The Surprising Superpower of OCR (Optical Character Recognition) Save Time and Improve Productivity
You’re no doubt familiar with the term, Optical Character Recognition (OCR). It refers to the conversion of images of typed, handwritten, or printed text into machine-readable text. With all the glittery new tech terms flying around, an old standard like OCR could easily get lost in the mix.
However, when combined with DocLink, OCR becomes something of a superpower, not only turning paper documents into recognizable electronic ones, but parsing the characters into meaningful bits of information that initiate workflows, automate approvals, and drive efficiency every step of the way. Here’s a look at how DocLink turns up the volume on OCR, giving the classic technology new power.
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Replacing manual data entry is OCR’s core functionality, and without a tool like DocLink, its only functionality. OCR digitizes printed texts so they can be electronically edited, searched, and stored. DocLink refines this function, adding smart functionality that turns the electronic file into a living document, automating many other manual tasks.
The value-add OCR has in addition to recognizing a word as a word —or a number as a number — you can teach OCR what to do when that word is a certain word. For example, you can teach it where on a document to routinely look for that word. Armed with that information, OCR can index other values from a separate data source. OCR can be trained to recognize virtually any type of business document, including invoices, receipts, customer purchase orders, payment remittances, and signed bills of lading.
OCR “learns” data fields by using custom machine-learning algorithms that allow it to show where to look for key information on a document, such as a vendor’s name or an invoice number. You can configure validation rules for the data fields and OCR will run a check against the validation list — which can come from another application like your ERP. OCR even validates math, performing automatic calculations on detail line items to ensure that those totals and the document’s total amount are accurate.
We can all agree that saving and storing documents electronically is an advantage — no more file cabinets, right? But when you can find and recall a document based on attributes within, you’ve elevated that advantage.
As documents are scanned, processed by OCR and stored within DocLink, the software indexes them with relevant data so you can find them later. You decide what’s relevant — purchase order number, customer number, job number, employee name, for example. So next week — or next year — when you need to find source or background documents, it’s a simple task.
DocLink leverages OCR to create automated workflows that eliminate manual processes. As certain types of documents enter DocLink’s domain, the application recognizes them as the first step in an approval workflow and starts that workflow. For example, when a vendor invoice lands in the email inbox you’ve designated, OCR grabs the invoice, reads it, validates it, indexes it, and places it in a DocLink approval workflow. DocLink can then route it to the individuals you’ve designated.
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For decades, OCR has been the only way to turn printed paper documents into machine-readable text documents that computers could recognize. When our offices truly go paperless, we may not need to rely on OCR in the ways we do now. Already, ERP applications and other business software tools generate electronic documents that can be “read” by recipient computers without requiring OCR — for example, EDI and invoice portals.
But until then, we’ll continue to rely on OCR and superpowered tools like DocLink.