Imagecare, one of the larger sales and maintenance companies for document scanning technology in South Africa, had its start some 10 years ago as a pure document scanner maintenance service provider. In that time the company has evolved into a full service entity offering a wide gamut of document imaging solutions to clients across South Africa.
Managing director Gavin Hughes realised that there was a gap in the market which saw the birth of the company in 2003. “Scanners have become an integral part of the daily functioning of large companies and, as we all know, when mission critical systems fail, business comes to an abrupt halt,” says Hughes. “It is here where we come into play by keeping these essential machines running.” With the extensive knowledge and experience of the market, Imagecare’s sales directors, Mohammed Reza Garda, who handles private sector and Kuben Reddy, who handles public sector, have managed to secure over 2 500 scanners on maintenance throughout South Africa. Their target is to increase this to 5 000 over the next three years.
“Our core business revolves around providing preventative maintenance to clients on a contract basis thereby ensuring maximum uptime of their assets,” Hughes continues.
Depending on volumes put through the machines they will service the machine either monthly or quarterly, and, if there is a breakdown, they have 9 offices strategically placed to offer a four, sometimes two hour response time countrywide, to come out and repair the unit. This is a no mess, no fuss solution as all consumables, and call out fees are included which makes annual costing and budgeting a simple process. It is, essentially, like having an insurance policy for you scanner in place.
Traditionally, preventative maintenance contracts have been a hard sell in any industry and most people consider them to be a grudge purchase. This, according to Hughes, is not the case when it comes to scanners as owners realise that any breakdown or extended downtime of a machine can have serious repercussions. “In the industries that we serve owners and operators realise that, if the machine is down there are a number of business processes that come to a halt and scanning backlogs start piling up. Our main selling points revolve around making sure that the machine has maximum uptime, operators are not idle and processes are not hampered. Over and above this, there are mission critical systems to be taken into account. Having spent many millions of Rands on putting systems in place, only to have the system breakdown due to a back-end mechanical failure is just not an option. Essentially, the scanner is the input into the multi million rand system.”
Most government departments and large corporates will have some form of document management system (DMS) that integrates into the various departments. The scanner is essentially the point of entry for any hard-copy document into the organisation. How that document is processed through a scanner from first point of contact – the quality, accuracy and extraction of information – determines the success of the entire DMS. This is why preventative maintenance becomes critical to ensure that the machines are operating at optimal efficiency.
Maintenance aside, Imagecare has evolved into a total document capture solution provider. “Our experience in the industry has allowed us to become more than maintenance providers and we can act in an advisory capacity to our clients and inform them as to the raft of document management systems available and what would suit their needs best. In fact, anything to do with scanning, document capture or document management, we will be able to provide advice and mentor clients how best to implement new solutions and integrate them into their current environment and structure,” continues Hughes.
Scanning technology has come a long way in the last 20 years evolving from ponderous, bulky, and complex machines into the sleek, high-speed gear we have today. By upgrading old units, significant increases in efficiency, and productivity can be realised and with a five year life span on the technology there is tangible return on investment. Imagecare has partnered with a company that arranges lease agreements on new technology and, a unique aspect of this arrangement, is that the cost of maintenance is built into the price of the scanner thus ensuring complete piece of mind. There are very few companies that will finance services so it was a no-brainer to partner with them.
Going forward, Hughes believes that there is massive scope for growth in the scanner market. “Looking at the industry, globally, I believe we have a way to go to catch up with the current trends. Automation has been widely adopted across the world and we need to embrace the concept in
South Africa. A simple example is processing an application for a loan. You fill out the form, send it to the institution in question, and it gets scanned in and someone types out all the information into the required fields. This process can be fully automated with technology available, that will scan the document and pull all the relevant information off and send it to the right department or individual. Basically, processes will be more efficient, faster and human error will be eliminated.” Coupled to this, Hughes says he can see scanners becoming commodities within the next five years. Prices will come down, speeds will go up and the differentiating factor will be the software solutions available and the value-add service vendors can provide. Imagecare is putting a lot of energy into this area which will ensure their sustainability and keep them relevant for the foreseeable future.