Like every other economic sector, retailers have been forced to reshape their operations due to the covid pandemic. Although there has been an uptick in in-store buying, especially during the holidays, pandemic-induced modes of shopping are now part of the new normal, especially online shopping and curb-side pickup.
Consulting firm McKinsey reports that store-located pickups have been more profitable than delivery from a central distribution center. The cost of replenishing, picking, and staging are higher with store pickups, but that cost is outweighed by the expense of last-mile home deliveries.
Brick-and-mortar stores are now playing a major role in omnichannel shopping fulfillment in the new normal. Contrary to predictions (and contrary to the retail trends leading up to 2020), storefronts are far from dead.
But competition among retailers is stronger than ever, and savvy retailers are adopting or extending RFID technology to enhance the customer “buying journey:”
- Inventory tracking – RFID automates replenishment planning and ordering, and tracks product locations through the supply and distribution chain.
- Store operations – RFID automates notifications of restocking and picking, decreases shrinkage, and enables self-checkout.
- Customer experience – Currently in limited deployment, RFID holds the potential for personalized shopping recommendations in-store and online.
According to McKinsey, when retailers commit to RFID they can expect to see profit-boosting benefits:
- A 25% improvement in inventory accuracy, preventing over-buying and stockouts.
- A 10-15% reduction in inventory labor costs.
- A reduction of shrinkage and pilferage resulting in a 1.5% increase in revenues.
RFID isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition, however. To make sure you’re getting the best technology for your retail operation, talk to a storage solutions consultant with RFID expertise.
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The great digital revolution gave businesses the ability to function during pandemic lockdowns. Revolution Part 2 is upon us now. Employees and employers alike discovered the benefits of remote work. Now that the hybrid office is here to stay, the secondary revolution is cultural as well as technological. How can traditional office culture accommodate the changes necessary for a successful hybrid operation?
Beliefs vs. reality – The traditional management style was one of synchronous work: everyone in the office at the same time on the same days. It was assumed that if workers were not closely monitored, in person, they would slack off.
The pandemic-dictated shift to remote work proved that off-site asynchronous workers were actually more productive than they had been under the synchronous regime. But now that offices are reopening, some managers cling to the old notion that in-person supervision is essential to productivity.
Formulating a new set of management beliefs requires a “trust walk” message from the C-suite. When top management signals that the flexible, asynchronous workstyle is the new normal — and they back it up with tangible support and rewards for making the shift – then team leaders can take that step of faith to trust their own team members in turn.
Supportive actions – It’s clear the hybrid workplace offers greater productivity, greater employee satisfaction, and lower overhead costs. To get the benefits, though, certain supports must be activated.
- Collaborative technology such as asynchronous apps (Slack, Outlook, etc.) keep teams organized and goal-focused without forcing individual tasks into a synchronous schedule. Well-connected virtual meeting spaces also support hybrid productivity, as long as each meeting is truly useful (a challenge that existed in the traditional office too).
- Technology for document accessibility is also essential. When paper documents are imaged (digitized), they become accessible to team members in and out of the office. Moreover, the data contained in the paper documents is made far more secure when it is stored digitally with access controls in place.
- Inclusion can be difficult in the hybrid office, but managers can draw from the social function of the traditional office. Richard R. Smith, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business, suggests, “Arrange and encourage social interactions on the days that people are in the office—and potentially encourage common in-person office days.”
Change is almost always uncomfortable, but the rewards are worth the effort. Commit to the office of the future, put the supports in place, and see the benefits flow to the bottom line.
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Weather disasters are becoming more frequent and more severe. Front-line workers are challenged to manage the multitude of elements needed for rescue and recovery.
In disaster situations, routine procedures are disrupted. Decision data is often scanty and uncertain, leading to errors and waste of materials and time. RFID technology can make a difference, providing the answers to what and where questions:
- Equipment – Medical equipment like gurneys and oxygen tanks; transport vehicles like ambulances and firetrucks; heavy equipment like bulldozers; communication devices like radios and tablets – in an emergency, decision makers need to know the whereabouts of all their equipment assets. RFID doorway readers keep tabs on them all.
- Supplies and Medications – EMT’s and ER personnel must maintain a supply of bandages, dressings, scissors, clamps, and multiple types of medications. Using a hand-held RFID reader, a quick scan of an ambulance or a treatment room confirms that RFID-tagged supplies are topped up.
- Tools and Weapons – The aftermath of a weather disaster calls for tools for search and rescue, and firearms to assist law enforcementin opportunistic-crime prevention. From chainsaws and shovels to pistols and tazers, RFID helps first responders maintain their inventory in readiness for emergencies, safely and securely.
- Personnel – RFID’s locational function lets disaster managers know where each of their team members is in the field, even when visibility is minimal. For victims, first responders can issue RFID tags or bracelets with identification, health, and injury information. Those tags can be scanned by ER workers to speed triage and avoid medical errors; in some cases, patients’ electronic medical records can be automatically updated.
At its core, RFID technology integrates object information (“what”) and location information (“where”). Each one of these RFID applications speeds up the collection and distribution of what and where information. And fast access to information is essential to good decision making in high-pressure situations like floods, wildfires, or tornadoes.
RFID will interface with other public-safety communication systems, improving vital interoperability and information flow. But its speedy and accurate delivery of information isn’t just for disaster situations. RFID is a mature, proven data technology with benefits for everyday business operations in the private sector. But if RFID can assist public safety and healthcare providers in weather disasters, you can count on it to help your organization in disaster recovery as well. Weather happens. Be ready for it!
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Yes, the hybrid office is here to stay, and with it comes an opportunity to do a beneficial redesign of the workplace. The soulless twentieth century “cube farms” were dehumanizing, but so were the noisy, crowded open-plan offices that replaced the cubicles. Now designers have a chance to create the perfect balance between too claustrophobic and too unstructured. With some thoughtful innovations, the hybrid office can be the happy medium, like Baby Bear’s oatmeal.
Successful hybrid offices counteract the oversharing open office by providing defined work areas for individual heads-down tasks, and for collaborative team projects. But defined, enclosed areas don’t have to make a space feel crowded. Architectural glass walls and partitions retain an open feel while mitigating the noise interference of open office plans. Additionally, they maintain separation to reduce the potential for infections.
Lockers, too, provide attractive space-defining structures that complement other design choices. Like work spaces, lockers can be reserved for use when teams are in the office, and released for others to use later. Touchless locking mechanisms enhance health protocols, too.
A hybrid redesign is about more than the physical space, of course. Emotional welfare is a significant component of the new workplace. People crave sociability, and working in an office is fundamentally a social activity. When staffers are not in the office, they become anxious about their place in the social order. Providing support for the WFH component of a hybrid office demonstrates management’s trust in employees who aren’t routinely present.
And that support is often in the form of technology. Businesses are providing electronic devices – computers, wifi, cell phones – to employees for their WFH days. Just as important are the digital data resources. Paper-intensive work is now being converted to digital formats. Document conversion, or imaging, gives staff access to information no matter where they are physically located. An additional benefit: With fewer documents to store, storage space can be converted to work spaces, without expanding the office footprint.
The Great Resignation of 2021 has spurred much soul-searching at the C-level. The conclusion of many managers: Make the office a place where people want to spend time, make WFH a valued part of the hybrid workplace, and show support by providing productivity tools. A redesign to achieve these goals is a win for workers and financial stakeholders alike.
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