Frequently Asked Questions
FACTS can natively produce ASCII, EBCDIC, IBM 360 Binary, IBM 1130 Binary, PC Binary, Quantum ASCII, Delimited (comma, pipe, etc.) and XML data files. Other Custom formats can be built upon request or generated by using our embedded POLISH programming language.
Any color paper can be scanned though dark colors should not be used, as they tend to inhibit the scanners ability to “see” respondent marks. There are virtually no restrictions on paper size, spacing or writing utensil as we’ve incorporated dozens of selectable options to handle these issues.
The FACTS software has multiple algorithms that make it extremely flexible in handling different marking patterns. Each page of a survey is searched for new marks and a model of the “average” mark on each page is built. This model accounts for density, intersections, segmentations and other characteristics. Each individual mark on the page is then compared to the model to determine a level of confidence. High confidence marks are automatically output as real. Lower confidence marks such as erasures and crossouts are prompted to an operator for validation.
Built into FACTS is an embedded coding module. Responses may be coded from a client-supplied list or the list can be constructed during the processing of surveys. Each open-ended response can have a different “dictionary” of associated codes. Our coding module is one of the most sophisticated in the world and is used for medical, automotive and many other projects.
Yes, verification is available on any field. Our service bureau pricing includes 20% verification of all manually entered data. A higher rate of verification on key fields can be selected. The cost of additional verification is variable depending on the field and the number of characters being verified.
Optimum Solutions provides state of the art imaging and data extraction solutions. We provide solutions via our in-house service bureau to a broad assortment of clients in the market research field, consumer products, automobiles/trucks, banks, retail stores, apparel and many others. In addition we license FACTS to many of the largest market research companies and data entry houses in the U.S. and abroad. If you’re fielding a paper study, it’s likely that we’ve processed something similar for another client.
OSC insists on delivering an initial set of test data for every job, that must be given client approval before a job goes into full production. Test data is typically available 5 days after receipt of blank forms, final column allocations, and test forms or first live deliverables (if live deliverables are to be used as test forms).
Once test data approval is given, OSC can delivery weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly data deliveries as per an agreed to schedule. OSC can also deliver daily data at an additional cost. The volume for processing daily deliverables is dependent upon form size and data entry/verification requirements and must be discussed and agreed upon by OSC at time of final proposal.
Data delivery has a standard 5-day turnaround time after the last shipment is received. If faster turnaround time is required, it must be discussed and agreed upon by OSC prior to final shipment or cut-off date.
FACTS is an automated system. But the output of all fields can never be fully automated. So FACTS has a number of unique modules to aid in the entry of unreadable data. Entry and Verification modules are available to manually process unreadable marks and other closed end items. Our OpenEnd module provides a coding and transcription interface for verbatim. Our Badforms module provides an interface for entry of unscannable documents.
To provide lower costs, we at times utilize offshore partners to help with data entry. If you prefer only to use our domestic facility please inform us at the time of bidding.
Active jobs are stored in our service bureau library. Once a job is completed it can be boxed, logged, and stored in our long-term storage area, shipped back to client, or destroyed as per client specifications.
Receipt tracking is available. Tabulations are also available. Other custom handling can be provided at some additional cost. We are happy to discuss your requirements and provide you with a wide range of processing features and options.
We run daily incremental backups and weekly full backups of our data on LTO media. If there is a system failure our worst-case loss are those images and data worked on since the last daily incremental.
The lost work could be recaptured with 1 or 2 extra shifts. Typically work would be caught up by the following weekend.
MAIL HANDLING: Incoming mail is picked up daily at our local post office, or delivered to us by messenger or shipping company. Envelopes are put through one of our high-speed envelope slicers; then manually extracted. Questionnaires are sorted by job/survey type. White mail and attachments are dealt with as per the specification of each specific job/client. Undeliverable mail is reported as per job/client specifications. Returned incentives are sorted out and returned to the client. Jobs with pre-defined multiple versions that are designated on the forms are sorted by form size to be sorted by software during scanning. Questionnaires or forms are prepared for scanning. They are unfolded, destapled and flattened as necessary. All shipments, quantities, envelopes, etc. are logged daily into a database accessible by the client service representatives. Any client reporting is emailed or posted on the web for password protected remote access.
SCANNING: Questionnaires are scanned into batches sorted by form type. Scanning is done on a priority basis with quick turnaround or high priority jobs scanned early in the day.
Each scanned page is endorsed with a unique identifier. With a pre-sorted stack of documents this identifier identifies the batch number, document number and page number being scanned. When multiple document types are in the stack (routing software will break the stack into unique batches), the identifier denotes the physical stack name and the index within the stack.
When routing is required, the routing software will read a barcode or OCR a form ID. The read result is compared against a database to determine its validity and uniqueness.
If the ID cannot be automatically validated, or the form ID cannot be located, the page is prompted for manual routing. If attached mail is being scanned these attachments are flagged and added as additional pages to the proper document. An attachment flag in the data provides the ability to report and deliver the images of the attachments along with the survey.
When all IDs have been validated, the surveys are automatically routed to the correct survey type and system batches are created.
PROCESSING: Patented algorithms and integrated software eliminate the need to print with drop out ink or scan with colored bulbs. Questionnaires filled out in light pencil or certain colored instruments do not have to be separated before scanning.
Blank, out of date, incorrectly answered, etc. questionnaires are automatically detected and rejected in the processing phase and do not require manual intervention.
The processing software can read and convert barcodes, pre-printed text, most constrained handprint, and mark sense responses.
ADDITIONAL HANDLING : Rarely do data entry personnel need to handle the physical documents since every scanned image is available for review. When a physical document is needed, an internal tracking and reporting system easily identifies the location of the document within the physical batch.
FACTS can handle all size forms, eliminating the need for slicing or splitting. Forms do not need to be printed with perforations. The software can automatically split booklet images (11×17 or a tri-folded document) into their 8.5×11 equivalents. This aids the scanning process by minimizing the number of physical sheets to be scanned and sometimes simplifies manual entry processes by providing a smaller image to data entry personnel.
Current jobs are stored in the library area of the mailroom for access. After a job is completed, it is boxed, logged, and stored in our long-term storage area, shipped back to client, or destroyed as per client specifications.
Our quality procedures begin with the initial test batch. 100% of the test batch, every question on every page of every survey, is reviewed for accuracy. Any anomaly is noted and later reviewed to check if the error was caused by a template setup error, a software problem, or an operator interpretation. Corrections are made and the test batch is reviewed again before the job can go into production.
Our error rate for mark sense data is less than 0.01% after manual validation of questionable marks. Our error rate for other types of data is less than 0.5%. In total, our service bureau outputs data that is consistently above 99.9% accuracy.
The FACTS system has a number of checks and balances built-in throughout each step of the process. Range checks are done at each processing and entry step to ensure the data being entered or automatically read is within range. Value tables can be defined for all fields to further check the validity of responses. After production begins, 10% of all surveys are passed through quality control. This review process is identical to the way the test batch is reviewed: page by page and question by question.
All OSC offices are protected by key pass entry. Storage areas have additional key pass access levels. Network security is maintained via a Windows Active Directory Domain. Additional FACTS passwords and privileges limit operator access to features and modules within the data processing system. A firewall controls and limits outside access to the network. A monthly full backup is stored off-site for disaster recovery. Daily incremental backups are also performed. All survey images/final data are archived to DVD and stored indefinitely.
OSC routinely performs document preparation tasks like these to ensure the cleanest images to meet or exceed client expectations.
Based on client needs, OSC arranges for pick-up and, if needed, return of all boxes in company trucks or with bonded shipping companies. Alternatively, we can bring our equipment to your facilities to perform the work.
We can deliver images scanned at any resolution from 100-600 DPI. Images can be delivered as TIF, JPG, PDF and other standard file formats. By utilizing OCR technology, we can deliverable searchable PDFs and we can also use this OCR information to create indexes.
Yes, OSC routinely provides images on request during the conversion process, often within a few hours on the request.
OSC can deliver the converted files on DVD’s, thumb drives, hard drives, or via a dropbox or FTP.
OSC invites clients and prospects to visit and tour our facilities and meet our team.
One of our system’s strength is the way we scan and process multi-page surveys. Surveys can be single or double sided from one to 250 pages. All pages of a survey are scanned together and maintained as a single “unit”.
Surveys can be sent to OSC via regular mail, via a Business Reply Mail account setup at the nearby Lynbrook, NY post office, via a major carrier such as UPS or FedEx or they can be sent in bulk from your offices if you choose to receive the surveys first.
For an small additional fee, we can provide simple counts or detailed tracking information which can include, among other items, every survey ID received.
OSC’s patented mark sense software, by utilizing more than 10 unique algorithms, distinguishes true responses from erroneous marks including cross-outs, erasures, pencil rests and lines drawn down or across a page.
We can process forms printed in any language. As long as the areas to be captured remain fixed we can process the form.
Our powerful open-end module provides methods to capture, print, code and transcribe open-ended responses. We can even capture information from sound files.
We provide two options if you do not want to send us your surveys. First, we can set you up with a scanner and you can scan your images right into our system for us to process. Or we can license our FACTS software allowing your team to scan and process your forms in-house. OSC personnel comes to your site to provide hands-on training and we provide ongoing customer and technical support.
We partner with the American Arbitration Association. You can contact Ken Egger, National Vice President, at 215-731-2281
We provide both paper ballot and online election services. We handle all aspects of the election process. For paper ballots we can handle ballot design, printing, mailing, scanning and tabulation. For online elections we can handle email notifications, pin generation, internet security and real time result monitoring.
The ballots are scanned and processed through our proprietary system. We bring all necessary equipment to the tally site. Results are produced at the conclusion of scanning. Depending on the complexity and length of the ballot, we can process thousands of ballots per hour.
It is not necessary to use special paper. If you want to use colored ballots we do recommend using light colors as dark colored page can interfere with the scanners ability to “see” written responses. As for the format, we can scan and extract responses placed anywhere on the form. It is always advisable to work with AAA in designing and creating ballots.
Yes. Our application is capable of handling slate voting across any number of offices.
As long as the ballots being returned can be separated we can produced itemized results. You can choose to have one or more identifiers placed on the ballot or the return envelope that we can use to distinguish the groupings.
We keep all specific election information confidential. But we can say that over the 20 year partnership we’ve had with AAA we’ve handled small local union elections of a few hundred ballots to large national elections of a few hundred thousand ballots. We have also handled elections, contract ratification votes and surveys for a wide variety of organizations.
In 2009, OSC processed the Grades 5 & 8 New York State Assessment Tests for Social Studies for 14 Nassau County, New York School Districts and for Yonkers Public Schools.
In 2010, OSC began processing the New York State Assessment Tests for ELA and Math grades 3-8 in a distributed environment where districts sent their teachers to score their own tests using our scoring system.
Today more than 400 NYS districts, charter and private schools, outsource their scoring to us for the ELA, Math, NYSESLAT and Science Assessments.
Each scorer focuses on one question at a time as one student’s answer appears onscreen. The scorer reviews the student’s response and enters the score onscreen. Once the answer is scored, the response from the next student to that same question appears onscreen. The scorer can adjust the brightness, contrast and size of the response area for enhanced readability.
Optimum Solutions specializes in test scoring. Our singular focus is delivering the highest caliber test scoring experience for your organization that is possible. We realize the importance of delivering a risk free experience when it comes to assessment scoring and we work with you to get you what you need and what you expect at the lowest possible price.
Districts can have teachers from their own schools do the electronic scoring, or we can provide certified New York State teachers as needed to score your New York State Assessment Tests.
Training is fast and easy. Scorers and table leaders are usually comfortable with the EASE scoring interface within 5-10 minutes. Even people who are not computer savvy have no trouble adapting to the EASE interface and quickly find that they prefer it to hand scoring. Table leaders can process read-behinds, make adjustments and monitor the scoring process easily, with minimal training.
First and foremost we are an in state vendor, which does much to address the unpredictability with various state policies regarding restrictions on out of state personnel.
Second, we have been working closely with local and state officials to update our COVID 19 policies to ensure the strictest adherence to regulatory safety measures.
Finally, we are modifying our operations to accommodate social distancing and have made the necessary budget adjustments to include required PPE in our operations.
We are confident that the measures we have in place will lead to a smooth and risk free test scoring season.