Telework has multiple benefits for many organizations. It increases employee satisfaction and productivity, reduces office space requirements, and even improves sustainability by reducing automobile commuting – all good for the bottom line. But it has some drawbacks too, particularly for offices such as law practices, healthcare administration, and many governmental agencies, where the work involves paper documents. When workers need access to paper documents, they have to be physically present in the office, and all the benefits of telecommuting are lost.
The solution: Document conversion. Far more than a simple PDF scan, a well-designed document conversion plan:
- creates “smart” documents with searchable contents, accessible from multiple points;
- reduces loss or unauthorized use of documents;
- sets guidelines for physical document retention and weeds out unnecessary papers.
The first two points above have a direct bearing on telework.
- Collaboration: Teams working collaboratively frequently need to review the same document, often at the same time. A digitally-converted document can be accessed remotely by multiple team members, allowing some or all of them to work from home or a remote office. The team stays productive even though they’re not co-located.
- Searchability: If a teleworker needs to refer to archived paper documents in multiple folders or file cabinets, the research requires a visit to the office and a labor-intensive and error-prone manual search. A searchable database of digitally-converted documents can deliver the answers to the remote workplace in a matter of seconds, enhancing productivity.
- Security: A database of digitally-converted documents allows different degrees of access for various personnel – something that can’t be done with a standard file cabinet – as well as a digital “trail” of usage. Teleworkers can be assigned the appropriate level of access for their tasks without concerns regarding unauthorized access.
Easy collaboration, fast searches, and solid security all add up to improved productivity, and in turn, they support the productivity gains of telecommuting. Planning and executing a document conversion and management plan is a complex undertaking, but an experienced document conversion provider will make the process easy. The benefits are well worth the effort.
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Everyone knows what a bar code is – we can’t forget the commercial showing bank customers with bar codes on their foreheads – but the workflow and inventory management benefits of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology aren’t as well known. Like bar codes, RFID tags contain information about the item they’re attached to. No doubt you have seen those large plastic tags clipped on apparel in retail stores, and seen them removed by cashiers at the time of purchase – those are RFID tags, and they help the store manage inventory. But RFID tags also come in much smaller versions, like the one pictured here, and they can be affixed to everything from shipping boxes to artworks, tools, furniture, weapons, and even office file folders or individual documents. They’re inconspicuous, easy to apply, and last for 50 years.
The technological difference between RFID and bar codes is this: Like books or newspapers, bar codes are printed in ink, and must be visually read by an electronic scanner. RFID tags, by contrast, are essentially tiny radio transmitters, bouncing a signal back to an RFID reader just the way your favorite radio station relays a signal to your car radio. The RFID signal contains unique identifying information about the item the tag is attached to.
On the surface, RFID may not seem to offer any advantages over bar codes. Nevertheless, Walmart, Macy’s, and other retailers turned to RFID for a very good reason: Labor costs. Their inventory management systems were based on bar codes, and the bar code scanner had to “see” the bar code. Because it couldn’t see around corners or through walls, every item in a stockroom or warehouse had to be manually turned toward the reader – a time-consuming labor-intensive process. And labor is expensive.
The radio signals of an RFID tag, however, can be “grabbed” by an RFID reader without the reader ever having to see the tag. As long as the reader is in proximity to the tag (same room or same building), it receives the information from the RFID tag via radio waves, without any need to handle the inventory. In effect, the RFID reader can see around corners, or through a stack of boxes, or into a filing cabinet. The labor of inventory management becomes as simple as walking into a room.
RFID is a game-changer for any organization that needs to keep track of inventory or assets:
- Facility managers know where every desk and chair is located without doing a room-to-room count.
- Automobile manufacturers streamline workflows by tracking parts as vehicles move through the assembly line.
- Museum curators are certain of which storeroom contains a particular collection, without having to open drawers or rummage through shelves.
- Warehouse managers know exactly what a new shipment contains without having to open the boxes.
- Paralegals locate critical documents in a law office without having to search through multiple files.
Bar code technology is far from obsolete, however. Bar codes are a proven solution for an array of situations in which labor costs are not such a big part of the inventory management calculus. But for many organizations, RFID offers productivity benefits that boost the bottom line.
As every manager and owner knows, inventory and asset management is vital to any successful enterprise. RFID will streamline your workflow and improve inventory accountability. Consult with an expert in inventory management and storage who can tell you if RFID or bar coding, or both, could be the right solution for your business.
Photo © metamorworks / AdobeStock