How to undertake your office’s Archive Scanning Project!

Every office has one. It might be hidden away in the basement or looming over in the corner, but it’s getting bigger and bigger every year… your project archives! This article will tell you how to undertake your office’s archive scanning and the easiest way to turn decades of scattered drawing sets into a thumb drive of clearly organized and searchable projects.

Find a Qualified Reprographics Shop

First, you need a company that’s taken on archive scanning projects before. After all, once you recycle the originals, there’s no redoing the job. Any reprographics shop can scan your hardcopy drawings to PDF, but a room full of old drawings in poor condition on a variety of materials is more complicated.  You’ll want a company with experience handling these types of jobs and knows the intricacies of what equipment to use given the condition of the originals.

You see, there are many different types of scanners – monochrome scanners, colour scanners, roll scanners, flatbed scanners. There are also many kinds of media your originals could be on, such as paper, mylar, or the notorious old cracking vellum overlays. Any number of things could’ve happened to these originals over the years, like water damage, sun damage, paper breakdown, so operators need to adjust settings to best capture all the line detail under these conditions. When you mix all these variables together, and also take into consideration folding, binding, and thorough organization of boxes and boxes of originals… archive scanning can quickly turn into a nightmare for some reprographics shops and their customers!

If your archives are important, here are two simple steps to stay on track. First, check the reprographics shop’s references of clients they have done archive scanning for. Second, ask the shop to do a test scan of a drawing in the poorest condition you have, and compare the file to the original to see if it’s captured the level of detail you need. If the detail’s not there, have another company scan the same file for comparison.

Seek a Reprographer with High Quality Scanning Solutions

Here at TR Trades, we have scanned hundreds of archival rooms – it’s a bit of a niche for us. And many clients have come to us for rescanning when line weights didn’t show up properly elsewhere. See below for an example of a very old drawing scanned here at TR Trades on a properly maintained scanner, versus the same drawing scanned on the same scanner but unmaintained with improper scan settings selected.

The first thing we do when we begin archival scanning is assess the drawings and separate them into categories based on condition. If they are very old (literally falling apart), they’ll most likely have to go on an oversized flatbed scanner. If they are in decent condition, we may use an optically-clear protective acetate pouch before going into a monochrome roll scanner. Older drawings where the lines are fading may be put through a colour roll scanner to capture more subtle detail.

Have the Files Labelled

If you have multiple projects to scan, have the reprographics shop label the files as they are scanning them so you don’t get a mess of unorganized files back. At TR Trades, we go through the sets and track the project names and revision dates prior to scanning. In many cases, this systematic approach identifies duplicate originals in these archive rooms, which avoids unnecessary scanning. This takes trained operators who are familiar with recognizing the difference between, say, a design permit and an as-built set for the same discipline.

Choose a File Type

You also need to decide what kinds of files you require depending on what your team will be doing with these digitized archives. At TR Trades, most of our clients prefer the files combined into multipage PDFs labeled by project.

OCR or CAD Conversion Options

Two other things to consider is if your drawings need OCR processing or CAD Conversions. OCR processing will allow you to search your multipage PDF for keywords, saving your team from potentially having to read through every page of a large document to find what you’re looking for. CAD Conversions turn your scanned drawing into completely accurate, fully editable and layered AutoCAD files. Typically, CAD Conversions are done when your team is actively looking to work on a project, and saves them from having to redraw everything themselves.

Check the Files

Once the reprographics shop is done scanning your project archives, make sure you review the files prior to having them dispose of your originals! Not only that, but you’ll probably want to check that they’re not just throwing them in the recycling bin in the alley! At TR Trades, once our clients are satisfied with their files, we either deliver their originals back to them or dispose of them securely.

If you have an archive room in Canada and you need help digitizing it, call us at 604-736-4571 x 2 to speak with one of our customer service specialists. Visit us at We would be happy to discuss the best way to make sure your archive rooms get digitized accurately.

TR Trades Reproduction Ltd.

1744 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver BC

Mon to Thurs 7:30am to 9:00pm
Friday 7:30am to 5:30pm
Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm
After hours printing available!