Imaging of Louisiana State Employees Retirement System Huge Success !
By: Randolph Burns
IKON Business Imaging Services
The Louisiana State Employees Retirement System (LASERS) is responsible for administering pension funds for every employee of the Pelican State. In that role, it keeps over 200,000 files on both active and retired state employees, totaling over five million document pages.
By last year, LASERS had concluded that using paper files was a hindrance to its goal of providing the best possible customer service. A file in use by one LASERS employee was inaccessible to all the rest. LASERS wanted to be able to access files faster with fewer people, and it wanted multiple users to have access to the same record simultaneously. It also wanted to save the space occupied by filing cabinets.
To meet these objectives, LASERS decided to migrate their files to an electronic document management system. They chose IKON Business Imaging for the very challenging task of converting documents that included, among others, original employment applications, annual pension statements, payment records, and even canceled checks. The range of document sizes, colors, and conditions were huge. Some dated back as far as the nineteen-fifties; others were quarter-sheet size. Substrates included onion-skin paper, nineteen-sixties-era thermal photocopy paper, fax paper, and NCR forms in a rainbow of different colors. Many documents were extremely dirty.
Between August 1997 and June 1998, a team of thirty workers prepared and scanned LASERS's backfile documents, working on-site in Baton Rouge. Hired and trained locally by IKON, the team included one manager, four scanner operators, and twenty-five specialists who prepared documents by removing staples, identifying each document's type from a range of eighteen possibilities specified by LASERS, and affixing a corresponding bar code inconspicuously to each document. At the front of each file, was also inserted a header sheet displaying the bar coded social security number of the respective state employee whose file it was. IKON had used a LASERS database to generate these bar coded social security numbers.
The conversion team worked with one scanner, operating two shifts per day, five days per week. While they were still busy, LASERS demonstrated its confidence in IKON by adding another set of files to the conversion job. These were records from the investment department, which manages Louisiana's employee pension funds. They included trade tickets, committee meeting minutes, fund manager reports, and fund custodian reports, and they totaled another 200,000 images.
Adding to the considerable complexities of the LASERS backfile conversion, LASERS staff members constantly needed to have access to files during the conversion process. That dictated the use of two team members working full-time as inventory managers to track files. They worked with detailed tracking sheets, which listed the documents in each box of files being processed and where that box was in the workflow. LASERS's personnel requested specific files, and those files would be looked up, tracked down, replaced with an out-card, and delivered to whomever had submitted the request. When a file was returned to the team, it was replaced in its box immediately or, if that box had already gone through scanning, it was first scanned.
As batches of documents were scanned, they were written to 8mm tapes, which were shipped to IKON's headquarters in Northern, California. There, indexing keywords were captured visually from document images and manually typed into an index for LASERS's electronic document management system. Index keyword data entry varied a bit for some types of documents. For example, the index record for any annual statement had to contain the statement's year. Canceled checks and certain income-tax reporting forms had been stored loose, outside of file folders, and, as a result, they could not benefit from a connection to the scanned social-security-number bar codes. As a result, social security numbers had to be read from the images of these documents and typed in by hand.
Once indexing was completed for a batch of files, document images and index information were written from the tapes to 5.25-inch optical disks. Two copies of each disk were written, one destined for LASERS's electronic document management system, and another for storage at another location for purposes of disaster recovery. The entire new electronic imaging system will allow employees to provide better customer service by providing instant access to documents as opposed to the current lengthy process of searching through paper files. The imaging system will also greatly improve document security by allowing electronic backup of files that are currently vulnerable to loss in case of a fire. Management also expects that the availability of all documents in electronic format will make it possible to implement workflow processes that will further improve operating efficiency.
Scanning of the LASERS backfile was successfully completed in June of 1998 and all remaining optical disks will be delivered to LASERS by end of September 1998, barely a year after the job began. For over 200,000 employees of the State of Louisiana, that means faster, easier access to their retirement records. For IKON Business Imaging it means one more happy customer.
Randolph Burns is Marketing Manager for IKON Business Imaging Services. He can be reached at 800-664-4636, firstname.lastname@example.org.