It has been two years since the publisher of one of the biggest English language weeklies announced the end to the paper version of its magazine with only the electronic version left. And even though, more and more publishers decided to do the same and electronic sales grow, paper still prevails. This serves as a good confirmation of the fact that in many companies hundreds of paper sheets coming in every day forcing them to maintain big office departments.
The key bottle neck in the process of handling traditional documents is the manual transfer of the information from paper to the company’s systems. Ultimately, the speed of the document handling depends, basically, on the efficiency and accurateness of its representation in the systems of an organisation. This is time-consuming, but also involves a significant risk of errors. In particular, errors in handling invoices could result in high additional expenses, not to mention exposing the relations with a contractor to deterioration.
Figure 1. A simplified process of an invoice handling – no OCR support
An excellent solution that brings measurable and easy to estimate benefits would be to digitise documents, in particular, the invoices. The optical character recognition (OCR) technology enables the appropriately configured system to automatically transfer key information from the invoices to the accounting system at the point of scanning.
More importantly, such an approach at this stage of the process makes it possible to create records in the accounting systems without the input of the accounting department. Office department employees can effectively replace it, which significantly reduces the cost of the entire process. Labour intensity of the operation is, consequently, reduced even by an order of magnitude.
Instead of copying the data from an invoice to the system manually, an employee has only got to verify the accuracy of the text recognised by the OCR system.
When OCR automatically detects the risk of inaccuracy in a recognised element, an original fragment of the image is displayed together with a suggested value for the user to confirm or correct it. The system has got an embedded learning mechanism; therefore, its effectiveness of recognition is higher with every document, to eventually reach even over 95%.
Figure 2. A simplified process of OCR-supported invoice handling
There are, naturally, other advantages of digitisation of documents. A digitised invoice or other document becomes, in fact, an electronic document, which brings in a number of benefits. It can be easily included into the workflow circulation to enhance the approval workflow. Any of authorised employees may easily retrieve a document by key works or selected business parameters, and display it or add comments. There is no need to physically transmit the document from one desk to another or to onerously search through physical paper archives. The process of document access management as well as its monitoring becomes simplified. This makes a significant difference in quality of the processes.