Consulting Firm Reduces Paper Storage With Document Imaging Solution
An overabundance of paper and a need for geographically separated offices to communicate drive the switch to document and imaging management system.
Steve McNair, president of FTP Consulting Services, Inc. faced a well-known problem - he was inundated with paper files. FTP is a small, independent, consulting firm which serves the financial transaction processing industry. The company trains client personnel and prepares operational assessments, benchmarking studies and requests-for-proposals. Its clients include UPS, Bank One, American Express, Ameritech and other Fortune 500 firms.
A Paper Problem
FTP has offices in both Dallas, TX and Dell Rapids, SD. The two offices regularly share information, the vast majority of which involved paper files, which made this sharing slow and expensive. Files had to be faxed, e-mailed, or sent by overnight mail. The two offices also needed to store such files as proposals, research material, trade magazine articles and historical archives. These were also on paper and, since FTP is 12 years old, storage space was becoming a real problem. In one room in the Dallas office, files were stored in four lateral cabinets, three file cabinets and three bookcases.
A Document Imaging Proposal
McNair knew that the solution to his problem lay in converting his paper files to digital ones. He also knew that the transition could be expensive. However, McNair decided to try a unique solution. For several years, FTP had hired summer interns from local colleges to work in the offices. Not only did these interns provide useful assistance, but if they showed great promise, FTP would hire them after they graduated. McNair's idea was to purchase document and image management hardware and software and have a summer intern install it.
Accordingly, McNair turned to an old friend, Dennis Arnold, a document imaging program manager with Dallas Digital, a distributor/integrator of Document Imaging and storage products in Dallas. At the time, Dallas Digital had 55 employees. (It has since merged with Vanguard Technologies, a document imaging systems integrator and now has 100 employees.) McNair explained his idea to Arnold and Arnold was able to provide document imaging hardware and software. He supplied a Gateway G6-266 PC, a Fujitsu M3096GX scanner and an Iomega Jaz drive and disks. For software, he provided Fujitsu ScandAll, Caere OmniPage 8.0 and Alchemy 5.0.
A Unique Solution
McNair assigned the installation to an FTP intern, Ginger Buttke, an economics major at South Dakota State University. First, she broke down the files into broad categories, such as proposals, requests for proposals and research material. Each category was placed in a separate database. Information was then further broken down within each database into subfiles such as pricing and responses to questions.
Next, documents were scanned, using the automatic feed feature of the Fujitsu scanner and ScandAll software. The resultant images were then saved on the Jaz disks. When the images for a category were scanned, the database folders were added to the appropriate folder by the Alchemy software. (Unlike earlier versions, Alchemy's version 5.0 software is capable of handling Jaz disks.)
Shortly after this effort was begun, Buttke detected a problem. Sometimes the same description was used for files in two different folders. An example would be pricing. In subsequent searches, the software could not determine which file was being requested. With the Alchemy software, however, the problem was solved by simply changing the file names.
Buttke then set up textual search capabilities for the captured images, using the Caere OmniPage software. Image documents are stored on one set of Jaz disks. Text, saved in Microsoft Word 97 format is stored on another set, so it can be searched by keywords as well as by document name.
The installation was a success. FTP's storage space requirements have been dramatically reduced and its consulting staff can access needed information more quickly regardless of their physical location.
As FTP's Steve McNair put it, "This database helps FTP be more productive and, therefore, more competitive. FTP is now able to expand its service offerings and take on more customers with the same resources due to the enhanced accessibility of information."