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Check scanners are fast, and have very accurate MICR reading. The check scanners get the job done, when the only job is to get MICR from a check. As OCR of checks and reconciliation of check data with remittances, or check images for future verification an reference, gains greater importance and demand, check scanning has some complications.

The typical check scanner has two very key features:

1.) Auto endorsement
2.) MICR reading

Often people think that the way check scanners read MICR is with OCR. This is incorrect MICR is printed with magnetic print that is read via a very specific magnetic reading and conversion process. When companies intend to augment their check scanning with OCR and Data Capture processes there is something major they need to consider and not overlook. Check scanners are great at what they do, but they are not great at producing high quality images. Most check scanners cannot scan past a 200 DPI which as you will see in my previous articles is less then optimum for OCR. Additionally the lamps used to produce the image are fast but not the greatest quality.

So. Here are the options:

1.)Scan checks with a document scanner and a check scanner. The hard part here is the additional time it takes to perform two scans and merging the two data streams. In this scenario you get the best of both worlds. Great image for storing, OCR and data capture from the document scanner, and great MICR and endorsement speed in the check scanner.

2.)Replace the check scanner with a document scanner. You can actually read the MICR using OCR, but it’s not quite as accurate as magnetic reading. This might be OK as the quality of the rest of the information on the check’s extraction will be higher with the better image. Some times it’s better also because an ADF feeder allows you to scan many checks at one time which is a new time savings. The biggest killer of this approach is the fact that auto endorsement is such a tremendous time saver, it’s impossible to part with it.

3.)And finally option three, the most common, just use a check scanner. This option may be most common but not necessarily the best. In this option the company must make sure they get good image preparation and clean-up software that will enhance the OCR and Data Capture process as well as likely up-sample the images to 300 or 400 DPI. Up-sampling does not produce the same quality as scanning at these resolutions but products that excel in up-sampling can get close.

Check scanning is being more and more augmented with OCR and Data Capture processes, companies should not assume that a check scanner will have the quality of image that a document scanner will have so these above considerations are important.

Chris Riley – Sr. Solutions Architect

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