FIESTA MART INTENSIFIES FOCUS ON ITS USE OF OPTICAL IMAGING

HOUSTON -- Fiesta Mart here is upgrading its optical imaging system technology in a move to store more business documents in digital format and to eliminate paper use within additional corporate departments.The chain had already been electronically storing accounts-payable documents, but the upgrade will extend that capability to the human resources department. The chain also intends to digitally

HOUSTON -- Fiesta Mart here is upgrading its optical imaging system technology in a move to store more business documents in digital format and to eliminate paper use within additional corporate departments.

The chain had already been electronically storing accounts-payable documents, but the upgrade will extend that capability to the human resources department. The chain also intends to digitally store documents relating to construction and legal matters.

Beth Rinaldo, systems manager for Fiesta Mart, said the retailer aims to eventually convert all paper documents to achieve a virtually paperless business environment. Electronic storage and retrieval should result in some labor savings and productivity gains, she said.

"We hope people will research documents via computer rather than going through cabinets and wasting time looking," Rinaldo said.

The retailer is currently purchasing a new jukebox, or optical library, a major component of the recording process. The jukebox holds 20 5.25-inch optical cartridges, she said. One cartridge can store approximately 50,000 document images.

Documents are scanned and recorded as digital images stored to an optical cartridge. From the cartridge, the digital image can be viewed on a computer. The technology for the optical imaging system is provided by Integration Systems, Toledo, Ohio.

Prior to the use of optical imaging technology, hard copies of documents were recorded on microfilm. "For the amount of money spent on microfilm, Fiesta Mart was able to recover its investment in one year," commented a source familiar with the technology.

Rinaldo said electronic data storage is far more secure than hard copies stored in file cabinets or microfilm stored in closets.

"All these paper documents are vulnerable," she said. "We have never experienced a natural disaster, not yet, but this is a precaution."

While paper documents could be irretrievably lost to a flood, for example, electronic documents are protected by more security features.