RFID – you know it as an inventory tool for the retail and logistics sectors, but this robust technology offers benefits to businesses in the service sectors, from finance and law to healthcare and education. If you think your enterprise couldn’t benefit from RFID, think again.
Here are a few of the ways RFID makes your professional practice, your hospital, or your educational institution function better, faster, and more cost-effectively:
- Asset Tracking – Ever notice how there are never enough chairs in the conference room? Furniture, laptops, and other work tools have a way of wandering from their assigned locations. RFID tags tracks the location of these roving items, as well as providing information on their age and condition. Office and facility managers can easily identify aging furnishings that need repairs or replacement, and pinpoint the location of every physical asset. Plus, when inventory time comes, the RFID system can deliver a customized report listing the assigned value of each item currently in the facility, making financial reporting quicker and simpler. What does it cost your business to update capital inventory records by hand?
- Personnel Tracking – In busy public settings like hospitals or schools, knowing the location of key personnel can save time, or even save a life. RFID-enabled personnel badges keep track of people’s movements and current whereabouts so no time is wasted when someone is urgently needed. RFID personnel badges work with an institution’s security system to manage access to restricted areas and maintain safety. And in emergency situations, an RFID system can tell first responders who is inside and where they are. What is the dollar value of that security and safety?
- Document Tracking – We always advocate converting paper documents to digital documents via a well-planned imaging program; imaged documents are secure, shareable with teams, and save the real estate costs of large file rooms. But in many offices there are documents that need to be retained as paper even if they have been imaged. Paper files are easy to lose or misplace (one of the advantages of imaging), but with the addition of small, inconspicuous RFID tags, the location of a file can be tracked throughout a facility. Doorway RFID readers monitor the movement of files from one room to another, and files can be located with a quick look at the tracking record. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates an average of 25 extra hours to recreate a lost document; how much would that cost your business?
Keep in mind that RFID, unlike bar codes, doesn’t require direct sight lines to record and track business assets carrying RFID tags. Once items or personnel are assigned their unique RFID tag, doorway readers track their movements automatically as they pass from one room to another. And inventory updates can be as simple as walking into a room and pressing a button on an RFID reader to collect data on all the capital assets the room contains; no need to look through cabinets and underneath furniture to find bar code IDs.
RFID systems come in many shapes and sizes, and can be scaled up or down to suit your organization’s needs. When you start adding up the costs of lost documents, lost equipment, and lost time, it’s clear that you shouldn’t miss out on the benefits of RFID.
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Office data tracker Kastle Systems reports that U.S. offices are now half full of employees – 50.4 percent, to be precise – compared to pre-pandemic occupancy. Many experts predict that this is as good as it’s going to get, in employers’ return-to-the-office goals. Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom, who studies the evolution of flexible work, says, “Office numbers have flat-lined.”
The pandemic taught us that many jobs can be performed remotely, or with only part-time in-office hours. The Great Resignation showed that employees really, really like remote work, and want a high degree of flexibility in their in-office schedules. Even jobs that aren’t traditionally considered as off-site positions are now being modified, with many heads-down tasks being handled outside the office.
Interestingly, some of the push for returning to the office is coming from young workers newly entering the workforce. They feel a lack of the mentorship and team connection that comes with full-time remote work. Like many more-seasoned employees, these novices like a hybrid schedule that lets teams determine when they all need to be in the office, giving them both face time and flexibility.
Some large employers continue to push for a return to full-time in-office, but they are definitely in the minority. The majority of U.S. offices are adapting their workflows and personnel management to hybrid.
Now new technology is springing up to manage the communication, scheduling, and information management needs of the new workstyle. However, if you’re organizing hybrid workflows in your office right now, there’s no need to wait for new tech to come online when there are already robust tried-and-true solutions.
- Document Conversion: Information on paper documents is nearly impossible to share when team members are in more than one place. While they may be assembled in the office one or two days a week, they may need to refer to those documents when they’re out of the office. Document conversion transforms paper-based information into secure, searchable, remotely accessible digital information.
- RFID: As employees come and go between office and home, so do an organization’s assets – laptops or research materials, for example. RFID tags and doorway readers keep track of these assets as hybrid staffers take them in and out of the building.
- Smart Lockers: No one shows up at the office empty-handed. With so many hybrid workplaces using hot-desking rather than assigned workspaces, people need secure storage for their personal items. Smart lockers can be remotely reserved and managed, creating a solution for staffers’ stuff as well as providing an aesthetically pleasing design feature.
Hybrid is here to stay, with all the management challenges that come with a new way of doing business. Talk to a storage technology consultant and take full advantage of the supportive tech already available. No matter how many people are in your office on any given day, these solutions will help your operations transition into the new hybrid reality.
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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.
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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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