Bar Codes And Database Integration Streamline Document Management
Bar code technology, batch coding, and integration with a SQL database in a document scanning solution slashed processing and retrieval times for Maine's Bureau of Human Resources.
The state of Maine employs more than 13,000 people in 50 departments, but, until recently, its Department of Administrative and Financial Services, Bureau of Human Resources was maintaining all employment-related documents in 125 four-drawer file cabinets. Many of these documents were being transferred to microfiche each year, but the equipment was becoming outdated and hard to maintain. Simply accumulating the documentation for each employee's annual review took about 12 weeks. Richard Paradis, agency technology coordinator, began looking for a better solution that could be cost-justified to his supervisors.
Ray Feoli, president of Inception Technologies (Andover, MA), heard about the opportunity through a competitor who prospected the job but didn't feel he could meet Paradis' needs. Feoli designed a system incorporating bar code technology to facilitate the storage and retrieval process.
Using an Eastman Kodak (Rochester, NY) 2500 scanner, Paradis and his staff now process incoming documents with Kodak's LVS software and apply bar codes to documents. A single value, such as a date or code, can be mass applied to a batch, eliminating manual data entry.
In a custom application written by Inception Technologies, seven fields are extracted from an existing SQL database using the employee's Social Security number. This was the most challenging aspect of the installation as it had to be written without direct access to the database. Feoli had only the names of the fields and the version that was in use. "It was pretty tense when we went in to install the system," admits Feoli. "But we were lucky on the first go."
At the back end, the Bureau of Human Resources' imaging system relies on storage management software from Smart Storage, Inc. (now OTG Software, Inc.). Documents are saved on a JVC CD/DVD-ROM jukebox. The solution is also integrated with an Alchemy Web server module from IMR so that intranet and LAN (local area network) users can access documents.
Department Realizes Immediate Savings
The system stores all employee documents including applications, evaluations, and benefits information. Prior to the digital solution, Paradis' staff of three spent eight hours a day filing documents and copying them on microfiche. It currently takes less than half that time to process an average of 400 documents. Creating a yearly review file, which formerly took three months, can now be accomplished in two or three days.
The amount of time spent fulfilling requests for documents has been reduced by as much as three hours a day. Users now access documents over the network or they can be e-mailed or faxed directly from the desktop. Though the department hasn't put a dollar value on the savings, skilled employees are now free to perform more sophisticated duties and overtime costs are greatly reduced.
Customer Credited With Winning Sale
While the Bureau of Human Resources is pleased with the results of the installation, the sales cycle didn't go quite as smoothly for Feoli. In addition to competition from other integrators, Inception Technologies had to overcome hesitation created by a failed attempt at implementing digital imaging several years before. After the initial demo, Maine attempted to contract a statewide imaging solution, an effort which failed.
One factor Feoli believes set him above his competitors was the emphasis on service. "In our region, we saw a lot of service bureaus and box pushers that don't have ongoing contact with a customer. We offer support on a whole system so that if it goes down, we resolve it for them and spare an IT staff which is probably already spread thin." Feoli also arranged for Paradis to visit a similar customer site at the Dover, NH, police department and excused himself so the two customers could discuss the system candidly.
Feoli credits Paradis with securing the contract. "His loyalty definitely came in to play. He took a big risk by sticking with us throughout the entire process." That process took two years, but is beginning to pay off as other departments in Maine's capitol begin to take notice and consider a similar resolution for document overload. Feoli identifies other potential markets in legal and insurance, as well as manufacturing where it could streamline the processing of shipping and receiving and accounts payable documents.Questions about this article? E-mail the author at JackieM@corrypub.com.