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Automated Mail Classification Enables EDM

Unstructured Document Classification Tools Mature

A Review of SWT Technology

Throughout the better part of the history of image-based forms recognition, processing unstructured "forms on the fly" was the Holy Grail of forms automation: ever-elusive, more myth than reality, beyond human reach, or at the very least, far too costly to acquire. Over the past few years, however, advances in automated forms processing technology have dramatically improved accuracy in classifying business forms that appear arbitrarily structured. These advances were spawned largely by exponential increases in computing speed and memory that promote greater precision in image processing technology as well as the use of high-tech brute force. At the same time, western science's usual unrelenting technological innovation has produced intelligent classification algorithms that, when combined with modern hardware advances, produce industrial-strength software applications, capable of handling even the toughest of hard-to-process documents. These include mortgages, explanation of benefits (EOBs), tax forms, bills of lading, invoices, purchase orders and the daily mail, to name a few instances. It is true that, within the realm of unstructured document classification, the EDM industry has yet to develop standards that can be used to accurately measure, differentiate and evaluate the products of competing vendors. Nonetheless there is consensus among users and pundits alike that the automated processing of documents that can't be processed by traditional image-based ICR technology is here to stay. Forms and other documents need no longer be "ICR friendly" and printed in drop-out ink on special paper in order for the information on them to be accurately converted into computer-usable data. This development is particularly fortunate, because although the great majority of business documents are created digitally to begin with, an equal number of them end up in the form of printed paper documents in other companies' mailrooms.

It All Begins in the Mailroom

A growing number of vendors that employ a variety of marketing strategies presently serve the new and emerging market that is being created by the need to scan and process massive quantities of images of paper invoices, utility bills, remittances, correspondence and the like that arrive in large mailbags at the mailrooms of companies every day. Some vendors have developed software that can be trained to interpret and process a particular family of forms by using "fuzzy logic," and/or customizing the software by writing specific business rules for locating and converting critical data fields on the documents. Other vendors specialize in a few vertical markets, so their software products process designated document types only after those documents have been separately grouped by lockbox, by mail stop, or by department. The benefits of automating the processing of unstructured documents can be illustrated by the case of Elior, the third-largest contract food service company in Europe. The company implemented b-WIZE™ Invoice, an invoice-processing solution from SWT, a prominent vendor of document classification software, and with a large installed base that extends across Europe and America. Elior's 45,000 employees deliver and cater more than 2.3 million meals every day to 10,900 restaurants and points of sale. They process 4.5 million vendor invoices from all over Europe every year. The firm receives every vendor's invoice in a format that differs from the others. To obtain competitive pricing, vendors demand payment within 10 days. Elior needed a system that would recognize and process its invoices rapidly, accurately, and effectively. The invoice-processing solution achieved Elior's goals of increased productivity, dramatically reduced invoice processing time, less paper flow between and within departments, and, in addition, the extraction of accurate accounting data from a variety of fields that were non-critical but useful for market research purposes. Total payback on the system was achieved within 15 months.

Vertical Marketing Strategy

SWT's primary mail processing technology is called b-Wize Dispatcher and can classify and index up to 200,000 documents an hour in production. SWT's mail-based strategy has gained significant relevance in the wake of Check 21 legislation, because through check image replacement, any business cycles that involve bill payment or money transactions are truncated. This means that any check deposits that are scanned in the mailroom can be electronically deposited in the bank via check image the same day that those checks arrive in the mail. It also means that the customer's invoice payment cycle is accelerated, which can benefit the corporation in obtaining discounts from vendors for prompt payment. By initiating the process of classifying documents at their point of entry, a day or more can be eliminated from their processing cycle, producing dramatic results.

A recent analysis by a major financial consulting firm showed that, by shortening the time to deposit a check by means of imaging by just a day, one of America's major financial institutions will cut $1 billion in processing costs from its 2005 budget!

Captiva Acquires SWT

At press time, SWT SA, a provider of automatic data extraction and intelligent document capture solutions and technology based in France, announced that it will be acquired by Captiva Software Corporation. SWT has been a technology partner of Captiva's since 2002, supplying its Dispatcher product capabilities as an optional addition to Captiva's InputAccel, and classification and data extraction capabilities for Captiva's Digital Mailroom.

SWT, a European specialist in intelligent document capture (IDC), provides technologies that enable companies to eliminate manual processing of paper documents. SWT's b-Wize™ software suite can automatically scan, index and archive documents while extracting all relevant data and content.

The b-Wize software suite offers a vertical application for virtually every high-volume market opportunity: b-Wize Mail; b-Wize Invoice; b-Wize Money (Wholesale Remittance); b-Wize Mortgage; and b-Wize Insurance.For more information, visit SWT

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