Scanners: I Hate You (Wholesale Tools of the Past)

Sarah Leung
January 13, 2015

...Aaaaannddd we’re back, with another rant on the wholesale tools we hate. The topic of the hour? Scanners. You may be thinking, “But why scanners?” Compared to fax machines, paper receipts, and printed product catalogs, scanners haven’t been around for quite as long. Indeed, many sales reps are still using them to scan their paper order forms so that they can be emailed out for fulfillment. Well, technology moves fast, folks. And though scanners may be a step up from the fax machine, they’re still not the best tool for the job. Essentially, scanners digitize just one piece of the order writing/submission process, by turning a piece of paper into a digital image that then goes through the same data entry process you’d see if those order forms were mailed or faxed. When there are mobile order writing tools available that can digitize the entire order management process, this seems unacceptable. Here’s why it’s time to ditch the scanner for good:

Why Scanners are Wholesale Tools of the Past

The portability issue.

Sales reps are a mobile bunch--constantly on the road visiting their retailers and taking orders, staying at different hotels many nights, and juggling busy schedules. Although there are portable scanners available on the market, carrying that scanner with you everywhere can be a pain. Many of the lighter weight, higher quality portable scanners on the market can be expensive, and having a scanner usually requires you to also have a laptop to send the information out. If you’re not using a portable scanner, the situation is even worse. You have no choice but to let those order forms pile up until you can get to a machine, either by searching for one at your hotel’s business center (where they may not have one) or a FedEx (which may be few and far between).

The fact that they’re really not much better than fax machines.

As mentioned previously, the scanner doesn’t really do much to improve the order entry process. The only real difference between scanners and fax machines is that with scanners, the output is a digital copy, rather than paper. The information on a scan cannot be copied and pasted out or transferred in any other way other than having a person read and interpret what’s on the scanned order form, and then re-enter that order into the system. The data entry step is still there, and with that comes similar problems--illegibility, order errors, etc.

The confusion factor.

It can be confusing to figure out a scanner, especially if you’re inexperienced with it (do I feed the paper in from the top end? The bottom? Do I put it through facing up? Facing down? Did I read somewhere that either one would work? Where’s the right button to push? How do I get a color scan? What if I want it only in black and white? How to do change the contrast settings? The list goes on). Plus, there are annoying troubleshooting issues--the scan gets cut off and you have to make minute adjustments to the placement of the page. Maybe you can’t figure out the scaling settings, and the scan refuses to fill up an entire page, instead showing up as a tiny rectangle.  Your scanner won’t connect to your new laptop, or it isn’t compatible with a certain memory device. We’ve all been there.

The time when you wanted to scan multiple pages, and then forgot to press “yes.”

Say you need to scan multiple pages into the same PDF document. Your order form has 2 sheets, or you want to send all of your orders in one document so it’s easier to email and open. Say you scan a few pages and then step away for a second. You come back to the scanner, and your heart sinks as you realize you forgot to press “yes” when the machine showed the “Add another page” prompt. The scanner already saved the document, unfinished. And then you have to start all over again. On a personal note, I had to scan about 50 sheets of paper using a horrible old-school office scanner the other day when I was trying to secure my new apartment (I was under the gun, competing against other potential tenants). It was like a video game from hell--trying to get all those pages into one document. It couldn’t have been slower.

Using a scanner means paper is still involved.

The fact that you’re using a scanner to scan paper order forms means that you are still using paper order forms. And that’s terrible for reasons we’ve already talked about at length. Paper means illegibility and human error. And all of those things can be prevented. Do you have other scanner-related horror stories to share? Have you already stopped using them in favor of modern wholesale tools like mobile order writing software? Share your stories with us in the comments below.