By eliminating the need for keyboard data entry, the OMR has cut the costs of an ongoing vandalism survey and allowed staff to be redeployed on to more productive tasks.
Originally started by the Department of Architectural and Related Services (DARS) of the now dissolved Strathclyde Regional Council, the vandalism survey covers some 15,000 properties, of which about 2000 are major buildings with a 'proactive' maintenance schedule - for example, schools, fire stations and police stations. A further 3000 are smaller buildings designated 'reactive', and the remaining 10,000 are very small properties often located in rural areas.
"Given the number of properties involved, data collection has been a difficult task in the past because it's all been done manually,"commented Andrew Lee, who was formerly employed by DARS and is now with the Property Services Department of the new City of Glasgow Council. "We looked at ways of making the whole process more efficient and concluded that the best approach would be to use an OMR for scanning information from 'multiple-choice' data-entry forms into a computer"
Working closely with Kendata Peripherals, DARS first came up with a very user-friendly OMR form to collect data on vandalism at the 2000 'reactive' properties. Designed to be filled in by council staff such as school janitors, the form records details of the type of vandalism, as well as where and when it occurred. Bar code labels are attached to the form to identify both the individual property and the council officer responsible for the repair.
An automatic high-speed OMR, fitted with a bar-code read head, is used to read marks and bar codes in the same pass. After the forms have been scanned by the OMR, the data is entered into an Access database and then disseminated to divisional managers within the other new unitary authorities created out of Strathclyde Regional Council.
"In the past, we only had subjective views of where vandalism was most likely to occur; there was no actual statistical information on which to base decisions," said Andrew Lee. "Now we have been able to identify patterns of where vandalism is higher and often people just didn't realise that they were high cost areas."
The information also highlights areas where a change of design might reduce the costs associated with vandalism.
A second form was subsequently developed for collecting vandalism data from the 3000 'reactive' properties. Designed to be folded and sealed, the form incorporates a reply-paid licence to make it as easy as possible to send back.
The latest development has been the production of a 10-page OMR booklet that has enabled staff to complete in six months a comprehensive property condition survey of all 15,000 properties to meet the requirements of European health and safety legislation - a task that would previously have taken at least three years.
"We are now processing between 3000 and 5000 forms per month," concluded Andrew Lee, "and we could not have hoped to have carried out this volume of work without the OMR."
26th June 1996 Ref. KE37/2