Colorful Opportunities In Document Capture
Prices are decreasing and functionality is increasing when it comes to color scanning solutions. How can VARS make the most of this emerging opportunity?
You may notice a common theme among this spring's product introductions in the scanner market. Many of the major players in the industry will be focusing their marketing efforts on making color scanning more accessible and practical for mid- and high-volume customers. What this suggests to VARs is that scanner manufacturers recognize an opportunity by addressing color at the production level, a business strategy which is likely to affect software vendors as well.
According to Bill Vowell, scanner marketing manager at Ricoh Corp. (West Caldwell, NJ), VARs will have more opportunity to sell color scanning solutions because technology prices across the board are decreasing. "Affordability gives VARs the opportunity to place a color unit in departmental and workgroup environments at the same price as a black and white unit, opening those markets," says Vowell. Availability of less expensive, high-performance scanners is complemented by reduced mass storage costs. Therefore, while color files may be larger depending on compression, an increased investment in mass storage is offset by decreased costs. Vowell also points out that color laser printing is becoming more reasonably priced. A reduction in output prices could create a greater demand for color input.
Show Customers Faster ROI
VARs who implement color systems can show their customers quick ROI (return on investment), says Stephen Welk, Kodak's (Rochester, NY) worldwide marketing manager for the mid-volume scanner segment. This is due to end user benefits like reduced cycle time to get a new system operational and complete backfile conversions.
According to Kodak research, labor accounts for approximately 71% of capture costs at all volume levels. Color capture affects these costs in three ways. Because color shows a document exactly as it is, there is less need to adjust settings to compensate for mutilation, watermarks, and colored highlights. Adjusting settings to compensate for these marks accounts for about 24% of labor costs. An additional 37% of the labor cost is document preparation, including batch sorting for special handling. Another 39% is post-scanning processes, such as exception rescanning. Both document preparation and post-scanning are reduced by color capture solutions which are less likely to be affected by marks and mutilation of documents.
Address Customers' Validity Concerns
Faster and more affordable color scanners with high resolution could be the key to sales in some vertical markets, especially government and shipping. For example, some government applications require that the color of a stamp or the watermark be visible on the scanned image to make it a legally binding document. In the transportation industry, the color of a shipping label may indicate information that would be lost using monotone or even bi-tonal scanning. Further, the increased detail of a color image enables users to see signs that a document has been altered, such as by application of White-Out. This could be an incentive for customers who previously avoided imaging applications because of validity concerns.
In the long run, the addition of color could streamline the integration of applications. For example, in forms processing, a specific field, such as an account balance, could be highlighted an assigned color. This would allow the system to migrate data based on that color value, rather than field placement, which can vary from document to document.
Reapplying Color To Document Technology
Development of applications making full use of color technology is still in the early stages. One successful application has been in environments where people have to key data from an image because color images have lower indexing requirements. Welk and Vowell both see the greatest potential for future growth in the forms processing market.
These industry experts also concur that studies indicate customers find color images more visually appealing and could easily adapt these images to reflect existing manual processes like highlighting or color-coding files. It has been more than a decade since customers were convinced to drop color in order to implement digital imaging. Now that the price and speed of color capture seem to be reaching a point customers can live with, the next step for forward-thinking VARs is to begin considering applications that are optimized for color.Questions about this article? E-mail the author at JackieM@corrypub.com.