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Japan's MUFG installs robots to scan millions of 'hanko' documents

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Japan's largest bank is installing giant robot scanners to digitise millions of documents, as it seeks to break from the long tradition of using paper records to verify its customers' identities.

[TOKYO] Japan's largest bank is installing giant robot scanners to digitise millions of documents, as it seeks to break from the long tradition of using paper records to verify its customers' identities.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) will use the machines of Ripcord to scan 300 million pages of files that record clients' personal seals known as hanko, the Tokyo-based lender said on Wednesday. The US startup said last year its first foray abroad will be to work with a large bank in Japan.

In Japan, hanko stamps act as a signature for even simple transactions, and banks keep a record of these official seals to check identification. While much of this has already been digitised, old hanko documents and other ID information are often available in hard copy only and branch workers need to call warehouses to retrieve the originals.

Ripcord's machines can extract staples through their artificial intelligence-controlled arms, removing an obstacle that foiled past efforts to copy the files, said Hirotoshi Sato, a senior official at MUFG's digital transformation division.

A team of four workers would take 510 years to scan 300 million pages, while the machines operated by 30 people can do that job in about five, the bank said.

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Hanko stamps have been blamed for Japan's paper-heavy culture, which has been a drag on efficiency. More recently, they were one of the culprits for Japan's slow adoption of remote work during the coronavirus pandemic because workers had to go to the office to affix their seals on documents.

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