Scanner Rant

I want to start this post by saying that most of the vendors we deal with provide quality products and services and are pretty good about maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship between us and them. That said, there are some things that are bothering me right now. I am going to pick on one subject, Desktop Scanners, and I am going to describe some of the things that drive me nuts. Later in this series, I’ll discuss how I think both vendors and customers could help avoid these problems (yes, I am going to throw stones at myself). For a variety of reasons, I am not going to mention specific vendors, venues or products.

My scanner battle began a few years ago with the purchase of about a dozen desktop scanners. We selected a brand that had a good mix of features, performance and software, and people generally loved having these units on their desk. In almost every case though, these scanners developed a serious double-feeding problem in a relatively short time frame. We contacted the vendor’s tech support, we contacted the company we bought these from, and neither was able to fix the problem. Parts were purchased, instructions were followed, double feeding continues to this day. Now, we are getting ready to replace these scanners.

I had an opportunity recently to meet with representatives of this vendor. Before looking at their current product line, I mentioned the problems we are having. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that our case was unique. The sales rep, claiming to be familiar with the tech-support logs, told me there is “no indication of widespread multiple feed issues” with the scanner model we own. He questioned whether or not I had followed the instructions properly, whether I had purchased OEM or after market replacement parts and whether or not I had properly pursued each service claim. He dismissed my affirmative responses and said “well, it’s probably time that you replace these scanners anyway” as several new models have been released since we purchased our scanners.

What happened next was simply bizarre. He directed me to a product demonstration area and proceeded to show me the current replacement for the scanner we own. He explained the new features in this model, including a feeder mechanism that has been redesigned to prevent double-feeding. Of course, I asked: “why would you bother to redesign the feed mechanism if double-feeding wasn’t a problem?” The answer, “we are constantly upgrading our scanners.” – You don’t say…

The next problem, involved purchasing a desktop scanner from a different manufacturer. We scoured the product descriptions and selected what appeared to be a great replacement. It listed all the same features, including an ability to scan directly to SharePoint. We bought one, only to find that many of the features were available only after the purchase of the professional version of the scanner software (at a cost almost equal to that of the scanner). Also, scanning to SharePoint failed on all but the smallest documents due to an ‘http put error’ even though we have previously changed that setting in SharePoint and we can upload the documents manually. Without hesitation, we returned this scanner. We have also had problems with workgroup scanners that were advertised as being able to scan to SharePoint. We found, during setup, that they needed much more robust permission levels than a human user would need to put documents into a SharePoint library.

Obviously, we made some mistakes in evaluating and purchasing these products. As mentioned above, I’ll talk about our “lessons learned” in a follow-up post. For now, I want to end with a short list of features that every desktop scanner should have:

  1. Automatic removal of blank pages when scanning in duplex mode.
  2. The ability to easily create a searchable PDF.
  3. The ability to send PDFs created in step #2 to any location on SharePoint where the user has permission to contribute.
  4. The ability to scan up to the rated capacity of the sheet-feeder without jamming.
  5. The ability to detect variations in paper size and “just deal with it”.

Note: All of these features should be available when scanning in Black & White, Grayscale, and Color modes. And just so you know, my definitions of “automatic” and “easy” do not include programming a workflow or creating a complex processing job.