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.
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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.
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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.
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Experience informs all stakeholders about the outcome of their decisions. In the case of storage technology, those stakeholders include design consultants, manufacturers, and end users in fields from manufacturing and mining, to museums and medicine.
When prospective users are considering upleveling their storage technology, theories are all well and good, but the proof of the pudding is in the real world. Nothing beats a case study to demonstrate real-world experience. With that in mind, here is a selection of storage tech case studies that decision-makers can relate to:
- Government Agency Document Storage – Lack of storage space made organization and timely retrieval of documents an extreme challenge, deflecting the agency from its primary mission. A better storage system offered an answer.
- Electrical Utility Asset Management – Keeping adequate quantities of operational tools and supplies on hand was difficult, and left the utility unprepared for standard maintenance or emergencies. An inventory technology solution proved to be the management key.
- Museum Archives Storage – A continuing stream of artifacts and archival materials was straining this museum’s storage capacity. The solution took its storage in a new direction, doubling the museum’s warehouse capacity without expanding its footprint.
- Professional Association Document Archiving and Preservation – With many of its research documents in a fragile condition, this association had difficulty giving document access to its members. Twenty-first century technology created access for all, without endangering these one-of-a-kind books.
These are just a few of the many case studies of various storage technology solutions collected on the NOS site. If you’re considering a change in your storage systems, we encourage you to take a look at the possibilities and envision your organization’s future.
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By now every successful business has learned the most important branding lesson: Relationships matter. A well-managed brand practices relationship selling. Its people support the brand when they provide customer service, when they work hard for customer success, when they communicate personally and add the human touch to organizations large and small.
It’s easier said than done, however, when everything from supply chain failures to personal difficulties seems to sabotage those all-important customer relationships. If you’re feeling that your business relationships are on shaky ground, start checking your 5:1 numbers.
The 5:1 ratio – 5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction – was developed by researcher and interpersonal expert John Gottman, known for his ability to predict divorces with 90% accuracy. Decades of observation supported his theory that a healthy relationship could survive some conflicts as long as the positive behaviors outweighed the negative by a ratio of 5:1.
Gottman’s recommendations for positive interactions apply just as much in business as they do in marriages. His suggestions include:
- Be interested – Listen to your customers.
- Demonstrate they matter – Look for ways to show your customers they are valued.
- Intentional appreciation – When your customer does something noteworthy, compliment them.
- Empathize and apologize – Walk a mile in your customers’ shoes. If they’re uncomfortable, apologize and make it right.
None of this is new, but you have to do enough of it – 5 times over – to make up for a negative experience.
And it’s always easier to keep up the number of positive interactions if you have taken steps to make those positive behaviors easy for everyone. For example, if you have added RFID to your inventory system, you can quickly and accurately assure a customer that their purchase is ready for pick-up. If you have digitized your paper documents, you can give a patient instant access to their medical records or other secure private documents.
Keep track of your 5:1 interactions, and use the technology that makes it easy to maintain the golden relationship ratio. Your business relationships (and your personal ones) will thrive.
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We don’t like to think about it much, but workplace safety is just as important to a company’s strength as fiscal soundness or modern operating equipment. Prudent business managers have a disaster management plan that includes employee safety: evacuation routes and responsibilities, mustering locations, and safety alerts and communications.
The hybrid workplace, however, has thrown a monkey wrench into the orderly emergency-management process.
- How do managers maintain an accurate headcount of occupants when people come and go on independent schedules?
- Who is in charge of evacuations if the designated emergency captain is working remotely?
- How are employees’ emergency contacts found when the HR department is working from home?
Risks increase whenever accurate information decreases. This is true in any aspect of business. And any wise business manager knows that employees, like any other business asset, can be protected by the application of good information.
RFID is an information technology that your business may already be using to manage inventory and locate assets like equipment and documents. RFID excels at answering the questions of What, Where, and How Many. It is fast and accurate, and a proven productivity and asset management tool.
In some industries, particularly manufacturing, mining, and chemical processing, RFID is already in use to track personnel as well as products and equipment. Some industries use RFID in process management, tracking parts and products through the manufacturing process, and tracking workers to determine efficient and safe process paths.
With the advent of hybrid workplaces, office managers are extending their RFID capabilities into emergency management. Paired with doorway readers, RFID-enabled personnel badges or wearables keep a tally of who’s in the office, and where they are working – particularly useful in hot-desking workplaces. RFID tags can contain vital health information such as allergies, medical conditions, and emergency contacts, without compromising privacy.
Every gain in speedy, accurate information delivery represents a reduction in risk, not just for a business’s productivity, but for its personnel too. Employees are a company’s greatest asset. Doesn’t it make sense to protect them with the reliable information technology of RFID?
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