Concordia Versicherungs-Gesellschaft a.G. has been archiving all of its incoming mail using Janich & Klass scanners since 2007. Only recently, in 2012, has the insurer upgraded and expanded its pool of machinery: Four XINO S720 scanners are now in service in the Document Management department, where they are deployed to digitize not only the daily intake of correspondence from all sorts of sources but old paper-based legacy archives, too.
|XINO Scanner scanning the daily post|
Concordia Versicherungs-Gesellschaft a.G. was founded back in 1864 and is headquartered in Hanover, Germany. The insurance company employs a combined in-house and field sales force numbering some 1300 and operates 38 sales offices and eight claims settlement centers across Germany. In all, the company services more than 3.2 million insurance policies and generates an annual income from premiums totaling more than €700 million. Its clients include private individuals, commercial enterprises as well as agricultural and industrial businesses.
Under the umbrella of Concordia, eleven firms operate inside Germany, while two service the Polish market, all covering a wide spectrum of different insurance products. The multitude of different insurance services offered means there are hundreds of different types of document that need to be handled. Prior to 2007, the company had used a S415 scanner from microform to capture this data retrospectively after it had already been processed, but since then capturing has been conducted by digital means.
Concordia decided in favor of Janich & Klass scanning equipment eight years ago based on its performance capabilities, the quality of advice and the range of services offered by microform. "The products successfully unite individuality with high-volume business," says Peter Lorenz, Head of Document Management (DM) at Concordia. In 2012, after five years of sound operation with three S655 units, the company wanted to employ the experience gained with this equipment in combination with the very latest technology now available.
Four high-performance scanners for handling day-to-day mail and special functions
XINO scanners were the best option available for fulfilling all of Concordia's wishes for the future. Equipped with and complemented by DpuScan capture software also from Janich & Klass, the OCR software smartFIX from information capture specialist insiders technologies, and IBM Image Plus, they constitute a fully integrated, end-to-end scanning solution for Concordia's document management. Three units take care of day-to-day incoming mail and actually stand in the mail room at Concordia; two of them are constantly in use, while the third acts as a backup system to safeguard operational dependability, something to which Concor-dia attaches huge importance. This unit is also used to test profile modifications and to prepare new applications.
A fourth scanner is being used to carry out special tasks and projects, such as the digitization and liquidation of large paper-based archives comprising files that are "live", that is, still active. For according to new space usage plans, Concordia offices are in future to be completely free of filing cabinets. "The big challenge is to digitize these files while continuing to go about our day-to-day work", says Lorenz. In future, the company will have to spend more time on such special projects, "which is why the scanner interface and ease and speed with which profile models can be adapted with XINO scanners is of such crucial importance to us", explains the Head of Document Management.
Color-coded markers and separation of process sections
The scanners being used to process incoming mail run between six and nine hours a day. The DM department employs them to process absolutely all of the mail that arrives on the doorstep of the insurance group's German business units. The scanner solution has to be able to recognize almost 370 different types of document, around half of which are forms created in-house, with the remaining 50 percent or so comprising "freestyle" correspondence penned by customers.
Each letter contains documents for a whole range of different business transactions. DM employees pre-sort the dossiers by hand, according to business unit, prior to scanning, so that the subsequent processes can be conducted purposefully and precisely. This results in an array of stacks, each of around 150 sheets, that need to be scanned for each business unit. The individual processes are separated from one another by affixing a color-coded marker to the first document of each process. This color-code detection function works similar to a barcode handling system – a simple resource that enables the insurer not only to operate in accordance with modern ecological guidelines but also to save a lot of money. On the one hand, there's no need for additional patchcode sheets, which cuts paper consumption; on the other hand, page-based licensing fees for capturing are also reduced.
Tight controls on Quality
Despite bulk processing, a large number of quality assurance steps are conducted at Concordia. This explains why the scanner units never run for a long time at a stretch: After ten minutes of scanning, the 28 people who make up the DM team carry out a quality control check on the screen to make sure that no reverse sides have been captured or some other such error has occurred. In this way, they ensure that preparations for the ensuing data processing step are perfect.
As Lorenz puts it, "The XINO scanners are totally intuitive and easy to learn, their running characteristics are wonderfully stable, they exhibit minimal susceptibility to error and their reliability of performance definitely falls in line with realistic expectations. Our personnel have little difficulty in learning all the actions necessary to work with the system, because the logic built into the scanners is of a very high level." The only thing that took them a while to get the hang of was working with different paper grades in parallel – it's simply not possible to sort and manage Concordia's incoming mail by the grammage of the documents received.
Following digitization, the DpuScan scanning software transfers the documents directly to the smartFIX OCR application for automatic indexing. The images are read out and the document contents indexed on the basis of the document type identified. The average success rate of this classification process is 80 percent. Concordia has defined more than 600 different characteristics of an insurance company according to which classification is conducted. This step is then followed by actual content processing, which is performed in various special-ist operational applications and database systems. As Peter Lorenz sees it, the biggest challenge facing this fully integrated scanning solution in the future will be, based on scanning results, to deduce decisions as to where which characteristic belongs even before the data is transferred to follow-up systems.
In addition to the digitization of legacy archives, the special projects for which Concordia has put its XINO scanners to use include the extension of this system to cover other incoming mail offices. So far, only incoming insurance- and claims-related mail is processed using the scanning solution. In future, additional scenarios are conceivable, such as the digitization of invoices sent to the Accounting department and their channeling for subsequent handling. Kitted out with state-of-the-art XINO scanning technology, the DM department is now in a position to act as a document digitization service center for other business units and departments, too.