Standard Life signs for Kodak scanners

Source: Eastman Kodak Company

Eastman Kodak Company today announced that Standard Life plc has upgraded its scanner fleet by installing five high volume i660 document scanners to process all incoming post sent by customers to its Edinburgh-based head office.

The latest scanner equipment is more compact, offers enhanced throughput performance, reliability and functionality. Combined with new document capture and OCR imaging technology from EMC Captiva, the processing of incoming mail is now done far faster and more efficiently by Standard Life's Document Services team with the business realising costs savings of £1.1 million annually.

Standard Life is a major asset managing company headquartered in Edinburgh and operating across the globe. It provides life assurance and pensions, investment management, banking and healthcare insurance products to over 6.5 million customers worldwide. Standard Life's diverse business includes one of the largest life and pensions businesses in the UK with more than 4 million customers; Standard Life Bank, which currently has over £9.7bn worth of mortgages under management; Standard Life Investments, which currently manages assets of over £123bn globally and Standard Life Healthcare, a private medical insurance company which is one of the largest in the UK.

Four i660 desktop scanners have been installed at the Document Services department based in Portobello, Edinburgh, with the remaining one located at a business continuity centre elsewhere in the city, along with an existing Kodak i830 machine. The i660s replace Kodak 9500 series cabinet-based scanners installed over 13 years ago when Standard Life first started using electronic document management technology to cope with the quantity of paper-based correspondence received.

The Document Services team has three functions: mail services (scanning, indexing and delivering incoming mail), document production (printing and mailing documents to customers including quotes, rate changes and investor relations correspondence) and document development (the design and composition of customer letters, statements and forms). Across the team, 237people are employed, with 93 specifically engaged in scanning ain scanning and retrieval processing.

Jason Hewitt, Standard Life's operations manager, scanning and retrieval, says, "Baileyfield handles all in-coming UK mail from customers for the life and pensions businesses, along with invoice and cheque processing for the finance function, which is scanned into our workflow software - AWD(2) from DST International. Post is then electronically delivered to various other departments for subsequent attention."

The quantity of correspondence is significant. With so many customers, Standard Life receives between 4,000 and 6,000 mail items every day which equates to over 2 million annually. Given both sides of documents received are scanned, approximately 10 million separate pages are processed each year.

The new i660 scanners are desktop-based and are designed to handle volumes of up to 120,000 pages per day at resolutions of up 300 dpi. Able to scan in landscape which was key requirement for Standard Life, the i660s feature Kodak's Perfect Page imaging technology to ensure sharp, clean images without the need to adjust settings and rescan.

Other non-customer mail received by the company, addressed to the human resources or legal departments for example, is delivered in paper form. In other words, approximately 80% of mail is scanned, with the remaining 20% physically delivered.

Historically, when the Royal Mail delivered post Standard Life faced a significant challenge of how to then process all this mail once scanned into the AWD system so as to remove the manual and therefore time consuming process of classification. Requiring up-to-date knowledge of business rules for mail routing, this sorting step involved directing mail to the right group of users within the workflow system, capturing key references to make the work traceable and identifying the document types to allow the mail items to then be made available to contact centre staff on their computer screens.

Hewitt explains, "Once mail arrived from Royal Mail, a barcode would be attached to identify it, with post then scanned onto the AWD system along with a reference or policy number into a central indexing queue per department. To do this, staff would have to manually index the mail based on a work type category whether it be a customer advising of a change of address, or wanting to switch pension funds or take out a new policy and so on. This could get complicated given we have 16 main processing areas based on product type and 300 work queues. Once in the right queue, other staff would then deal with the enquiry as they'd see the correspondence on their PCs."

And the importance of processing mail quickly is crucial as the Document Services team has tight Service Level Agreements with the business areas it supports. For example, mail involving its Wrap product needs to be scanned and images delivered to the business very early in the working day (by 10am), allowing staff to process applications on the same day where possible. Its operation is very much focused on the early part of the day to get all the mail scanned and delivered for processing as quickly as possible.

To address this, Standard Life turned to EMC to streamline this business process so as to enhance efficiency, improve accuracy of processing and ultimately customer service, as well as free up staff to focus on value add activities rather than laborious mail indexing. Two core modules have been deployed - EMC Captiva Input Accel enterprise-class document capture software, and EMC Captiva Dispatcher which offers intelligent document recognition using OCR technology.

In terms of deployment, an agile software development methodology was used to tailor and implement the software on an incremental basis per department and ensure that it met the needs of the business, rather than a 'big bang' approach adopted where all departments went live at once.

This meant that the business started to take advantage of the new EMC Captiva software within two months rather than wait 18 months when the roll out was complete. An additional advantage was that a service oriented architecture could be used which has minimised work required to get all 16 departments online as various rules written into the system to facilitate automatic mail routing are common to more than one department.

The EMC Captiva software runs on a Windows-based server, with the AWD solution running on an IBM iSeries platform. Scanned mail images are held on an EMC disc storage system. Standard Life has a high performance gigabit Ethernet network which interconnects all the various departments, with 100Mb to desktops, so that scanned images can be accessed quickly and easily by users.

Routing of all customer service related mail is now done automatically which has meant a radical overhaul of business practices within Document Services. Standard Life has reduced the manpower effort to process mail by 30% thereby saving £990,000 per annum. This means that 24 staff have now be redeployed and allowed the Document Services team to take on additional work. Hewitt explains, "Given we are an internal central resource and cross charge the businesses we serve, we are looking to market our services to other Standard Life divisions to take on their mail processing."

Money has also been saved by rationalising and standardising hardware and associated services which total £100,000 per annum, with additional cost savings realised through the agile approach to IT project management. In other words, £1.1 million will be saved overall, further to a £390,000 investment in the EMC software, Kodak hardware and programming staff.

Today, mail is processed and available in the AWD up to an hour earlier each day with it more accurately routed and categorised. This allows Standard Life to ensure its award winning service proposition is retained as customer queries and requests are handled faster. Additionally, the system is a stepping stone towards the aim of centralising customer data so that all information is held in one place rather than across several different systems and databases.

Given the scanners are crucial to the functioning of the Document Services team, Kodak's Service and Support organisation provides routine preventative maintenance of the equipment, with a 4 hour response time should there be an outage. Furthermore, Kodak has also trained a number of Standard Life 'super users' to fix daily issues such as replacing rollers. This has resulted in a dramatic reduction in engineer call outs, with increased staff job satisfaction realised from using the new equipment.

Hewitt explains, "Gallup does an annual staff engagement survey for us and one of the questions asked is whether people feel they have the materials and equipment to do their work right. Since the introduction of the EMC Captiva software and new Kodak scanners, the score for Document Services has increased 10% which puts us in the top quartile of Gallup's Finance and Insurance database."

Hewitt concludes, "We have used Kodak scanners and micro-graphic equipment for a number of years now. It is reliable, meets our needs and is supported by good service from the Kodak staff. They have a good understanding of our business needs and we continue to work together looking at ways of improving our business."

David Whitton, Kodak's UK sales manager, says, "Simply put, the EMC OCR software 'eyeballs' the mail in order to determine the document and capture key reference information such as policy number so that it can then be routed automatically. Without scanners which can process documents quickly and reliably, the whole system would fail. Kodak's heritage in volume scanning is second to none and ensures that this doesn't happen so that when Standard Life's customers contact the company by mail, the latest IT systems are used to ensure a timely response."

(1) Optical character recognition
(2) Automated Workflow Distributor

 

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