CHP has been digitising and indexing its document archive since December 2008 with Preview as part of a digitisation programme. CHP was previously known as Chelmer Housing Association and looks after 7000 tenants in Essex.
As well as having the day-to-day access and storage problems of having paper-based property and tenant files, CHP has a growing number of field-based staff who need remote access to information. Furthermore, having easy access to tenant and property files in a single location would help CHP’s customer services staff to achieve ‘first-time fix’ for tenant enquiries.
Preview was chosen to digitise CHP’s files as it could support the special indexing requirements using metadata before importing them into CHP’s Sharepoint system, as well as meeting CHP’s strict deadlines.
The main focus of CHP’s document digitisation programme has been its house files from 2002 onwards, split into property- and tenant-related paperwork. Both sets of information needed to be scanned and indexed with a reference number taken from its housing system and then have additional metadata associated with each record for future indexing and retrieval.
To ensure that the right metadata was correctly associated with each document during the scanning process, Preview created a system where barcodes were placed on the document folders, with the metadata supplied on a spreadsheet direct from CHP’s housing management system. This meant that the barcode and the metadata could be matched automatically during scanning, increasing the volume of metadata that could be applied as well as minimising errors.
The output was a PDF image of the document, making it very easy to use. Optical character recognition (OCR) was also carried out on the files and their associated metadata, resulting in faster and more accurate document searching and retrieval.
Kevin Darby, IT Manager, CHP said, “This project has demonstrated just how much can be done once you have files in a format where they can be stored and shared online. It has already had a positive impact and we are identifying additional ways to use this facility on a regular basis.”
CHP’s document programme has just been completed, with Preview having processed more than 500,000 images.