Businesses are always on the hunt for ways to streamline operations and safeguard important information. Enter bulk document scanning, transforming the way you handle, store, and access vast quantities of paper documents. 

Whether you’re looking to reclaim office space swallowed up by stacks of paperwork, seeking improved data retrieval times, or are on a mission to embrace a paper-light footprint, bulk document scanning could be your answer. 

This guide dives into high-volume document digitization, offering insights into its benefits, the equipment and tools utilized, and best practices to ensure optimal results.

Key Terms and Definitions

Bulk document scanning refers to the process of converting large quantities of physical paper records into digital format. 

Unlike scanning a single document or a few pages, bulk scanning is designed to handle hundreds, thousands, or even millions of pages, making it ideal for organizations with vast archives or ongoing high-volume scanning needs. 

Below are some common terms used in digitization: 

Document Scanning
Document scanning, often simply referred to as “scanning,” is the process by which a paper document or file is converted into a digital image using a scanner. Once scanned, the original content on the paper is transformed into a digital format, commonly saved as a PDF, JPEG, TIFF, or other file types, depending on the nature and purpose of the document.


“Prep” is short for preparation, which is getting the hard copy records ready to go through a scanner. This includes removing staples, paperclips, rubber bands, and tape, as well as unfolding documents and ensuring they’ll pass cleanly through a scanner. 

DPI (Dots Per Inch)
The resolution that the hard copies are scanned in, creating the digital image. The higher the resolution, the clearer the image, though typically for paper to digital 200dpi or 300dpi is utilized. 

OCR (Optical Character Recognition)
Applying OCR to your now-digitized images creates text-searchable files for you to look up names, dates, phrases, and so on. 

Batch Scanning

Batch scanning involves scanning multiple documents or a large set of pages in one go, typically without stopping in between to save or categorize each individual file. Ideal for projects where there’s a need to digitize large archives or ongoing high-volume scanning needs, such as converting backlogs of paper records to digital.

Single Document Scanning

Single document scanning involves scanning one document or a limited number of pages at a time.

Why Consider Bulk Scanning?

There are numerous reasons why you might consider bulk document scanning, though you don’t have to need all of them to move forward. Below are common reasons that may be just what you’re looking for:

1/ Space Saving

Physical documents, especially when they accumulate over years, take up a significant amount of space. Converting these to digital formats can help organizations reclaim valuable office or storage space.

2/ Cost Efficiency

While the initial investment in scanning might seem substantial, in the long run, it reduces costs associated with physical storage, document retrieval, and even potential loss or damage of documents.

Person putting coin into a piggybank

3/ Quick and Easy Access

Digital documents can be indexed and organized, making it incredibly fast and simple to search for and retrieve specific information. This can be invaluable in organizations where rapid data access is crucial.

4/ Enhanced Security

Digital files can be encrypted, password-protected, and backed up to multiple locations. This ensures you’re mitigating theft, loss, or damage, and access can be restricted to authorized individuals.

Woman using smartphone for multifactor authentication

5/ Backup Disaster Recovery

When there’s an accident or catastrophe like a fire or flood, having digital backups of critical documents ensures business continuity and reduces the risk of data loss.

6/ Integration with Modern Systems

Digital documents can be integrated with other apps such as Document Management and Records Management Systems (DMS/RMS), Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, and more, enabling smoother workflows. This allows all of an organization’s records to be centrally located for simpler management and access. 

7/ Improved Collaboration

Digital files can be shared with teammates regardless of their location, allowing for seamless collaboration and faster decision-making.

Group of businesspeople working together at a computer

In essence, bulk document scanning is not just about transitioning from paper to digital; it’s about leveraging the power of technology to drive efficiency, security, and growth in an organization.

Equipment and Tools for Bulk Scanning

For bulk document scanning, specialized equipment and tools are required to handle the high quantity of records and to ensure efficiency, quality, and security. Here’s a breakdown of the essential equipment and tools for this purpose:

High-Speed Scanners: These are designed to automatically feed a stack of documents one after the other for rapid scanning. Typically utilized for office documents (such as 8.5”x11” and 11”x17”).

Large Format Scanners: Needed for scanning oversized documents like blueprints, maps, or posters.

This is an integral part of most high-speed scanners, allowing users to load a stack of documents that are automatically fed into the scanner. Compared to single document scanning, this is essential for a true bulk scanning process.

Staple removers: To unbind documents before scanning.

Rubber finger tips: To easily separate and pick up sheets.

Tape: To fix tears.

White gloves: Useful when handling delicate or old documents to avoid smudges or damage.

Capture Software: This software controls the scanner settings, such as resolution, color mode, and file type. Some advanced versions also allow batch settings and automate post-scan processes.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Software: Converts scanned images of text into machine-readable text, making digital documents searchable and editable.

Image Enhancement Software: Helps in cleaning up scanned images by removing backgrounds, enhancing contrasts, or correcting colors.

Batch Processing Software: Automates tasks like splitting scanned batches into individual files, naming files, or compressing files.

Software that assists in checking the quality of scanned documents, ensuring they’re clear, complete, and free of errors or artifacts.

Encryption software to protect the scanned digital files.

Secure FTP servers for transferring or accessing files securely over the internet.

Once a project is complete, a USB thumb drive or hard drive may be used to provide the images to a client. These can be encrypted for sensitive data.

An FTP (File Transfer Protocol) or SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) may be used to electronically transfer files and images to the client.

A hosted solution (such as our Digital ReeL platform) may be the end product, in which case the files would be accessed throughout the project.

While the exact equipment and tools will vary based on the specific requirements and size of the scanning project, the above list provides an overview of what’s typically needed for bulk document scanning. Ensuring the right tools and equipment are in place will greatly impact the efficiency, quality, and security of the scanning process.

The Bulk Scanning Process: Step-by-Step

Every company will have its own process to scan your documents, but there are some common steps that you’re likely to see regardless of who you decide to partner with.

This involves preparing the physical documents for scanning. It may include removing staples, paper clips, and bindings, as well as repairing any damaged documents to ensure they can be scanned properly. 

Prep typically is the most time-consuming part of a document scanning project, especially if the records have lots of bindings, folders, staples, and other items that need to be removed before scanning.

The essential part of a scanning project is of course the scanning!

Here we’ll set up the scanners based on your project’s requirements: selecting DPI, image mode (bitonal, grayscale, color), simplex or duplex scanning, etc. Once the settings are calibrated, scanning operators feed the pages into the scanner to capture and create the digital images.

For clients who need searchable digital documents, we may apply OCR technology to the digitized images. This process converts the visual representation of text in the scanned images into machine-encoded text which allows for character and phrase searching.

To make the retrieval of specific documents or information easier, we’ll index the scanned files based on the scope of work we’ve created for your project. This involves tagging or labeling the files based on criteria such as name, date of birth, date range, and other identifiers.

Index information can come from various locations such as a box label, folder tab, page title, and anywhere else your records have required information.

Before delivering the final digital files, we’ll conduct a quality check to ensure that all documents have been scanned accurately and that the digital files meet our client’s specifications.

Once the scanning process is complete, the digital files are delivered to the client. This could be via physical storage devices, cloud storage, or integration into a client’s existing Document Management System (DMS).

After scanning, the original physical documents can be returned to the client. Alternatively, if the client no longer needs the physical copies, we may offer secure document destruction services, ensuring that sensitive information is disposed of safely.

It’s worth noting that while the above steps provide a general overview of our document scanning process, specific steps or processes will vary based on individual client needs.

Potential Challenges and Solutions

Bulk document scanning, while beneficial, comes with its challenges. Here’s a rundown of potential challenges and their corresponding solutions:

1. Varying Document Sizes and Types

Different sizes (from receipts to blueprints) and types (from fragile documents to glossy photos) can make scanning a complex task. It requires utilizing various scanning equipment and finding a way to match up disparate images into a coherent file.

Use versatile scanners that can handle a range of sizes and document types. For delicate documents, flatbed and overhead scanners can be used. 

Processes must be utilized to be able to track documents from files to ensure they’re merged properly after scanning.


2. Document Preparation Time

Removing staples, fixing torn pages, and organizing documents can be time-consuming.

If possible, prep your records prior to sending them to us for your project. By doing some prep on your own, you can likely reduce your costs.

Hourglass on laptop computer

3. Image Quality Consistency

Ensuring that every scanned document is clear and legible can be challenging, especially with faded or damaged originals.

By implementing a quality control step during scanning, poor-quality images can be flagged and rescanned where necessary.


4. Large Data Volumes

Handling and storing the vast amount of data from bulk scanning can be overwhelming.

Utilize cloud solutions to host your data instead of keeping it on a local network or USB drive that can be misplaced or broken. 

Big data abstract digital concept

5. Accurate Indexing and Organization

With thousands to millions of documents and images, organizing them in a way that makes retrieval easy is crucial.

Ensure that your indexing plan is sound prior to the project, and adjust as necessary as you see results. Additionally, utilize the building block approach and replicate how you find files now so that you don’t make it overly complex and hamper future searches. 

You can also implement OCR to make documents searchable, possibly mitigating the need for granular indexing. 


6. Ensuring Data Security

Protecting sensitive information during and after the scanning process is paramount.

Find a scanning partner that has robust security processes in place to protect your records. Look for certifications and audits that show they’re strong in security. 


7. Costs

Bulk scanning is naturally costly because of the large quantity of records that will be scanned.

Find ways to reduce costs, such as by prepping your records as much as possible, keeping indexing simple, and starting with the most important records first in a phased approach. 

Case Study: A Real-World Application of Bulk Document Scanning 

A. Overview of the organization or business in focus.

The San Luis Obispo (SLO) County Assessor’s Office is responsible for discovering, inventorying, and valuing all real and personal property in the County. They also create and maintain assessment maps, and update property ownership records for all properties in the County. Historically, this department heavily relied on paper for their operations, but in recent times, they have embarked on a digital transformation journey for property records.

B. Challenges faced and the need for bulk scanning.

When the Assessor’s Office moved buildings, they faced a significant challenge with the paper records they had transferred. Despite purging 25% of these records, the sheer weight of the remaining documents was nearly 38 tons. This posed a significant risk to the structural integrity of the new building, especially in the event of high winds or an earthquake. The volume of these paper records also presented space, storage, distribution, and retrieval challenges.

C. Implementation process and solutions adopted.

The County sought a trusted partner to help with the digitization of these records and turned to BMI Imaging, with whom they had successfully collaborated in the past. The approved project aimed to digitize more than 168,000 property files. The process included barcoding and boxing paper files, which BMI would then pick up in batches, scan, index, and create an electronic file for. After a rigorous quality check, the files would be uploaded into the County’s OpenText document management system. The project followed a strict schedule with clear communication between the County and BMI staff. During this process, BMI displayed a high level of professionalism and commitment, ensuring over 98.6% accuracy in their work.

D. Outcomes and benefits realized.

The project was a resounding success. The Assessor’s Office successfully eliminated nearly 38 tons of paper. This not only addressed the building’s structural concerns but also paved the way for efficient digital document management. With high-quality digital documents, the Department can now serve the County’s citizens more effectively. Additionally, the space once occupied by these paper records and shelves has now been repurposed into scanning stations and work pods, optimizing the workspace for further efficiency.

Read the entire case study here.


As organizations deal with the challenges of managing vast quantities of paper records, the benefits of transitioning to a digital format become increasingly evident. From reclaiming physical space and achieving cost efficiencies to enhancing data accessibility and security, the merits of this process are manifold. While the journey of bulk scanning is not without its challenges, such as ensuring consistent image quality and managing large amounts of data, the solutions are both attainable and practical. 

Bulk document scanning is not just a process—it’s a strategic move towards modernization, efficiency, and growth. As we continue to move towards an increasingly digital future, embracing bulk scanning becomes not just beneficial but essential for those aiming to stay relevant and competitive.

Next Steps

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Further Reading

5 Vetting Questions For A Document Scanning Service
How do you choose who you’ll work with for your document scanning project? In this article we’ll give you five vetting questions that should get you started on the right foot.

Data Storage After Digitization
Digitizing your records is a major event, and it probably took much planning and effort for you to accomplish it. But you can’t stop there! Once your records are converted to digital, you need to store them somewhere.

Subcontractors & Digitization Projects
Subcontractors are partners who execute critical digitization tasks, at scale, to help successfully complete projects. Learn about how they’re involved in digital conversion projects and what you can expect.