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Issue Date: October 2002

Why scanning? - a South African perspective

October 2002
Information from Image Scanning Technology

International research has shown that of all the technical documents in existence at this time, some 60% of the documents are still in paper/film form. The balance is made up of aperture cards (25%) and CAD (15%).

This makes sense, as the computer and CAD software has not been around as long as the drawing board. What is even more surprising is that the research shows that of all the new technical documents being produced some 50% are still being generated on the drawing board and the balance on computer. This bodes well for the large-format scanning bureau and for the manufacturers of large format scanning equipment. But does this apply to the South African market?
Example of hidden costs related to wasted time and expanded over a four-year period
Example of hidden costs related to wasted time and expanded over a four-year period
South Africans had (and in some cases still have) a reputation of being 10 years behind the rest of the world and as far as converting paper into a digital format is concerned, this is still definitely the case. The history of the large-format scanning industry in South Africa shows a definite trend that organisations have a 'more is nog 'n dag' mentality. This means that a lot of people have an attitude of 'we have had these drawings for the past 50 years so what difference will a few more years make' or 'yes, we want to scan all our drawings, but we want to do it ourselves'.
In the latter case, history has shown that a very large percentage of all the large format scanners sold into the South African market place have been grossly under-utilised and in some cases not used at all. What is worse is that a large percentage of the organisations that have invested in large format scanners have still not scanned in their drawing archive. A large number of those organisations that have succeeded in scanning in their drawing backlog are now sitting with very expensive pieces of equipment that are standing idle and collecting dust.
The economy of the country over the past 10 years or so has also not helped the large-format scanning market at all and some organisations genuinely do not have the financial resources to have their drawings scanned into a digital format. Other organisations have financial managers channelling funds into other resources, such as IT resources, leaving the drawing office manager to cope with out of date filing/indexing systems. Another influencing factor is the fly-by-night operator who tackles a project that he is not geared up to do, makes a hash of the job, leaving the client to believe that scanning does not work.
Quality is an absolute necessity in maintaining the integrity of the documents, and one should guard against operators who are more interested in finishing a job and scoring a quick buck, rather than in providing the client with a good quality image.
So what are the benefits of going digital
* Security against catastrophic loss. The loss of drawings through fire, water or just negligence can cost a company a great deal of money. It is difficult to place a value to a drawing as each and every drawing represents something different. Is the value associated to the cost of the draughtsman's time to produce the drawing or is it associated to the value of the piece of equipment or structure that it represents? Each and every company places its own value to its drawings.
* Ease of access to the drawings.
Once drawings have been scanned and archived in a digital format they will be accessible to a user with only a few keystrokes. The current hidden cost associated with lost time looking for the correct drawings will be done away with. Slide 1 shows an average-sized drawing office with three engineers and five draughtsmen. We know that in reality a lot of time is wasted by people looking for drawings in a filing system where the drawings have been misplaced, not returned, etc. Let us assume that the engineers cost R150 per hour and the draughtsmen cost R85 per hour. If each person wastes an hour each day trying to locate a drawing, a document or some other information, then over a year they have effectively cost the company R25 1500 doing something other than what they were paid to do. If the data were available in digital format, ie, on CD, server, or some other digital storage system then the data would be available at the click of a button, thereby saving an enormous amount of time and money. If you were to expand this hidden cost over a four-year period, wasted time would have cost the company R1 million.
* No lost drawings or data. With the data in digital format with the correct back-up system in place there would be no lost drawings or data.
* Hybrid editing saves on re-drawing time. Most modifications to drawings require only a portion of the drawing to be modified. The trend in the industry is to totally redraw the drawing, which takes a lot of time. If the drawing were to be scanned and in a digital format and you had raster to vector conversion software then one only needs to modify the portion that needs to be changed not the whole drawing. A person can then create a hybrid file, a combination of raster data and vector data. This can easily be plotted out and given to the site foreman or whoever else needs the modified drawing.
One thing to bear in mind is that a turnkey scanning project is a once off cost. The hidden costs go on year after year.
For more information contact Image Scanning Technology, 011 484 3442.

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