It’s a classic case of unstructured data: A hospital’s marketing team wanted to contact all the hospital’s patients who had asthma, to promote a new specialty. But most patients’ asthma status was noted only paper documents filled out during admission.
To build a new mailing list of asthmatic patients, the marketing staff would have to search by hand through each and every patient’s paper documents – weeks and weeks of labor, filled with human error and grumbling staffers (“Isn’t this the 21st century?!”). The project was abandoned.
And another opportunity was lost, simply because it was too hard to organize the data.
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 and sorting unstructured data requires expensive time-consuming, error-prone manual efforts.
Document imaging is one of the ways that unstructured data is transformed into searchable, sortable structured data.
Don’t mistake imaging 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 healthcare-marketing example above, picture a different outcome: 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 they stopped missing additional revenue opportunities.
If your business has paper records, you have unstructured data. Transform it into structured data, via document imaging, and start monetizing the information.
Photo © New Africa / AdobeStock
Friction, as we learned in elementary school science, slows things down. Friction in brick-and-mortar retail settings – making the in-store customer wait – is one of the biggest pain points in retail operations. Slow checkouts are a friction pain point that reduces sales, tarnishes brand image, and pushes customers toward online shopping.
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is starting to move retail toward the goal of frictionless checkout. 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.
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 true frictionless checkout. 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 frictionless checkout 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 visibility throughout the manufacturing supply chain, from factory to warehouse to consumer.
RFID helps information and operations 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.
Photo © peopleimages / AdobeStock
Remote work is in demand, and employers who require workers to be on-site are losing out to organizations whose workstyle supports remote jobs. But not all jobs can be done remotely. Construction workers, healthcare providers, food service workers, warehouse and manufacturing crews – these are just some of the many jobs that are site-dependent. As routinely reported in the news, employers in these sectors are having difficulty hiring and retaining qualified staff, because remote work is so desirable.
One of the biggest attractions of remote work is flexibility. To compete with remote-work employers, on-site employers are taking a hard look at the temporal and locational boundaries of various job classifications and adding flexibility wherever possible.
In healthcare, for example, the big trend is flexible shifts. Workers can choose to work 90 hours over 8 days, or 40 hours over three days, with many variations. With flexible temporal boundaries, workers can easily balance on-site responsibilities with home and personal responsibilities.
Other organizations are deconstructing jobs into on-site tasks and tasks that can be easily done off-site. Librarians, for instance, have to be on-site to manage books and lending activities, but their administrative tasks like scheduling or catalog management can be done remotely.
This sounds a lot like hybrid work, doesn’t it? It might be termed Next-Gen Hybrid – reshaping seemingly rigid on-site jobs into more flexible work formats. To make Next-Gen Hybrid jobs function well, however, the right technology needs to be in place for smooth transitions between on-site and remote.
Asset management technology for physical assets and informational assets is vital. It’s all too easy to lose e-devices and paper documents in transit between an on-site workplace and a remote workplace, but these two asset management systems reduce the risk dramatically:
- RFID – Many organizations are already using RFID for inventory management. It’s simple to extend RFID’s tracking capability to e-devices leaving and returning to the workplace. And with employees coming and going on irregular schedules, RFID-enabled smart lockers give workers a place to keep their on-site stuff. Bonus: Administrators can manage locker access and usage remotely – another off-site task.
- Document digitization – Just because some tasks are moving off-site, while other tasks remain on-site, doesn’t mean that off-site tasks don’t need access to information. If that needed information exists only on paper, remote tasks are locked out. Document digitization – moving paper-based information into a digital database – makes information accessible on-site and off-site.
It’s going to take creativity to re-imagine how traditional on-site work can be made more flexible, and therefore more attractive to prospective employees. But with the right technology in the workplace, organizations can add a healthy dose of flexibility into their workflow, and level the recruitment playing field.
Photo © Pixel-Shot / AdobeStock
National Office Systems, Inc. (NOS) of Beltsville, Maryland announces today, January 9, 2023, that Joe Alvarez, Danny Harbison, and a private investment group have acquired Dan Harbison’s ownership shares.
Joe Alvarez and Danny Harbison have partnered together to continue the success that NOS has delivered to the Mid-Atlantic region through innovative solutions that redefine space and manage information. Dan Harbison begins 2023 enjoying his well-earned retirement while his son Danny is enthusiastic about his new role as Partner. “I am fully engaged with driving the process in providing best-in-class solutions. My immediate charge is to continue growing and improving our technology offering to ensure NOS is providing our clients and partners an efficient and effective solution to meet their business needs,” says Danny Harbison, Vice President.
Joe Alvarez and Dan Harbison acquired NOS in 1991 and successfully stewarded the company through significant industry shifts over the past three decades. Starting with High-Density Storage Solutions for their clients, NOS expanded their product portfolio to meet the current and future needs of their clients throughout the years.
RFID Asset Tracking was introduced to assist their clients with increasing inventory control and security for high value physical assets. This offering has transformed their clients’ ability to track what matters most, whether it be storing secure files in a High-Density System or moving equipment and personnel in and out of a facility.
Document Imaging was also introduced to provide a secure way to store documents, creating secure access from remote locations and reducing real estate required for document storage. NOS was an early adopter of this technology and has imaged millions of documents including standard paper sizes, books, specialty plans, and maps.
In 2005, NOS acquired American Installation Services (AIS), an independent furniture installation company, to assist with High Density Storage installations. As the industry shifted again, AIS began installing architectural glass walls and is now one of the premier architectural wall installation companies in the Mid-Atlantic.
Joe Alvarez and Danny Harbison are excited about the future of NOS. Their partnership begins with a vision of growth for the company and expanding the solutions that help their clients organize, manage, and protect resources. “The opportunity to work with Danny as Vice President and Partner is very exciting as he comes with new ideas and a laser-like focus on customer service that will help NOS excel and grow,” says Joe Alvarez, President & CEO.
Official Jan 10 2023 Press release NOS Partnership
Data is one of the most valuable assets of any organization. Enriched data, like enriched cereal, is even more valuable. Data enrichment takes a single data point – a unique product ID, for instance – and attaches additional information to that one data point. The single enriched data point can then provide better business insights for your entire organization.
One of the most advanced ways to enrich data is through combining different information sources. By having access to data from multiple sources, organizations can have a more comprehensive view of their customers, products, and operations.
When RFID data and data from digitized documents are combined, the resulting insights will have a positive impact on any business. The data stored in these databases is structured, meaning it is organized in a consistent format that makes it easier to access and analyze.
Enriched data from RFID and document databases is valuable throughout the organization. A few examples:
- Marketing – Product aging data from the RFID inventory intersects with digitized product brochures to create a quick end-of-season sale, reducing the cost of expired inventory.
- Quality Control – The digital document database matches suppliers’ warranties to an RFID-generated list of defective manufacturing supplies, providing fast data-supported refund requests to your vendors.
- Facilities Management – A digitized maintenance schedule is linked to specific items tracked in an RFID database, saving time in locating maintenance-due assets, and saving the cost of replacing improperly-maintained assets.
Enriched data provides organizations with improved operational efficiency. By having access to more accurate and complete data, businesses can make better decisions, prioritize tasks, and improve their operational efficiency. This improved efficiency can lead to cost savings, productivity gains, and smoother operations.
Perhaps your business is already using RFID for inventory management. Maybe you have already converted your paper documents into a digital database. If so, take a look at the benefits of cross-referencing the two databases. Organizations that invest in combining these data sources and leveraging the enriched data for decision-making can gain a competitive advantage and secure a strong future for their business.
Photo © NicoElNino / AdobeStock