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How ICR and OCR Document Scanning Works

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Document scanning allows large organizations to maintain an organized and paperless office. Less clutter, increased accountability, and improved data security are just a few of the many reasons why many big companies and government institutions are making the switch to a digital work environment.

ICR and OCR are two technologies that are integral in the document scanning process, and each one offers its own unique set of benefits and use cases. Read on to learn more about ICR, OCR, and how they work with document scanning.

What is OCR?

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) enables the computer to take a paper document and convert it into an editable digital format, such as a .PDF. In contrast, a traditional office scanner can only scan and reproduce a digital image that cannot be edited.

OCR works by analyzing the dark and light patterns that make up letters and numbers. Various fonts and human writing that comprise the scanned text are matched up against a set of predetermined rules or templates that the OCR software developers create.

OCR is ideal for organizations with a fixed document structure that does not change. The downside is that the software cannot “think.” It can only play a matching game of patterns, colors, and shapes. This becomes a challenge when trying to read human cursive handwriting or complex fonts—such as those on forms and other documents. This is where ICR can help.

What is ICR?

Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) is a subset of OCR in that it essentially performs the same function—translating scanned paper documents into editable digital ones. ICR differs from OCR by applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to read and understand human handwriting and non-standard fonts. ICR is adaptive and better suited to situations where formatting frequently changes, such as invoices.

How ICR and OCR Helps Large Organizations

ICR and OCR can help large organizations in a wide variety of ways:

Improve Data Entry Speed and Accuracy

Manual data entry by human beings is both costly and labor-intensive, and it’s also prone to human error. ICR and OCR help digitize data sources and import them into a system, eliminating the need for manual database entry.

Workflow Automation

Large organizations and businesses rely on high volumes of paperwork. Scanning helps increase productivity and save time.

For example, bills and invoices can enter into a workflow automation process that provides a quick pipeline from receipt to digital delivery to the appropriate internal departments.


OCR can translate up to 180 languages using different software libraries.

Improved Form Management

The management of manually-completed forms is often cumbersome and takes a significant amount of time. OCR and ICR allow you to digitize those documents and create searchable text.

Increased Security

The digitization of documents adds an additional layer of security and limits the number of employees who can access the information. It also prevents workers from accidentally throwing sensitive company documents into the wastebasket.

Data Backup

Documents can be lost or damaged, and OCR and ICR offer a digital backup that takes up very little space. The digitized information can also be searched quickly versus manually searching for documents in your storage area.

ICR and OCR Document Scanning Services from ILM

Both ICR and OCR document scanning offers large organizations a wide range of benefits that will help improve productivity, increase security, and eliminate human error.

At ILM, we have over 15 years of experience helping large businesses and government entities digitize their documents. Learn more below.

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