Scan to PDF, automatically correcting for poor image quality?

Hiya Folks.

The company I work for has been moving towards 'paperless' for a few years now. One of effort has been to scan assorted incoming documents, save in the smallest possible sized PDF (greyscale, 150-200dpi) and drop them in a network share.

Currently we're using:
-Kodak 11440 scanners connected via USB to
-WinXP or Win7 workstations (HP)
-Scan-To-PDF software with a plugins for renaming and batch separation
-Utilizing Kodak's TWAIN drivers

In terms of the document flow and system integration with our core app, this works beautifully, but we're having issues with document quality, and here's the real problem:

--We receive all sorts of documents to be scanned. Carbons, carbonless, pink, blue, yellow, handwritten stuff, odd sizes, and so on. These are not separated by color or type, and are run through the scanner in batches corresponding to a PO number. Some of these documents come out completely illegible, which is the core of the users' complaint.

-All stages of management from my IT manager (software dev background) on up to the top want me to come up with a method of correcting for these document's variances in quality without disrupting the established workflow. There's no interest in training these users to adjust imaging settings or do separated batches by color or document type. No separation pages, nothing. It has to be one button simple.

I have been tasked with finding a method/product that will allow a user to scan dozens of documents of every imaginable type in a single batch, under a single preset setting and have them ALL come out legible. There is no support from management for training these users on even basic adjustments like contrast/brightness, etc. It needs to be literally "idiot proof" because that's the people they hire.

I don't really believe this is possible, but I have to give it a go.

If anybody can give me a suggestion on some sort of smart 3rd party software that can analyze and correct scanned documents in-line I would be so very thankful. In lieu of that magic bullet, I could really use a hand in an approach to explain WHY this is an unrealistic goal, and what is the PROPER way to accomplish this.

I wish I knew more about such things, but my imaging background is amateur at best, I'm a sysadmin, not a designer. Anybody on here really knowledgeable about document imaging workflow? Thanks in advance.
TheMightyMoltarAsked:
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
> the smallest possible sized PDF (greyscale, 150-200dpi)

Grayscale (8-bit) is not the smallest; black&white (1-bit) is. For example, I just ran a test on a single letter size page and the grayscale/150DPI image is 605KB while the B&W/300DPI image of the same page is only 48KB.

> Kodak 11440 scanners

I'm guessing you mean the Kodak i1440:
http://graphics.kodak.com/docimaging/US/en/Products/Document_Scanners/Departmental/i1440_Scanner/

> I could really use a hand in an approach to explain WHY this is an unrealistic goal

I suggest spending some time at Wayne Fulton's excellent site, "A few scanning tips":
http://www.scantips.com/

You'll learn a lot about scanning and it may help you in dealing with your management. You didn't mention OCR, but if that's part of the puzzle for you, be sure to read the "OCR Tips" page at:
http://www.scantips.com/basics04.html

> smart 3rd party software that can analyze and correct scanned documents in-line

The gold standard for many years has been Kofax's VirtualReScan (VRS):
http://www.kofax.com/vrs-virtualrescan/

If any product is going to work for you (and I'm not saying it will), this is the one. It's certainly worth a try...and the Kodak i1440 does support it, with both the TWAIN and ISIS drivers. Speaking of ISIS, it is generally superior to TWAIN. If your Scan-To-PDF software supports ISIS, you should give it a spin. Another idea, of course, is to look at other imaging software...almost everything these days supports scanning to PDF, both image-only PDF and searchable PDF (creating a layer of text via OCR). Regards, Joe
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TheMightyMoltarAuthor Commented:
Thanks Joe. Looking into this now. We do have Kofax VRS, it came with a Xerox scanner we're test driving. Maybe there's something I'm missing about that software, I'll have to get into the manual a bit deeper, because it doesn't appear to do much like what I'm describing.

And yes, I misspoke, we use greyscale and try to get the images as small as possible in greyscale. All the odd colors, smudges, etc come out looking pretty bad in 1 bit B&W. Like with the  core issue of needing one catch-all setting, some may look good in B&W but not everything does.
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
> it came with a Xerox scanner

Sometimes software that is bundled with a scanner is a "light" or "starter" version. Take a look at the Feature tab of the Kofax VRS Elite package that I mentioned above:
http://www.kofax.com/software/vrs/features.php

> it doesn't appear to do much like what I'm describing.

It's not going to be perfect/foolproof, but the following features address what you're describing:


Intelligent Cleanup
Capture crisp, clean images from your most challenging documents, including blueprints, wrinkled paper and security paper.

Hole Punch Removal
Eliminate hole punch markings by filling holes with the surrounding page color.

Perfect Images
Get process ready images with superior image quality, making scanning easier for your users and enabling better recognition and extraction rates.

Easy to Use
Just press scan and let Kofax VRS Elite do the rest, without special operator knowledge of scanning, special filters or image enhancement.

Color Detection
Detect and retain color in mixed batches of color and black-and-white documents without presorting.

Color Smoothing
Normalize the background color of any document or replace it with white.

Improved Recognition
Dramatically increase the accuracy of your character recognition (OCR and ICR) software by delivering it cleaner images.
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TheMightyMoltarAuthor Commented:
Sweet. Yeah, I'm trying to carve out the time to really dig into that, but it does look better the more I investigate. Also looking at something called PixEdit, waiting to hear back from them.

I'm going to let this thread play out for a bit before awarding any points, but Kofax is looking good, so thanks for your help on this. I learned a lot about scanning in general from scantips.com and that's helping me make this decision, too.
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
You're welcome. I haven't heard of PixEdit, so I'm really interested to know what you learn about the product and the company. Regards, Joe
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TheMightyMoltarAuthor Commented:
Still working with Kofax and trying to configure it for our specific needs, but it's highly likely that this will become our new standard. It seems to perform as expected and then some.
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
Very glad to hear that! Good luck on the project. Regards, Joe
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TheMightyMoltarAuthor Commented:
Thanks again.
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
My pleasure...happy to help.
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