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Best Practices? Truck Drivers and Bills of Lading

Posted on 2015-02-16
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Last Modified: 2015-04-09
We would like to solicit ideas from the community about how best to enable our drivers to submit BOLs and Freight Bills back to our office several times each week.  We tried faxing to a Windows Fax server with an external fax/modem and saving as PDF.  The fax lines/connection proved fairly unreliable, and we are exploring other options.

From A to Z we could use tablets like UPS and FedEx, but to do that effectively would be quite expensive relative to our size.  (We have about 30 drivers.)   We're experimenting with using smart phones to take a photograph of BOLs and other documents, and email them to our office.  That seems to be working fairly well.

However, I believe this problem has already been solved by other freight carriers.  I'd like to solicit some ideas as to the best ways for us to get that paperwork, or an image thereof, to a digitized, classified, name-centric, file format suitable for online storage.  We've got a little experience with SharePoint and more elaborate document storage systems, but we're trying to limit our up-front, out-of-pocket to $10k - $15k for these 30 drivers, including smartphones or tablets.

So...

Go back to faxing to PDF and fix it to be more reliable?
Take photographs of the documents and email them?  Save them in the cloud?
Use portable scanners attached to smartphones/tablets?  

Can someone recommend quality software that would facilitate this workflow?  Perhaps even the best free app to take and send photographs to a common cloud site, but segregated by driver?

Very much looking forward to hearing your comments.
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Question by:K A
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viki2000 earned 500 total points
ID: 40613658
I see your problem split in 2:
-      One step is to scan and bring the digitized bills into a system.
-      Second is to organize the bills electronically with the possibility of printing, copy, search and eventually make them available over internet in different places.
For the first step you need some scanning devices, no matter are dedicated portable scanners or just a device which takes photos.
As I searched and tried for personal use such system, I can only recommend a dedicated portable scanner, because the photos done with mobile phones or tablets or even digital camera do not focus all the time on the entire paper.
When the software which will store the bill digitized receives as input the  photo, will try to convert it in PDF through OCR. In this way the document resulted is searchable and occupies less storage space. In case of photos, if the software cannot apply OCR, then it will store it as picture, as it has no other option, and that is not nice.
Here are some very good OCR software scanners:
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2424075,00.asp
http://ocr-software-review.toptenreviews.com/
I have tried in the past some of them by curiosity and in my mind remained 3 as the best: Abby FineReader, ReadIris Pro and OminPage.
http://www.abbyy.com/
http://www.irislink.com/c2-2888-189/I-R-I-S----OCR-Technology-and-Document-Management-Solutions.aspx
http://www.nuance.com/for-business/by-product/omnipage/index.htm
These software above maybe will not work directly for you, but with a trial version you may convince yourself  how a photo of a bill made with a smartphone or a tablet is then converted into PDF with OCR. It is not always successful. And these are the best OCR software on the market I would say. I personally like Abby, even if 10 years ago I worked with ReadIris.
Some of them offer a cloud solution or mobile scanning:
http://www.abbyy.com/solutions/sharepoint/
http://www.abbyy.com/solutions/mobile/
http://www.abbyy.com/solutions/accounts-payable-automation/
http://www.irislink.com/c2-2491-189/IRISCloud---Cloud-Solutions.aspx
http://www.irislink.com/c2-2482-189/IRISCapture---IRISXtract---Invoice-Processing-Solutions.aspx
http://www.irislink.com/c2-2365-189/IRISPowerscan---High-Speed-Scanning-Software.aspx
http://www.irislink.com/c2-2439-189/IRIScan---Mobile-scanners---Portable---Office-scanning-devices.aspx
I would recommend using a portable scanner. Then the result, probably a PDF document if not then a very good picture, has to be sent to your system. For that they drivers need internet connection. If the drive around then internet on mobile is the best option. If there is no urgent need to have the bills into the system, then maybe they can send them as bulk one time at each few days. That implies the digital bills have to be secure stored in their devices. If they do not have internet on mobile/tablet then I see only 2 options to upload the digital bills into the system: either you make a deal with your customers to let your drivers to connect to internet for few minutes each time when they deliver and receive the bill, then scan it and upload it on your system, or they have to find some free internet places, café, points where they can do their upload, but I would not recommend this way, too many hackers these days…
Actually I would choose for internet on mobile if there is a good coverage where they drive.
What devices to use to scan?
I know some portable scanners with USB port, which maybe can be combined with a mobile device which has internet connection via GSM. But maybe are some other dedicated devices, we have to see that. But I think the most common is a combination of a portable scanner, store the document in a PC-like portable device which then connects to internet and uploads the bill into your system.
Now at the step 2, if none of the recommend solution offered by Abby or ReadIris or OmniPage worked for you, then are dedicated cloud system as QuickBooks:
http://quickbooks.intuit.com/
It is not free of charge:
http://quickbooks.intuit.com/pricing/
And then are some free alternatives:
http://blog.capterra.com/top-ten-quickbooks-alternatives-small-business-accounting/
https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/the-best-alternatives-to-quickbooks-online/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_accounting_software

And here are some mobile scanners with WiFi connection able to connect to your mobile devices:
http://www.irislink.com/c2-2806-189/IRIScan--Anywhere-3-Wifi---Cordless-Wifi-Scanner.aspx
http://www.xeroxscanners.com/en/en/products/item.asp?PN=XMS
http://www.vupointsolutions.com/index.php/product/scanner/magic-wand-portable-scanner-with-wifi.html
http://www.getdoxie.com/product/doxie-go/scanner.html
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by:K A
ID: 40614276
Thank you viki2000... that's a great response.

Regarding the mobile scanners with wi-fi... can they REALLY go straight to the cloud without having to go through a local mobile device?  Do they include software that stores an internet address, login name and password?
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by:viki2000
ID: 40614940
I never owned one, neither tested.
It seems that most send to the PC or portable device, but directly to cloud I see only the Xerox one mentioned.
" It talks to your PC, Android®, Mac®, iPhone®, iPad®, iPod® touch, or the cloud over Wi-Fi"

Here is the manual of scanner with WiFi explanations:
http://www.xeroxscanners.com/downloads/Manuals/XMS/How_Eye-Fi_Works_Guide.EN.pdf

You should ask directly the portable scanner manufacturer.

By the way on Xerox scanner page there is a white paper pdf showing the difference between a mobile phone camera and a portable scanner quality:
http://www.xeroxscanners.com/downloads/manuals/XMS/Scanner_vs_Phone_Camera_whitepaper_031512.EN.pdf
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Author Closing Comment

by:K A
ID: 40715038
Thanks, viki2000.
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