FedEx Express, the world's largest express transportation company, recently implemented the first worldwide electronic imaging application to increase shipment visibility, accelerate airbill processing and streamline customs clearance processes.
Following more than a year of extensive testing by the FedEx IT team, the company chose customized Bell & Howell scanners in conjunction with Kofax VRS, Adrenaline and ImageControls document imaging technologies for crystal-clear optical imaging. By spring, 2002 FedEx will capture shipping data for about 1 million packages daily at up to 850 scan and capture sites around the world.
Pre-printed or automated shipping labels accompany most of the 3.3 million daily shipments that go through the FedEx Express system. However, more than a million packages are shipped via handwritten airbills. Previously, originals or carbon copies of these airbills were shipped to the company's Memphis headquarters for scanning and processing. The new distributed system has cut data capture and processing time for these forms from three to six days to just eight hours.
The company says the front end of the system was crucial. Handwritten originals in varying ink colors and carbon copies with light print are difficult to scan effectively. The system had to automatically produce unprecedented image quality and interface with the user on the same level as a photocopier.
FedEx Express integrated VRS into its new scanning solution to provide the required image quality. VRS is Kofax's award-winning, automated document image perfecting solution. VRS 2.0 won Transform Magazine's "Best of Show" award at AIIM 2001 for its unparalleled document image quality without user intervention. VRS automatically straightens, crops and optimizes exposure in real time.
"VRS made our distributed scanning operation possible because it produces very clear images without our remote end users knowing anything about document imaging," said Todd Hollenbeck, managing director for shipment data capture for FedEx.
VRS ensures high quality scanned bitonal images that enhance the downstream recognition processes which capture address, phone number and account information for the shipper and recipient as well as other shipping information from the airbill. The data initiates the payment cycle, informs downstream operations of inbound shipments and enables paperless international shipping processes. Before and after scans of similar documents may be viewed at www.kofax.com/products/virtualrescan.
FedEx chose Kofax's ImageControls toolkits to achieve the required ease of use. "We wanted to make the scanning process as simple as feeding documents into the scanner and hitting the 'release' button on the screen," Hollenbeck said. "Automated VRS scan correction made that possible. It was a major technology breakthrough that made distributed scanning truly feasible for the project."
ImageControls is a powerful document capture toolkit that has been used to develop many major document and forms processing applications - including Ascent Capture from Kofax. At FedEx that functionality has been seamlessly embedded in the custom airbill processing application. For example, ImageControls invokes the bar code reader on the Kofax Adrenaline Image Processing Accelerator - a hardware product that runs in a PCI slot inside the host PC - without the scan operator's knowledge. The process captures the airbill number, a key index value.
Adrenaline Scanner Controllers do more for FedEx than interpret bar codes. They connect the Bell & Howell 8000-Series scanners to the host PCs via a high-speed "video" interface and accelerate common image processing functions using onboard processors. Adrenaline ensures that the Bell & Howell scanners operate at their rated speed of over 100 pages per minute - even while interpreting bar codes and performing image cleanup.