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To Zone OCR, or Not To Zone OCR?

zoneOCRZone optical character recognition (zone OCR or zonal OCR) has been touted by some as the most efficient method to date for document management. The ability to identify specific areas, or zones, on a document and index them based on preexisting definitions certainly helps to streamline the data entry into Microsoft Dynamics GP, NAV and AX enterprise resource planning software, or into other ERP systems. But zone OCR may not always be the best option.

An offshoot the original OCR concept, Zone OCR attempts to streamline the document management for Dynamics a step further by allowing companies to quickly index standardized forms. Users mark specific areas on a document, called "zones," and assign values to the information located in those sections. As the user scans a document, the software identifies the zones and automatically indexes the information located in those sections of the image. Theoretically, this can saves countless hours as manual entry of information into Dynamics from applications, invoices, and other standardized forms can be automated.

In practice, the system is clumsier than promised. For one, images can, and often do, misalign with expected zones. Scanning is still an inexact process that can result in crooked images from shifting documents. Zone OCR also relies on clearly defined areas. If lines or table boundaries are too close to text, the OCR software will not be able to properly identify it. Furthermore, if forms rely on hand-written information, the writing may be outside of the predefined zone, also rendering the indexing process incomplete. Users then have to manually fix the data before submitting it.

Implementation of zone OCR is also somewhat unwieldy, requiring extended IT support and management-level decisions on which documents will be included in the identification of zones. The labor cost for the initial implementation and subsequent data corrections of erroneous information, stemming from misaligned scans, can add up quickly.

Clearly, to do more with less requires an IT solution that doesn't simultaneously complicate the process with new problems. Perhaps you have a process in which a single person keys data in to a Dynamics transaction, or to another application, processing document after document in a rhythm.  The important point is the rhythm of work, i.e. not interrupting the flow to scan documents right then, or break the flow with extraneous steps.  Because KwikTag is integral to a business process, and you can capture the data already entered in a Dynamics transaction to a document waiting to be scanned, or enter the information into KwikTag workflow and let the transactional auto-creation carry it into Dynamics without rekeying, it streamlines processes without zone OCR.  And, KwikTag still applies OCR to all documents in KwikTag, so the information is always available for later search and retrieval by content in addition to indexed data. 

Document imaging has long been improving how organizations manage their information, but OCR has had an especially profound impact. The innovation has drastically lessened the amount of labor involved in with data entry, and it has streamlined document management for Dynamics and other enterprise resource planning software. But in the race to cut costs and progress technologically, it's important to avoid steps forward that can lead to new problems. But carefully weighing the pros and cons, companies can effectively choose whether or not to implement zone OCR so as to have the maximum cost-saving benefits.

Talk to us about it.  If your volume and process necessitate a solution offering zone OCR, we’ll help you find one.  But if practicality is driving your solution, KwikTag is the answer.