Early vs. Late Scanning: How to optimize your business processes with early scanning

Companies process a huge amount of documents every day. Nowadays, most of these documents are digitally archived and no longer stored in paper format. However, many companies still use the physical documents for processing the information on the documents and only digitalize them after this process step for archiving. But these documents could actually also be digitized at an upstream stage already. This means that only the digital copy is used for further processing and then archived. In addition to this simpler shift of bits instead of paper, modern software can be used after digitization to save considerable additional time at various stages of the document cycle. What exactly is meant by the terms Early and Late Scanning and what advantages Early Scanning offers can be read in the following sections.

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Late Scanning

There are basically two approaches to the scanning of documents: Early Scanning and Late scanning. First, we will look at the Late Scanning. As described at the beginning, many companies still use physical documents for processing and only digitize them for later archiving. By making an example, it quickly becomes clear how complex this process is. An invoice from a supplier comes in, either already on paper or as a PDF in an e-mail attachment. If a PDF is available, it is often printed out first. Once a paper-based invoice is available, it is first assigned to an account by the accounting department. Afterwards, the invoice is checked by the accounting department, and the invoice amount gets approved. The invoice is then posted in the system and the accounting system outputs a booking number, which is then printed out as a barcode, for example. Finally, this barcode is stuck on the first page of the invoice and the invoice gets prepared for archiving. Someone then collects all the processed invoices on a daily basis and scans them for archiving. With the help of the barcode on the first page, the invoice can be linked to the booking. This means that the metadata of the booking can also be archived and the assignment to the transaction can be made.

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As the scanning is done after the processing of the invoice, it is called Late Scanning. Thus, with this approach, the digitalization of the documents takes place quite late.

Early Scanning

In contrast to Late Scanning, Early Scanning – oh, what a surprise – scans the document early in the process chain. The earlier, the better. The following example again serves the illustration of the process. The starting point is the same: an invoice comes in either on paper or as a PDF in an e-mail attachment. The first step in Early scanning is already the scanning, however. Only then come the account assignment and all other downstream steps. This is the decisive advantage of Early scanning. The digitized invoice can now be forwarded via an interface to a document extraction solution (OCR software). This software is able to recognize the invoice as such, i.e. to classify it, and then read the most important data from the invoice based on this classification. Not just as a full text, but structured in such a way that the downstream processes can be automated to a large extent. The extracted data can, for example, facilitate the approval processes and be used to determine where in the company the invoice has to be routed to. In addition, the order reconciliation can be automated and the booking can be created directly if a corresponding, well maintained set of rules is available. This means that you no longer need clerks who laboriously compare the order in the system with the invoice and detect differences, and you gain valuable capacity for more essential work with more added value for your customers.

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Let’s go back to the big picture. With Late Scanning, the process is still very manual and involves a lot of effort. However, Late Scanning is still a better approach than storing physical documents for archiving purposes. By the way, this is more often the reality than you might think. Early Scanning, on the other hand, can save a lot of time, which in turn leads to lower costs.

If the documents are scanned for archiving anyway, it is therefore worth considering switching from Late Scanning to Early Scanning and thus realizing significant potential for process optimization.

In case you would like to experience the advantages of Early Scanning yourself and do not want to continue to process documents manually and laboriously, then register for a 14-day free trial account via the banner below and convince yourself of the effectiveness of a modern extraction solution that will help you achieve greater operational excellence.

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