With the latter method, you clearly have more options for further use and address potential weaknesses that limit your efficiency gains.

Do you want to validate the advantages of Document Scanning over Document Imaging yourself? Then why not make a direct comparison and extract data from both file types with our modern OCR solution. To do this, register for a 14-day free trial account via the banner below.

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