Ashley Keil, IBML’s VP sales, EMEA/APAC, discusses how a mobile-based app combined with crowd sourcing can ease the retrieval of records in off-site storage facilities
It ranks one of the biggest upsets in sporting history. The 1974 Rumble in the Jungle world heavyweight championship fight in Zaire saw challenger Muhammad Ali beat the punching power-house George Foreman by hanging so far back on the ropes that he avoided Foreman’s punishing blows, before knocking down the exhausted favourite in the eighth round to win. Dubbed ‘rope-a-dope’, it flew in the face of conventional wisdom as a boxing tactic.
It can pay to box clever in the world of records management and off-site storage too. Organisations in the UK are estimated to store around 200 million boxes of information in off-site facilities managed by third party operators, and retrieving information from these locations can be time consuming, inefficient and costly.
This matters because with GDPR organisations need to know exactly what information they hold and where it is kept in order to meet retention and destruction rules.
Manual indexing Historically, the outsourced records management market has relied heavily on the manual inventory and indexing of boxes arriving at facilities. At best, this has been limited to storage box level, rather than the actual logging of binder or folder contents that would enable a contract, set of notes or HR record to be found at a later date.
Records storage firms can provide that level of service, but the additional fees involved in cataloguing everything can quickly mount up, especially when there are thousands or tens of thousands of boxes to do. Another option is to do it yourself, but that, too, has a cost in staff overheads. Given the number of times a file might need to be retrieved, there was always the question of whether it was worth doing.
Today, with GDPR, not to do so creates an obvious problem for the future, as what goes in must ultimately come out, perhaps years later. So, how can technology help with this storage access/value for money conundrum and make it easier to retrieve physical records securely and reliably?
Scale Hub, a partner of high-volume scanner company IBML, provides a solution that combines a smartphone app with real-time 4k video streaming to capture information from labels on the spines of lever arch or box files, with full-text OCR, barcode recognition and integration with any ECM or back end system.
It’s a simple case for staff in storage facilities to open a box and hold a phone to the spines as they scan them. The phone ‘reads’ the text and information fields are captured automatically. Data is then populated in a customisable portal based on a client’s specific set-up requirements.
This is not designed for scanning individual pages of documents, just the information on a folder’s cover – dates, invoice numbers, a client or folder name, barcode etc.. This is then linked to a specific box and its ID number, providing an accurate record of what is stored in each one to aid retrieval in the future.
The clever part is what happens when the app cannot read a barcode or writing due to poor legibility. In such circumstances, the image is sent for checking by the ‘public crowd’, a global workforce of over 2 million cloud-connected people, in a completely touchless, automatic process.
Typically, the system is set up so that the same image is sent to two data entry clerks who both check the snippet before keying data into the ECM system. If there’s a mismatch, it goes to a supervisor to review. This triple-check approach explains how impressive 99.9% accuracy rates are achieved.
Snippets of information are context-free to ensure crowd clerks – who may be based anywhere in the world – don’t become a security risk. If a user is big enough, a private crowd can be established, in which case the workflow is only distributed to internal employees.
The benefits of such an automated approach are clear. By removing the laborious and repetitive task of indexing and cataloguing high volumes of records at off-site storage facilities, it drastically reduces cost; it is scalable, on-demand and doesn’t require expensive hardware, software or consultancy to get up and running.
Capturing metadata when boxed information arrives makes it faster, easier and cheaper to retrieve, access and manage in the long run, bringing significant commercial and compliance benefits. Put simply, you manage your records better, retrieve them better and destroy them better.
It’s a knockout approach that might mean you don’t end up on the regulatory ropes.