Reduce manual data entry with automated data capture software

Each day we complete a variety of paper forms – questionnaires, answer sheets, evaluation forms, and many others. To capture data from paper forms, organisations have two options – manual data entry or automated data capture software.

Manual data entry is expensive and labour intensive. It is time-consuming and prone to human error. Automated data capture software has become indispensable for collecting and processing information, as the data is automatically read and captured from data entry fields.

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  • British Council
  • Next
  • Cambridge English Language Assessment
  • Civica
  • SPD Development Company
  • University of Bristol
  • Reading School
  • Keele University
  • MMS
  • University of Exeter
  • University Of Sussex

    What is manual data capture?

    Many organisations rely on capturing high volumes of data in order to operate efficiently. Data is captured to enable analysis, records management, claims processing, job management, time recording or for many other purposes.

    This critical data is often received on paper and is manually transcribed, which is cumbersome, slow and inefficient to handle but a necessity to many processes.

    With manual data capture, an operator transcribes data from a paper form into an electronic format e.g. Microsoft Excel. The paper form could be a completed survey returned by a study participant or an internal training evaluation form.

    As an example, a university runs a clinical trials study and sends out a paper form to their 500 study participants to complete. Each returned paper form needs to be manually keyed into a database which will take several days and is prone to human error.

    Automatic data capture software

    With automatic data capture, you scan the paper survey on-site using a high-speed scanner rather than key-in data manually.

    As documents are scanned, the automated data collection software reads the information and extracts the data using OMR, OCR, ICR, barcode, and signature recognition technology. If the software is unsure about any character or field, it is held in a verification system for you to confirm or correct the data. Once verified, accurate data is exported to either an existing database or common format (e.g. Excel, CSV, XML or SPSS).

    Automated data collection systems includes the following tools:

    Survey and form design

    Survey and form design

    Survey and form design is an important first step in the data capture process.

    Create forms in a drag-and-drop form builder and embed logic, integrate live data, and distribute by printing, faxing, emailing, and saving as PDFs.

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    Form scanning

    Form scanning

    Automated data capture solutions allows you to collect data from scanners/MFPs, web, mobile, eMail and fax.

    Once forms have been created, printed and filled in, they need to be converted from paper to an electronic image.

    This is achieved by using a high-speed document scanner to scan paper surveys into intelligent data capture software such as TeleForm in batch or non-batch modes.

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    Document recognition and data extraction

    Document recognition and data extraction

    Once the images have been digitalised, data capture software will identify the paper based on the original template type.

    At this stage, the image will undergo image pre-processing to confirm barcode readability, page size, presence of cornerstones etc.

    After identifying a form, intelligent character recognition (ICR), optical mark recognition (OMR), and optical character recognition (OCR) technology will extract data from a scanned document.

    Simple rules such as alpha, numeric, dictionaries, date ranges, database lookups and mandatory fields will be checked at this stage with exceptions queued for human review.

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    Data verification

    Data verification

    If human verification is required, scanned images of any field or form needing review are displayed, with operators able to visually review exceptions and correct information with minimal keystrokes before moving onto the next image.

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    Data export and archive

    Data export and archive

    Once the process is complete, each form image – and verified data – is exported to third-party document management systems (DMS), records management systems (RMS), or common format (e.g. Excel, CSV, XML or SPSS) for true integration.

    For many organisations, it is important to archive the scanned images for future reference or compliance reasons. To assist you, our web-based eStore system provides indexing, storage and retrieval of paper and electronic forms.

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    Why do organisations adopt automated data capture technology

    There are several issues caused by paper-based processes that are driving the adoption of automatic data collection software. These include:

    • the amount of time keying (and re-keying) data
    • the risk of human errors (i.e. typographical) when manually transcribing data
    • the amount of paper stored by the business as well as the time spent searching for paper copies and filing
    • the cost of outsourced paper storage and employing people to manually input data
    • the risk of compliance and audit breaches due to lost/missing paperwork
    • employees who quickly become demotivated by the tedious, repetitive nature of manual data entry

    Automated data collection benefits

    Reduce manual data entry

    Reduce time-consuming and error-prone manual data collection by 95% or more, allowing employees to spend time on more productive tasks.

    Reduce errors

    Reduce human (typographical) errors by automating data collection.

    Improve data accuracy and lower risk

    Intelligent OCR, OMR, ICR document recognition technology will capture data with accuracy; with any ambiguous data flagged for human verification.

    Improve productivity

    Allow your employees to focus on more productive tasks rather than time-consuming manual data entry, document sorting, and searching for information.

    Cost savings

    Save money on postage, transportation, storeage, and end reliance on expensive document scanning bureaus.

    No lost paperwork

    Questionnaires and surveys are scanned on-site with a digital copy immediately available and stored in a records retention system.

    Eliminate paper storage

    Digitising paper forms eliminates the need for manual filing and releases valuable floor space.

    Efficiently collect data

    Capture data from multiple sources (MFPs, scanners, fax, eMail, web, and smartphones) in centralised or distributed environments.

    Minimise compliance risks

    Get real-time access to form images and captured data for audits.

    Secure deployment

    Data capture software is installed on-premise with no need to send confidential collected data to an off-site document scanning bureau.

    Accelerate digital transformation

    Processing paper surveys using OMR, OCR, and ICR document recognition technology such as TeleForm and ABBYY Flexicapture can be a stepping stone to process automation.

    Hybrid data capture

    Use the most appropriate method of data capture for your target audience, with hybrid paper, fax, web and mobile capture solutions available.

    Intelligent data capture software

    We select the best data capture systems to meet your requirements.

    OpenText TeleForm

    OpenText TeleForm

    TeleForm automatically captures and indexes data and images from any form type, using handprint (ICR), machine print (OCR) and checkbox (OMR) recognition technology, ready for export to a database.

    It aims to reduce manual data entry time by 90% or more and can eliminate hundreds of operator keystrokes.

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    ABBYY FlexiCapture

    ABBYY FlexiCapture

    ABBYY FlexiCapture is a highly scalable forms processing solution for intelligent and accurate extraction of data from structured, semi-structured and unstructured forms and documents for input into backend applications for further processing and archiving.

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    Next Distribution

    NEXT automates weekly timesheet processing at six UK distribution centres

    Automation of the bonus timesheet has been a major step forward. In the past, it took one-person 2½ days a week to manipulate the data and manually key the information into payroll. We’ve reduced this time by almost two days already, but we anticipate further efficiencies in the next phase...

    Richard Churchill, Productivity Support Manager, Next Distribution Ltd

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    Case studies

    • University of Bristol

      University of Bristol

      Based at the University of Bristol, the ‘Children of the 90s’ study uses TeleForm to capture data from the paper versions of their questionnaires.

    • Civica


      Following a OJEU tender process, the British Council commissioned Civica as the prime contractor to deliver an on-screen marking (OSM) solution to mark up to 2.25 million ‘pen and paper’ IELTS tests each year.

      As part of the agreement, Civica appointed ePC as its sub-contractor for the script capture, processing and verification work.

    • Keele University

      Keele University

      Keele CTU saves time by capturing data from paper-based clinical trials with TeleForm.

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      Teleform/ePC have been the lynchpin of data collection in our home diagnostic clinical trials for many years. As a small team, the software has given us cost-effective and flexible control to manage a diverse range of paper-based trials using a fully-featured form designer with support for downstream verification workflows all the way to export, while ePC have been instrumental in managing and maintaining the service availability with a high standard of professionalism and technical capability

      SPD Swiss Precision Diagnostics GmbH


      We did a scoping exercise across a number of UKCRC Registered CTU’s to see what data capture software was in use and by who. During this process, another CTU recommended ePC for support. We decided to contact ePC directly as we knew they were a reputable TeleForm reseller and we wanted to upgrade to a Workgroup licence so we could scan, verify and export simultaneously as well as design new forms.

      Jo Smith, Database Interface Manager, Keele CTU


      It’s liberating and frees our staff to do more meaningful work rather than manual data entry all week.

      Mae Andrews, Finance Director, MMS


      Designing, processing and analysing thousands of questionnaires a year requires an effective and efficient data capture system. TeleForm, provided by ePC, has been the central hub to this system for many years – we could not function without it.

      Sue Thrower, RAF Cranwell