It’s not uncommon for an organization to accumulate an insane amount of paper over the years. If you work in a court, you may have loads of case files laying around. Or if you’re in the healthcare field, you may have a large backlog of patient charts and medical records. And if you work in the education sector, you may have collections of student records and transcripts. Accumulating heaps of paper documents is not an industry-specific problem; it’s common across all industries and organizations. 

Since paper takes up a lot of space and there are growing initiatives to go “digital” and “paperless,” you may be thinking about scanning your documents. We’ve compiled five frequently asked questions that we typically hear when someone contacts us about a paper scanning project. 

1. Can I Scan My Documents Myself?

When you think about a paper scanning project, you may think “Isn’t it just paper? I bet I can scan it myself and save the extra money because I have scanners at my office anyways. How hard can it be?” This might be doable if you have a small amount of paper documents. However, if your organization has a large collection of paper, then you’re in for a wild ride.  

You might have a couple of multi-function or desktop scanners at your office, but these scanners are designed to handle basic work tasks and aren’t equipped to handle large document scanning projects. If you’re using them for large scanning projects, you can run the risk of jamming your scanners or even breaking them from overuse. Since these scanners aren’t made to handle large projects, the scanning speed will be slow and the project will take a while to complete. If you’re using your people to execute the project, this will also take them away from their primary responsibilities.

If you work with a scanning partner, you’ll have a dedicated team of digital conversion experts to help you get the document scanning project done correctly and provide you with expertise throughout the process. Most scanning services will have production-quality scanning units made to scan thousands and millions of documents in a short amount of time. In addition, they’ll have the appropriate software to process your electronic files once they’re scanned into digital formats. This will save you a lot of time and headache.

Businesswoman stressed about a paper jam

2. What Are My Transportation Options To Get My Records To Your Scanning Facility?

There are a few transportation options that you can choose from: a third-party vendor/service, ground pickup and delivery using our vehicles, air transportation, or a combination of these methods. You can use a third-party vendor such as FedEx if you have a small project (under 50 boxes). If you have larger projects, then it’s best to use the other modes of transportation. The transportation methods that’ll work best for you depend on the size of your project, the types of records you have, and where these records are located. 

It’s important to mention that since paper is a heavy medium and takes up a lot of space, you should take into account where the scanning facilities are located when you’re choosing a scanning partner. For most document scanning projects, it’s best to stick to local scanning services since long-distance transportation is a hassle and the costs can add up quickly. 

If you want more information on your transportation options, you can check out our article on microfilm transportation. Although the article focuses on microfilm, the methods used to transport microfilm records can also be applied to your paper records. 

A row of transportation delivery vans

3. How Much Does Paper Scanning Cost?

Each scanning company will have a different range for project pricing. Our general price range for paper scanning is $150 – $225/box. 

However, that’s only a starting point that we give when people first come to us. Many factors could affect the cost of your scanning projects, such as the number of boxes you have, the type of records, the condition of your documents, your file organization and complexity, the indexing specifications, project schedules, and your desired project output. In most instances, the two most important cost factors for document scanning projects are the number of boxes you have and the indexing specifications. 

For example, if you have a complex indexing requirement, such as naming every individual file by name, date of birth, and social security number, the price of your project will be higher due to the difficulty of locating and capturing the data in an accurate and secure way. On the other hand, if you only need an entire box named by the box label, you’ll save a lot on indexing expenses. 

Another example is if you have documents that aren’t in the best condition with sensitive data on them (ex. medical records, law enforcement files, etc), the pricing of your project can increase. Since they’re not in the best condition, we’ll need to do more prep work to ensure that these records could be scanned properly to get optimal image quality. And since there’s sensitive data on your documents, we’ll have to take steps to protect your records and only allow certain employees with the right security clearance to work with your records. 

4. What Kind of Prep Work Is Needed For The Scanning Project?

We often say that the bulk of paper scanning projects lies in the preparation for the project. This step is usually the most time-consuming and requires the largest amount of labor. Before we jump to the scanning portion of the project, we go through all your records to make sure that they’re in the right conditions to be scanned. This includes removing fasteners such as paper clips and staples, removing pages from folders and binders, flattening paper that was folded, and fixing tears and rips. For this stage, we’ll take the reins and handle it for you. 

However, before you transport your records to us, there are a couple of things that you can do to help us get a better understanding of your records and make the project move smoothly. The first thing is to really know your records.  You should have a clear inventory of the records you want to scan and know how they’re organized. You should also know the conditions and quality of your material. If you provide us with your native knowledge of your materials and instructions on how you want your records organized, it’ll be extremely useful to us when we’re unpacking, back-prepping, and indexing your records. It’ll also help us better understand your project so we can be prepared for any anomalies in your documents. 

Stacks of paper in an office

5. What Does The Paper Scanning Process Look Like?

Similar to how every scanning company has a different pricing model, they also each have their own processes when it comes to document scanning projects. If you decide to work with us for your scanning project, we have a 9-step paper scanning process that we’ll use as a baseline for your project. 

The project will kick off once we get your documents to one of our scanning facilities. As we’ve mentioned above, there are multiple modes of transportation you can choose from depending on the size of your project and where your records are located.

When your records arrive at our facility, we tag each container with barcode labels to indicate the date received, job number, box number, and our customer’s name. We use this information for internal tracking and automatically input it into an internal system called MTS (“Material Tracking System”) to provide us with a record of what was received, how many boxes in total, and which of our employees received the material. After we label your records, we keep them in secure storage until it’s time to scan. 

Next, your sales rep will create a custom job order in our internal Unity system. Our Project Managers will use the job order to create a process flow for your project. The process flow will cover every step that will take your records from physical copies to digital files. You’ll also have a chance to review your project during our Milestone 1 Proof of Concept phase, where we test a small portion of your project with the process flow that was created. 

After everything is set up for your project, we’ll focus our attention on the preparation to get your paper ready for scanning. As previously mentioned, the biggest bulk of a document scanning project lies in the preparation stage. During this step, we go through your records and do what we have to so that the files can be loaded into our scanners and digitized. 

Once we determine that your documents are clear to scan, we’ll start the scanning step. We’ll scan it with the specifications that you want, such as the digital format (JPG, TIFF, etc), resolution (ex. 300 dpi), and the image format (bi-tonal, grayscale, or color images). As soon as we’re done with scanning your files, we’ll back-prep the files and put them back in place. 

Next, we’ll conduct some post-scan image processing steps and quality assurance (QA) checks to make sure everything is done correctly. If you need to make your digitized files text-searchable, we’ll run your files through our optical character recognition (OCR) software. If you need us to redact certain information, this is also the stage where we’ll do that. 

One of the final steps in the project will be to index your scanned documents. We’ll name and organize your files in multiple ways depending on your needs, from the box level, file level, page level, and so on. Indexing your files will be useful when you need to quickly locate your documents. And last but not least, we’ll deliver your files back to you in the format and delivery method of your choice. 

Next Steps

Now that you have the answers you need, you’re one step closer to having your paper records scanned and digitized. Give us a call at 800.359.3456 or email us at info@bmiimaging.com, and we’ll have one of our reps work with you to build your custom paper scanning project!

Further Reading

“Breaking Down The Box: How To Approach Your Paper Scanning Project” gives a quick overview of how you can approach your scanning project by deconstructing it into smaller, more manageable pieces.

“Records Scanning vs. Records Storage” provides you with a couple of scenarios to help you determine whether you should scan your documents or continue to store them. 

“What Are The Advantages Of Digitization?” presents multiple reasons why digitization might be beneficial to your organization.