When RFID and pets come up in conversation, it’s usually in the context of microchipping your dog or cat. Responsible pet owners have their pets microchipped so they can be readily identified (pets not being adept at saying their own names and addresses).
But a world-famous London animal shelter, the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, took RFID in a far more proactive direction a few years ago.
Battersea printed RFID-tagged brochures which their volunteers handed out at an upscale local mall. The mall’s electronic kiosks were programmed to detect the proximity of the brochures’ RFID tags. When a brochure-carrying shopper was near, the electronic screen would show an adorable dog looking for its owner. If the shopper walked toward the kiosk, the image of the dog would walk toward the shopper.
The campaign was irresistible. Battersea’s adoption inquiries increased 10-fold, and countless dogs and cats found a happy home, thanks to RFID. (Check out the video.)
This clever application is far from a mainstream business application. Nevertheless, it contains an element of the same factor that makes RFID a powerful business tool: Real-time information.
RFID tags and readers work together to collect and transmit information about the status of objects: products, documents, vehicles, personnel. As tags move past readers, quantities and movements of the tagged objects are recorded in real time.
Other systems, from bar codes to handwritten inventory sheets, can record the same data, but none of them can match the real-time speed of RFID. This video reveals its unbeatable speed.
Real-time information lets managers make better decisions. They can be agile, flexible, and proactive instead of reactive. They can see into the future, anticipating problems before they arise, correcting small issues before they become big ones. That means cost savings, every day. The Mayo Clinic, for example, calculated their RFID system had an ROI of 327% over three years.
And a tiny part of those savings will buy a lot of pet food!
“Return to work.” Many organizations are struggling to define what that will mean for physical space, for productivity, and for corporate culture in the post-pandemic world.
When office-based operations were forced to pivot to work-from-home (WFH) at the beginning of 2020, the hybrid workplace was in its infancy. It quickly became the preferred workstyle, balancing WFH and in-person office time. Offices were safer because there were fewer occupants at any given time, and social distancing was easy to maintain. WFH proved its value with increased productivity and employee satisfaction.
The hybrid office gives workers a welcome degree of flexibility they didn’t have in a traditional office setting. And yet it is an imperfect solution. Employees without assigned workspaces report feeling disconnected from the team and the organization. WFH requires technology and furnishings that may not be readily available in some workers’ homes. Less in-person time may have a negative effect on performance evaluations.
What are some of the options for space utilization and technology that will make the office workspace and the home workspace function smoothly together?
- High speed internet: Many employers are paying directly for their WFH workers’ high speed internet service. It goes without saying that productivity, whether in the office or at home, relies on fast internet speeds.
- Information accessibility: Especially in document-heavy industries, information in paper documents is less accessible than the data in digital documents. A database of searchable imaged documents provides WFH accessibility without the security risk of removing documents from the office. When workers are scheduled to be in the office, that same information is available without any time wasted searching through paper files.
- Productivity apps: From screen-break reminders, to instant-join shortcuts for virtual meetings, a host of new apps deliver productivity support for WFH and hybrid workplaces. There’s even an app that converts WFH “virtual commute time” into an opportunity for exercise or meditation, promoting employee wellness.
Physical space options:
- Smart lockers: Hybrid office workers arrive in the office with a lot of stuff, from laptops to lunches. Without assigned workspaces, they need secure personal storage. A smart locker gives them the storage they need, and it can be reserved remotely. An extra bonus: The customizable exteriors of lockers makes them an attractive design option.
- Mobile furnishings: Hybrid workers often need to collaborate with different groups on different days. With no fixed “address” in the office, collaboration or heads-down work becomes simple with modular mobile workstations which the user can wheel to the appropriate location. Some of these mobile workstations fit into home-office settings, too, for use by remote workers.
Flexible work spaces and flexible schedules are intrinsic to the hybrid workplace and a successful return to work. With such an array of technology options and office space options, hybrid offices can become the perfect solution for the post-pandemic world.
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Shortages and hoarding were two of the many unwelcome side effects of the pandemic. Remember the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020? A similar effect was felt in many business sectors. Manufacturers experienced shortages of parts or materials. Hospitals ran short of PPE and other supplies. Out-of-stocks cost retailers billions in a year.
Businesses responded to shortages by overstocking inventory. But overstocking is costly. Buying excess inventory is expensive; storing the excess adds additional costs. And if demand suddenly drops, your business is left holding the bag.
The just in time (JIT) production and distribution chain has been the enterprise holy grail for more than 3 decades. It only works if every segment of the supply chain communicates with every other segment in a timely manner. Any lapse or slow-down of communication means potential or actual shortages, with a ripple effect that is felt all up and down the line. Time is indeed of the essence.
And timely communication is where RFID shines. Not only does it track your inventory coming in the door, it tracks it as it leaves. And it communicates that information to your ERP system, in real time. At any given moment, managers can know exactly what they have on hand, and they can re-order at the right time to avoid a shortage, or an excess.
Moreover, this close monitoring of inventory doesn’t add to labor costs. Door-mounted RFID readers collect information automatically as inventory moves in and out. There’s no need to wait for a manual check-out, or even slow down for a bar code reader. RFID wins the inventory race every time, as this video shows.
Fast, accurate tracking of inventory is the key to keeping the supply chain moving smoothly and profitably. The data collected from RFID lets businesses confidently predict supply and demand throughout the supply chain. RFID is your ally in the battle for profitability.
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NOS is honored to be a small part of the fight against deadly pandemics. Our client, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), was featured on CBS News “60 Minutes” in a report on rapid responses to pandemics. As part of their epidemiological research, DARPA has accumulated a vast collection of tissue samples and other specimens, some going back as far as the 1918 flu pandemic. All these invaluable specimens are stored securely in high-density shelving provided by NOS. As seen in the “60 Minutes” episode, researchers can easily locate one of thousands of samples in this space-saving storage system. The “60 Minutes” segment can be viewed here. We’re proud to do our part to help stop the pandemic, today and in the future.
It took 41 years and a pandemic in order to make working from home (WFH) catch on. In 1979, a scholar named Frank Schiff wrote a feature for The Washington Post, eloquently making the case for “working at home one or two days a week.” Schiff, at that time the vice president and chief economist of the Committee for Economic Development, was not a futurist. Nevertheless he envisioned a future in which technology would support more WFH, reducing stressful commutes and gas consumption – economic pressures which have not diminished much in the intervening years.
Schiff described what we now call a hybrid office, and he predicted that the possibilities for WFH would grow as service sector “information jobs” increased. Schiff’s 1979 technology is amusingly obsolete today – he refers to handheld scientific calculators, dial-up modems, and libraries on microfiche – but he was not far off the mark in what the future would bring: “A growing number of homes is likely to become equipped with machines that combine the functions of television sets, videophones, computer terminals, electronic files and word and data processing systems and that can be directly connected with offices and other homes.”
Moreover, Schiff recognized the need for converting printed documents into a format that could be used by remote workers. He recommended the use of microfiche, a technology widely used by libraries at the time. Today, as beneficiaries of the Digital Revolution, we would recommend digitization to accomplish the same goal of providing remote access to printed documents.
Schiff pointed out another benefit of document conversion: compactness. He wrote, “A microfiche stack an inch high can incorporate the contents of as many as 20,000 pages of printed material.”
Nowadays, a portable drive an inch high can hold 5 million pages. That’s equal to 4,500 square feet of storage space that is no longer necessary – a significant cost savings for years to come, especially when combined with the hybrid office’s reduced space requirements.
It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun. Schiff’s 1979 prediction proves the point, in general terms. However, the particulars have evolved far beyond Schiff’s vision. Document digitization is a key component in today’s reality of WFH and the hybrid workplace.
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