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Behördenspiegel - September 2005

German Employment Offices ("Bundesagentur für Arbeit" = BA)

Modern IT Strategy Leads to Better Service and Efficiency

In a concept test, the German Employment Offices collect experience for the country-wide introduction of electronic files, basing on a document management system. The flexible capture software DpuScan serves for the trouble-free capture process. In order to make files processing more efficient, faster and mainly more service-friendly, the German Employment Offices (BA) strive for increased application of information technology. Mainly in the ranges of Unemployment Benefit (ALG), support of further job-related training (FbW) and Children's Allowance (KG), digitizing of the paper files and subsequent transfer to a document management system shall serve for more processing efficiency and thus to better service.

So, by the end of 2004, the Federal Authority started with the groundwork for the concept text ELEISA, initially in two of the total of 180 agencies country-wide Employment Offices who are responsible of the immediate carry out of specialist tasks, and in two of the former 179 so-called "Family Cashier Offices". The primary target is to take over the files for payment of Unemployment Benefit and Children's Allowance (KG) that formerly existed only physically, into an electronic file and so not only to accelerate the process itself, but to be able to give information and advice for queries coming in by phone or letter. Today, such service is not yet possible as obstacles block any immediate access to the required information - Tedious search for the paper file, caused by the structure of the offices and by the special separation of the client center as the first access point for the unemployed and the dislocation of the Service Centers and the staff who is responsible for processing the benefits.

For Thomas Geisler, the leading project collaborator, this status is no longer state-of-the-art for the BA: "We want to achieve a continuous electronic process where you can get the file on your screen at any time, and take a decision." The experiences and results made in Göppingen and Schwandorf (Bavaria), as also in Hannover (Unemployment Benefit only), Ludwigsburg and Regensburg (Children's Allowance (KG) only) will therefore be the base for a country-wide introduction, after project finalization in 2006.

Although the originals are heterogeneous, simple handling and secure processing are granted

High Demands

The complexity of the project - the country-wide realization would be one of the largest DMS applications in Germany - meant enormous demands not only for the internal IT system house that is responsible for the pilot experiment. Also the companies who participated in the public tender for scanner and scan software were faced by an extremely ample catalogue of demands. A total of fifty obligatory criteria had to be fulfilled, eighty further criteria were listed as desired features. The quotations were evaluated to a pregiven scheme of points.

With the best price/capacity ratio, the Janich & Klass Computertechnik GmbH, situated in Wuppertal, won the race. Their complete solution, made of the DpuScan 4.11 high-capacity capture software that developed themselves, and the SCAMAX batch scanners 401cd of the Wölfersheim manufacturer InoTec Organisationssysteme GmbH convinced by their high functionality and demanded flexibility. "Our scan process does not allow to use any Out-of-the-Box solution without adaptations of the program ",Thomas Geisler explains the decision. "Therefore it was decisive that the solution supports a multistage process, from scanning via image enhancement through to quality assurance, and that we could write our own modules where no standardized functions are available. For example, we must have access to our legacy databases in order to verify the data. This can not be achieved by any standard solution." This also holds for a series of specific items at the Children's Allowance (KG). DpuScan offers the precondition for covering these individual demands, by a PlugIn interface belonging to its standard equipment.

Janich & Klass could pick points with another advantage. The agencies scan in duplex mode, but they delete about 50% of all pages as they are insignificant for the process. The possibility to invoice not on a "per page" basis, but based on speed, was positive for the Nürnberg authority. Pricing now is independent of the scanned quantity, so that costs will not increase even if the volume to be scanned should rise.

Success Start

Meanwhile, the agencies who run the test have processed about 50,000 files - even faster than foreseen in the time schedule - about 10,000 in the range of Unemployment Benefit, each having about 30 to 40 pages per file, and 40,000 files for Children's Allowance (KG) averaging to 120 pages. The originals are extremely heterogeneous, they have different formats, and also the partly bad readable material challenges the scan systems. Thanks to the reliable feeder and transport system of the SCAMAX scanners with their ultra-sonic sensor as standard for recognizing double feeds, simply handling and secure processing are however granted. Nevertheless it proved right from the start that one single manipulation can decide about success or failure. "In the beginning, we had high error quotes as we scanned our originals with the punched side ahead", Thomas Geisler remembers. "But since the papers were often torn, they got stuck up. Then we simply turned the documents around, and from then on we had no more trouble."

Generally, the start was managed excellently. Though without previous experience, the operators were able after only a short training to run the systems without problems worth mentioning. Thanks to the strong features of the scan program. So, the classification of the numerous different types of documents and forms simplifies the later indexing by the usage of barcodes or matrix codes with already transferred key data like person in charge, starting date, future file number, client number - but quality assurance will come before this processing step. Here, non-used pages will be deleted, image enhancement is made in case of bad quality - due to the high image quality delivered by the SCAMAX without the need to re-scan any paper. Next is the check whether a barcode sticker has been read. The actual experience has shown that this process is run relatively fast, as the software allows to transfer the job to any other partial process, at any time, like re-scanning or immediate or later transfer to the indexing module.

In the actual phase, the codes not yet contain all meta data; therefore the additional manual indexing. "We always have to complete the data, for example by the client ID", Stefan Schneider says, one of the process developers. It is the most important detail, as it secures the assignment of the document to the correct file." A future goal is to further reduce the indexing costs; more and more personalized documents shall be spread including an matrix code with data like client ID, etc.

Another spot check is carried out after indexing to assure that eventual errors made during the process are immediately recognized and can be fixed.

By the way, everything is scanned in color with subsequent transforming to black&white images. This way, the image quality is better mainly at colored, yellowed, and stained originals, compared to immediate scanning in black&white.

Until now, all performance reports were positive. One reason surely is that the BA has intensively bound their staff into the processes.


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