No one wants their place of business to look like an episode of the television show “Hoarders.” However, the practice of managing records can reinforce tendencies to hold on to any and all documents. “You never know; we might need them some day.” By their very nature, many professions look to past events in order to determine relationships in the present and the future. Precedent is everything. And precedent relies on records, many of them on paper.
Lately, firms have been accelerating their transformation from paper-based to digital practices – electronic files, digital workflows, and online applications. They are working hard to reduce the amount of paper in their offices. But mass quantities of physical documents are still stored offsite.
And those archived paper records create unnecessary costs, in terms of time and storage space.
- How much time is required to search for documents in off-site storage?
- How much time is required to visually review and research the information in those documents?
- What percentage of overhead is spent on off-site storage?
When those stored documents are digitized, they become instantly searchable – no more digging through boxes and poring over multiple pages. And instead of taking up many bulky boxes, five million digitized pages fit on one small external hard drive.
This is not to say that every document should be imaged. Properly managed, the document conversion process includes a thorough document assessment. Certain documents should be retained as paper. Some should be scanned, then shredded. Still others don’t have enough value to warrant the cost of digitizing.
An assessment of stored documents lets records managers determine which documents should be digitized and which should be destroyed. Even digitized documents may be destroyed once their digital versions have been confirmed and backed up. The goal is to store paper versions of only those few documents that must be kept in their original medium.
It’s tempting to just hang on to every piece of paper that comes through the office, but a business full of hoarders is a really inefficient operation. Records managers that pride themselves on efficiency will find additional efficiencies when they digitize many of their stored documents.
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If you’re wondering if RFID has any applications for your business, the recent RFID Journal Awards might be an eye-opener. RFID has moved far beyond its original use as an inventory management tool. The array of various business sectors receiving awards ranges from hospitals to mines. A few of the award winners are reviewed here:
- Healthcare: Winning in the Healthcare category, Sakura City Hospital is indeed a city, with more than 2,600 beds and over 187,000 assets. Those assets are tracked with RFID, reducing loss and waste, and ensuring the availability of equipment and medicines.
- Manufacturing: This year’s winner in the Manufacturing category is using RFID to produce COVID-19 test kits with fewer personnel. With manpower at a premium, diagnostic-test manufacturer Danaher-Cepheid is helping save lives by maintaining high levels of production during the pandemic staffing crisis.
- Implementation: This category awards innovative uses of RFID. Mining ranks in the top 25 most dangerous jobs; locating miners in a disaster reduces the chance of injury or death. Turkish industrial conglomerate Eczacibasi has implemented an active RFID system to monitor the location of miners and equipment with pinpoint accuracy.
- Retail: RFID has been well-known in the retail world for several decades, but it has really come into its own in creating operational efficiencies. This year’s Retail award went to Havan Labs, a premiere retailer in Brazil. With more than 200,000 items, Havan Labs’ store inventories used to take 15 employees working over 5 nights. After implementing RFID throughout its operations, inventories take 1 employee, and 1 hour.
Even more important, RFID’s real-time data has enabled Havan Labs to reduce its in-store stock by 30 percent. Storage space has been converted to retail space, increasing sales without the risk of out-of-stocks.
Congratulations to all the winners and to all the businesses who have discovered the benefits of RFID for themselves. The above industry sectors are only the tip of the RFID iceberg – automobile parts, legal documents, antiquities, rental cars, historical archives, Army boot manufacturers…the list of RFID applications goes on and on. There’s an application for your organization, too. Who knows, it might win you an award.
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“Prediction is difficult – particularly when it involves the future.” Attributed to Mark Twain, this statement perfectly captures the dilemma faced by business organizations every day. Business documents need to preserved, some for a short time, some for a longer term, some forever. And when those documents are paper, the choice of preservation format demands special attention.
Paper is an ancient technology, and writing is a universal format. The format is still readable after hundreds, even thousands of years, and it will be so into the future. For some documents, paper is the obvious choice for long-term information preservation: deeds, contracts, and health records, for example.
But paper records have certain disadvantages:
- Susceptible to loss, deterioration, or destruction – fire, insects, humidity, filing errors, and pilfering make paper inherently risky. Guarding against these risks is expensive.
- Bulky – the average business today spends 3% of its revenue on paper costs, according to research company Gartner. Document storage is a significant part of those costs.
- Labor intensive – filing paper documents, searching for filed documents, and disposing of outdated documents requires many person-hours of labor. And labor costs are only going up.
At NOS, we have been recommending document imaging to our clients for some years. Imaging makes a digital version of a paper document. The digital version has all of the advantages of any digital file: searchable, shareable, secure, space-saving, sustainable. Even if you retain your paper documents after imaging, you’re avoiding many of the disadvantages of paper-only records.
But imaging – a far newer technology than paper – can have pitfalls for the unwary. One thing that is certain about the digital future: It’s guaranteed to change. How many people still play CDs in their cars? Still have a laser disk player? Still use floppy disks? Have even seen a floppy disk?
Rapid obsolescence of digital technology can be a disaster for businesses. When an organization images its documents to a format that isn’t future-proof, it has set itself up for the loss of vital information. An obsolete digital format is just like a fire destroying paper documents; the information is gone.
To guard against the consequences of digital obsolescence:
- Talk to peers who have gone through a digital conversion process.
- Consult with a vendor who has an extensive track record in the field; they will steer you toward a future-proof imaging format.
- Practice good digital hygiene by updating software and converting files to newer format standards in a timely manner.
Another quote from Mark Twain: “Plan for the future because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life.” And that goes for your business documents too.
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Manufacturing information systems (MISys), like all business information systems, deliver a wealth of data. Increasingly, RFID provides a significant amount of that data by interfacing with MISys processes.
It is said that information is power. “Information is power only if you can take action with it,” responds futurist Daniel Burrus. RFID enhances MISys data in these five essential ways, to make sense of the mass of information, and make the data actionable.
- Timeliness – data must be delivered quickly enough to make a decision on, and act on. RFID delivers data in real time.
- Presentation – data must be presented understandably, in a way that helps decision-making. RFID data is easy to read, and easy to export to other text-based or numerical-based reporting apps.
- Accuracy – inaccurate data isn’t just useless for decision-making, it’s downright dangerous. RFID data is more accurate than any other form of inventory tracking data.
- Context – data needs context in order to have meaning. RFID data gives context with what-where-identity-quantity information.
- Expectation – expected data confirms prior decisions; unexpected data short-circuits errors today and tomorrow. RFID data gives decision-makers feedback on a course of action, whether it reinforces an action or exposes a need for change.
RFID contributes actionable data in every stage of manufacturing, from materials procurement through product delivery:
- Provenance – track the source and whereabouts of components and raw materials.
- Production – measure quantities, build projections, forecast delays, and discover efficiencies.
- Testing – pull substandard product using unique RFID identifiers, before shipping defective items.
- Security – prevent unauthorized access and shrinkage.
RFID transforms manufacturing. It supports existing MISys data. It provides its own new, additional data. It makes information truly valuable. Can your manufacturing operations benefit from RFID? Talk to an RFID consultant to find out how.
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