Speedy Gonzales: 5 Ways to Speed Up Your Wide-Format Scanning
Time is money. The faster a job can be done, the more work a business can handle and more money can be made. In this business, quantity isn’t everything; it really is about the quality of the product overall. However, there are some ways to speed things up while keeping the integrity of the product. Scanning technology has made tremendous strides in recent times, allowing for in-house work to be done. No outsourcing needed.
If you are armed with the right equipment and utilize it accordingly, your wide-format scanning jobs can be done in super Speedy Gonzales fashion without compromising the quality your customers are accustomed to.
“In today’s competitive environment, many equipment manufacturers love to compare competitors’ technical and mechanical specifications,” says Steve Blanken, GM of Contex Americas. “While these specifications are always impressive, they do not measure the true productivity of a device or system.”
Here are a few tips to investigate whether a scanner is living up to its full potential and some questions to ask yourself when evaluating scanner options or changes.
- Operator Efficiency
If the employee who is running the scanner system is not properly trained, there can be time lost in a variety of ways. Blanken asks: “Does the operator understand how to run the scanner completely or just partially? Do the Hardware ergonomics make sense? Handling can slow things down, too. How much paper does the operator have to handle both during pre-scan and post-scan?”
Insufficient paper handling alone can reduce the speed of a device up to a whopping 15%. And afterwards, manually moving the file to another location can cause delays. See if there are ways to reduce operator time loss by diving deeper into some of these questions.
- Scanner Connection
Technical connections can impact the overall performance, too. Some things to keep top of mind include has the equipment been connected to the network or by USB, or, is it directly connected to the network or through a PC to the network? You may want to look at network speed while you’re at it, too. Security software on the network has been known to cause disruptions and can cost time.
- Computer Hardware
“How old is the computer? What version is the operating system? How much RAM is in the computer and what processor is the computer using?” questions Blanken.
Computer speed, available memory and age can absolutely slow down any process. A few hardware tweaks or changes can help the scanner work in the best possible way. Other hardware qualms could be "bloatware" that is installed or the on-board controller having a solid-state drive or spinning hard drive. Before taking a look at how you can upgrade your scanner or before buying your first device, first examine the hardware behind it. You can find time-savers everywhere.
- Scanner Software
Automation and ease of software is essential to quickening the production process of your scans. Does the software perform image quality corrections on the fly? Will it auto-rotate, auto-align and auto-deskew for optimal production? Are there powerful production tools in the software such as color management, reimage technology, file indexing and presets that can be easily adjusted? Have all of that? So, the software is automation-friendly - that is great. However, some other software issues to dig into include optimization for fast batch scanning and/or fast copying, nesting and set printing. Also, is the scanner using the native printer language?
- Scanner Hardware
And, finally, the scanner equipment itself. There are many things to consider when looking at the scanner you have or a potential purchase in the future. Here is where most time can be saved if you choose the right scanner for your shop.
As it pertains to batch scanning, is the scanner optimized for fast batch scanning and copying and does it need additional software to do batch or production scanning? This could be an additional cost. And once it is set for batch scanning/copying, can you continuously feed originals or does the operator have to interact with the scanner or software after each scan? This can be a major pain point for operators and can cause long delays with going back between the computer and the scanner. Similarly, while in batch mode, do you have to wait for the scanner to finish processing the current scan before loading the next scan?
Color specs and technology can provide delays, as well. Blanken asks: Does the scanner use state-of-the-art four-channel CCD technology in their cameras?
“This technology is extremely important for accurate color, monochrome and grayscale reproduction,” he notes. “If there is no dedicated gray channel, then the scanner is using the green channel to produce monochrome and grayscale, and that is not a true black or grayscale image.”
Regarding color files, will the scanner scan a 48-bit color file and deliver back a 48-bit color file? Will the scanner scan a 16-bit grayscale file and deliver back a 16-bit grayscale file? Blanken also recommends taking a look at the Contact Image Sensor (CIS). If the technology is CIS, will it still capture 48-bit color files? And, similarly, if it is CIS, will it still capture 16-bit grayscale files?
There are many important considerations to take when comparing large-format scanners. Be sure to do your homework diligently before jumping into scanning and be sure you have a perfect match for your print business. It can mean the difference between capabilities for your clients and time spent/saved in the shop.