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PDF Parsing: Automate Data Extraction from PDF Files & Forms

Abeeha Jaffery

Lead - Campaign Marketing

February 19th, 2024

PDFs have rapidly become a preferred format for sharing and distributing information, favored for their readability. However, the lack of a standardized data structure can present challenges for data extraction. An effective solution to this challenge is PDF parsing, which automates the extraction process, significantly eliminating the need for manual effort and streamlining data extraction.

What is PDF Parsing?

PDF parsing, also known as PDF scraping or PDF data extraction, is the process of extracting unstructured data from PDF files and transforming the information into a format that can be easily processed and analyzed. Designed for fixed-layout documents, PDFs can store various data types and are found in different types such as searchable PDFs, scanned PDFs and fillable PDFs. Parsing these files is essential for unlocking the hidden insights within the documents.

PDF parsing is an indispensable technique for automating data extraction since it enables businesses to process large volumes of business documents efficiently — without requiring manual intervention. By automating PDF extraction processes, companies can streamline document processing, saving significant time and resources and enabling faster reporting and analytics.

PDF Parsing Use Cases

PDF parsing use-cases

Here are some common use cases for PDF parsing:

Insurance Claims Processing

In the insurance sector, claim forms are submitted by customers, often in PDF format. These forms contain vital information such as customer details, address, claim amount, policy type, and policy number. Manually transcribing this information, especially with a high volume of forms, is time-consuming and prone to errors. Processing these claims swiftly is essential for customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.  PDF parsing accomplishes this by automating the entire process, ensuring accuracy and efficiency.

Patient Records

PDF parsing facilitates the extraction of patient details, diagnoses, and treatment information. This data can be analyzed for research purposes, integrated with other systems, or utilized to streamline medical workflows.

Employee Onboarding

PDF parsing captures and extracts data from onboarding documents, making the employee onboarding process more efficient. This automation ensures accurate and streamlined data entry, allowing HR teams to focus on providing a smooth onboarding experience for new hires.

Invoice Data Extraction

Businesses receive a high volume of invoices on a daily basis, often in the form of PDFs. Extracting data from these invoices poses a significant challenge due to their unstructured format. Invoice data capture is crucial for businesses to analyze spending patterns, identify cost-saving opportunities, and generate accurate financial reports. Additionally, businesses can integrate this extracted data into accounting systems or leverage it for advanced analytics.

Common PDF Parsing Challenges

While PDF parsing is immensely beneficial, it comes with its own set of challenges. Many organizations face difficulties in ingesting data from PDF files, often resorting to manual data entry as the default solution, which can be inefficient and resource-intensive.

Also, managing the substantial volume of PDF files processed daily demands a sizable team dedicated to continuous data re-entry.

An alternative approach is developing in-house software and coding solutions. While this approach has potential, it introduces its own set of challenges such as capturing data from scanned PDFs, accommodating diverse formats, and transforming the data into a structure compatible with the storage system. Additionally, the variability in the structure of PDFs, such as different layouts and fonts, poses a challenge for creating a one-size-fits-all parsing solution. Encryption and password protection further complicate the process, requiring decryption before parsing and necessitating secure handling of passwords.

Addressing these challenges is crucial for developing effective and efficient PDF parsing solutions in enterprise settings.

Astera Customer Review for Claim Form Processing Reviews.

The Need for Automation in PDF Data Extraction

Instead of manually inputting data or creating a tool from the ground up, we recommend opting for an enterprise-level PDF parsing solution to automate the process. Research shows that organizations employing Intelligent Automation achieve cost savings ranging from 40 to 75 percent. Therefore, investing in automated PDF parsing tools is wise, as it can offer businesses a competitive advantage over depending on manual procedures.

Benefits of Using an Automated PDF Parsing Solution

  • Time and Effort Reduction: Eliminating manual intervention streamlines extraction workflows, ensuring that tasks are performed efficiently and accurately. This also saves valuable time for employees.
  • Accuracy and Consistency: Employing sophisticated algorithms and machine learning minimizes the risk of human error, resulting in a more dependable dataset for analysis and decision-making.
  • Employee Productivity and Satisfaction: Automation technology frees employees from the burden of tedious manual tasks involved in copying and pasting data from PDFs. This pivots focus to more strategic and value-added responsibilities.
  • Scalability: Whether dealing with a few hundred or several thousand documents, automation technology can efficiently handle varying volumes of PDFs. This scalability is particularly advantageous for organizations dealing with large amounts of unstructured data, such as financial institutions, healthcare providers, and government agencies.

How to Choose the Right PDF Parser?

When choosing a PDF parser, it is crucial to consider the following aspects:

Accuracy and Reliability

Pick a solution with high accuracy for extracting data from PDFs. The parser should handle diverse PDF layouts, fonts, and structures to ensure reliable extraction results. Template-based PDF extraction ensures 100% accuracy when configured correctly, while template-less extraction tools can be inaccurate if models are not trained correctly.

Flexibility and Customization

Evaluate the parser’s ability to adapt to specific data extraction needs through customization and configuration. Look for features that enable the definition of extraction rules, patterns, or templates for consistent data extraction. Versatility in handling different   content, is also essential.

Automation and Scalability

Assess the level of automation provided by the parser, ensuring it supports batch processing for extracting data from multiple PDF files simultaneously and in real-time (as soon as new PDFs are introduced in the system). Integration with other systems or automation capabilities including workflow orchestration and scheduling should be considered for streamlining the data extraction process.

Integration and Output Formats

Check whether the parser supports exporting extracted data in various formats like CSV, Excel, JSON, or databases for further processing and integration. Consider cloud applications being used by the organization via their APIs for seamless data integration.

Support and Updates

Ensure the parser offers reliable technical support and regular updates to address any issues promptly. Regular updates keep the parser compatible with the latest PDF standards and technologies.

User-Friendly Interface

Look for a parser with a user-friendly interface to simplify configuration, monitoring, and management of PDF extraction tasks. A well-designed interface can significantly enhance the overall user experience.

Astera ReportMiner for PDF Parsing

Astera ReportMiner is an advanced PDF parsing solution utilizing artificial intelligence for automated data extraction from PDF files. Specifically designed for PDF documents with diverse layouts, the solution streamlines the extraction process and efficiently loads data into databases or Excel files. Astera’s user-friendly and no-code interface simplifies PDF data extraction, minimizing manual efforts and accelerating the overall extraction process.

Astera Reportminer - Data Extraction Process and flow diagram

Key Features of Astera ReportMiner:

  • Intelligent Data Extraction: Astera’s AI-powered engine efficiently extracts data from various templates by identifying the desired fields. It adeptly manages variations across different templates, ensuring quick and accurate extraction.
  • Data Transformation: Astera transforms extracted data into the desired format, facilitating filtering, validating, cleansing, or reformatting according to specific requirements.
  • Batch Processing: With support for batch processing, the tool enables simultaneous extraction of data from multiple PDF documents for efficient and scheduled processing.
  • Real-Time Processing:  Astera’s File Drop feature in Scheduler processes extracts information from a file as soon as it appears in a folder, enabling real-time processing.
  • Integration with External Systems: Astera ReportMiner seamlessly integrates with external systems or databases, facilitating direct loading of extracted data into preferred destinations.
  • Error Handling and Logging: Powered by robust error handling mechanisms, ReportMiner manages exceptions during the extraction process. The tool also provides logging capabilities to capture and track any errors or issues encountered, ensuring a smooth extraction experience.

Enhance your PDF data extraction experience with Astera. Explore our solution with a 14-day free trial or schedule a personalized demo with our experts to understand the potential of AI-driven PDF data extraction today!

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