Large or small, any business decision requires good data. The Internet of Things (IoT) pools data from numerous “smart” sources and delivers actionable data across your enterprise – operations managers, facilities managers, HR, marketing. Real-time data adds agility and flexibility to your operations.
And the more data, the better. RFID has proven its value as an asset management system, tracking inventory, furnishings, process components, even paper documents. Building on that information technology, smart devices are providing a wealth of data to the IoT.
So how can office furnishings generate digital data for better management decisions? Take the example of smart lockers in a hybrid office. Flex-schedule staffers without assigned workspaces use day-use lockers to store their personal items while they are in the office. Additionally, they can securely retrieve packages (documents or electronic devices for off-site work, for instance) at any time, without scheduling a face-to-face hand-off.
Data from these networked smart lockers produces two kinds of management insights: (1) a snapshot of current usage, and (2) a detailed picture of historical usage over time. Paired with touchless technology that lets users open lockers with an RFID personnel badge or a mobile phone app, managers can learn:
- How many lockers are in use on a given day
- Which group of lockers is overused or underused
- Which locker an individual used, and for how long
- When, or whether, a package was picked up
With this abundance of data, managers can make decisions about:
- Occupancy density
- Space utilization
- Personnel flow
For example, if lockers are fully utilized on a particular day of the week, predictive software in the facility’s IoT alerts management to okay a climate control adjustment for that day. If a laptop is placed in a locker for a staffer, an automated notification is alerts the staffer to pick up a package, and a second notification tells a manager when the laptop is picked up. If a particular bank of lockers is underutilized, a space-utilization alert tells the facility manager to consider a more user-friendly location.
And when management decisions need up-the-line approvals, hard data from accurate sources gives credibility to any request. Make the most of smart technology, and make data-driven decisions. Your bottom line will thank you.
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In the greater DC Metropolitan area a waste management company wanted to track equipment differently. They provide solid waste services, portable toilets for public, private, and government sectors. They also provide waste management programs that require a variety of unique types of equipment. Having been in business for over 40 years, this company has utilized different inventory tracking systems and wanted to be progressive and forward thinking with this shift in inventory management.
Given the different sizes of containers and portable equipment and their need for a daily tracking as their trucks left the yard, they were looking for a system that would manage the process with little to no human intervention. In addition, they wanted to track their existing contracts in tandem with this new inventory management system.
The NOS Sam RFID asset tracking system proved to be the right fit. Existing equipment in the yard was provided an RFID tag. Overhead antennas were installed at the entrance and exit points of the yard. This meant the different pieces of equipment located on the trucks could be remotely scanned as the trucks left and returned. Portable tags and readers were also provided so the drivers could tag existing equipment in the field, creating a seamless onboarding for all assets. In addition, as drivers are on their routes, they are able to scan the existing equipment at the client site as confirmation of the asset location.
The RFID system integrated with the contract and billing system. By making this link, administrative employees could focus on customer service rather than data entry. Data entry errors were virtually eliminated and a detailed history of the equipment/location/length of time at the client site was easily accessible. Contract renewals increased with accuracy and the company’s administrative staff was able to give more personal attention to each client which drove revenue even further.
The opportunity to put this system in place without disrupting daily operation was key to the success of this solution. The different equipment types and unique locations added to the complexity but the portable tags and scanners that are part of the NOS SAM RFID solutions was a perfect match to make this a seamless installation.
The client is enjoying better accountability, faster billing and is more proactive in terms of their contract renewals, all of which leads to increased revenue and more efficient use of staff time.
RFID is the undeniable champion of physical asset management – fast, accurate, reliable, cost-effective, and flexible. Warehousing and logistics have relied on RFID technology for decades. But applying it to the challenge of the “last mile” has proved to be elusive until recently.
As anyone in the industry knows, the last mile – delivering products to the end user – is the most expensive and complex segment of the supply chain. Inventory re-supply, shelf re-stocking, and buyer check-out are labor-intensive. The first breakthrough in a fully automated last mile was Amazon’s 2018 trial launch of its Go checkout-free retail program. Go created a frictionless shopping experience, with shoppers choosing their merchandise and walking out of the store without any active interaction with payment technology or staff.
RFID is integral to the success of “just walk out” technology. Cameras identify objects as they are removed from shelves. RFID readers detect RFID-chip credit cards to ensure merchants are paid for whatever leaves the store. Working together, the cameras and RFID manage a store’s inventory with a real-time speed and efficiency that cannot be matched by less automated means. Amazon Go and similar just-walk-out technologies are expected to expand from $218 million to $45 billion by 2023.
Access to real-time data is what makes RFID such a valuable asset to supply chain operations. Linked to ERP (enterprise resource planning), SCM (supply chain management), and just-walk-out software, RFID provides status updates throughout the manufacturing supply chain, from factory to warehouse to consumer.
RFID helps information and operation work together. The information collected from RFID sources along the chain improves the flexibility and responsiveness of the entire chain. Suppliers can respond to trends more easily, and identify potential supply-and-demand incongruities before they become a problem.
No matter where your business operates in the supply chain – manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, retail – RFID provides crucial end to end management information. Be agile, be proactive, and be confident that RFID-supplied data lets you make better informed decisions.
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Picture this: A hospital acquired new equipment that could tailor asthma medication to each patient’s needs. The marketing team wanted to contact all the hospital’s patients who had asthma. Hospital administration expected the new service to be quite profitable.
However, most hospital patients had been treated for other conditions, not for asthma. The hospital’s electronic records only tracked the treatments the patients received, not other conditions being handled outside the hospital. Many patients’ asthma was noted only on paper documents filled out during admission.
To build a list of asthmatic patients, the marketing team would have to search by hand through every patient’s paper file, to see if they had checked the “asthma” box. Given the number of hours needed to review each and every paper record, the cost to identify prospective patients was roughly the same as the cost of the hospital’s new equipment, deferring ROI far into the future.
This is just one example of how unstructured data (data found only on paper, or in various incompatible databases) locks up information that could otherwise contribute to the bottom line. Structured data – a spreadsheet, for instance – is searchable and sortable with electronic speed. Searching unstructured data requires time-consuming manual efforts.
Document digitization is one of the ways that unstructured data is transformed to searchable, sortable structured data.
Don’t mistake digitization for a .PDF, however. A .PDF is essentially a picture of a document, and it’s no more searchable than the original paper. By contrast, an imaged document can be read by software. Text and numbers can be extracted, sorted, searched, and linked to other data.
With the speed of automation, the imaged information is compiled into a database. It becomes actionable business intel. Every department can access the data, make better decisions, and operate more productively.
Returning to our case-study hospital: Marketing collaborated with IT to spearhead a pilot project, transitioning to imaged patient-admission documents. As they assembled the now-usable data, they realized that they had a treasure trove of marketing information. They stopped missing opportunities to offer additional services to patients who could benefit from them. And that new equipment became profitable much sooner than expected.
If your business has paper records, you have unstructured data. Transform it into structured data, via document digitization, and start monetizing the information.
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