How to integrate fax documents into the workflow

Unbelievable, but true: The fax machine is still in use in 2021! –

The fax machine was first introduced at CeBIT in 1990, and 30 years later – people are still faxing. In that sense, it’s a real success story. However, with a drop of bitterness:

If one has to work with fax documents, then a problem often arises: after scanning, the corresponding documents are available as graphic files or as PDF documents (only as graphics, without content). But how can these documents be integrated into the workflow with little effort? After all, technical aids are supposed to take work off your hands and not create additional work. But unfortunately, after receiving a fax document, data often has to be transferred by hand. This is an additional effort that should not be necessary and is very annoying.

Time-consuming transfer of data from fax documents by hand?

Although many people had long since said goodbye to the fax machine and a large proportion of people hardly have any contact with the fax in their everyday lives, the fax machine once again achieved sad fame with the onset of the Corona pandemic for this reason, among others, because amazing, but true:

The transmission of Corona data (infection figures and, if applicable, also vaccination data) to the health authorities in Germany was actually done by fax. And these data had to be entered by hand into a computer system for onward transmission (to the RKI, for example) and for their own processing. Given the volume of data, this in turn costs an enormous amount of valuable time and capacity.

But why is the fax machine still used so much?

Who uses fax machines and why?

The fax machine is used in some enterprises, frequently also with authorities or offices further even very frequently. The use decreased in the last years clearly however some industries still hold firmly to it. The reasons for this are manifold. Mostly there are no resources available for a changeover or one is in dependence to an authority/company, which requires fax documents. In addition, companies often rely on the (supposedly?) secure fax due to data protection reasons and legal concerns.

Where does one still rely on the fax today (in Germany)?

  • Weather faxes to farmers or for shipping remain very important.
  • Recalls/warnings often go out by fax to supermarket branches.
  • Doctors and laboratories exchange sensitive patient results by fax for data protection reasons.
  • Faxes are popular for hotel reservations, travel agencies, purchase orders, appointment confirmations of various kinds.
  • Fax is still considered one of the most important means of communication for public authorities, including cities and municipalities. Software of public authorities are sometimes also not compatible with each other, there the fax machine is then used.
  • Some offices also want to receive faxes, if the existing IT is not up to the download of building plans or similar.
  • Also a well-known example are delivery services, which issue orders by fax, so that pizza makers and others can hang up this fax accordingly and process the order.
  • One of the most important examples is also the judiciary. Here, a great deal is still faxed, since pleadings can be submitted at short notice in this way. A common problem here is additionally that besides the actual fax, the judiciary also receives the documents as originals, which means multiple correspondence. (It should not go unmentioned here that from 2022 the special electronic lawyer’s mailbox (beA) is to be used, which enables legally secure electronic dispatch of documents).

In general, fax is used wherever paper is still popular, and people want certain documents not only to be physically available at that moment, but also to remain securely legible. One appreciates the advantage of the transmission confirmation with the fax and that it cannot land in any spam filter. In addition, there is the feeling that only signed and faxed documents are recognized as legally secure in the business world. On this topic, it is worthwhile to get an overview of digital signatures.

Curious, but there are even countries like Japan where it is almost unthinkable to do without the fax machine:

In summary, it can be said that there are areas where you cannot and do not want to do without the fax machine. This is one of the reasons why multifunction devices have become established, with which it is possible to print, copy, scan and, if necessary, fax without any problems. In addition, with fax to e-mail it is now possible to receive fax documents via a virtually provided fax number and then send them as an attachment to an e-mail. Receiving and converting the fax into an e-mail attachment is handled by a special gateway or server. In general, it is therefore possible to send and receive faxes via the Internet without having to own a fax machine.

OCR technology: incorporate fax documents into the work process without much effort

For whatever reason, if you have to rely on fax documents, you can use OCR technology to avoid having to edit them individually by hand. This is because OCR can be used to convert graphics into editable documents. The graphic documents are thus transformed into searchable PDF documents. Also with our software webPDF it is possible to create PDF documents from fax documents, which also contain the content as text (i.e. are also searchable), so that you do not have to search out the relevant content from the documents by hand and transfer it manually.

This problem also arises when the fax documents are available in digital form, because in this case the PDF documents are merely a means of transport or wrapper for the graphics they contain, and the important content such as order or customer numbers then has to be painstakingly picked out and transferred by hand afterwards.

With the help of OCR, it is possible for the PDF documents to contain not only a visual image of the fax, but also searchable content that can also be searched, marked and copied as usual, so that the faxes can be integrated ideally and quickly into the workflow.

With webPDF, you also have the additional option of not even creating a new PDF document with OCR, but can access the textual content (as XML) directly and process it further in a targeted manner. This OCR text recognition can also be applied to graphic formats such as TIFF, JPEG or PNG.

Read more about OCR:

Use of OCR with the webPDF software::