RFID is all about the data – how many, what, where, and who. As a data collection system, RFID is hard to beat. It’s fast, it’s accurate, and it interfaces easily with other automated business-information systems. But like any other business system, RFID’s return on investment is a burning issue for managers. When you analyze the data, is RFID a good business decision?
One industry has already done the science and calculated the math for us: Healthcare.
The healthcare industry has incorporated RFID into many aspects of its operations. RFID was first adopted as an inventory management system for medications. As its value was recognized, it was expanded into asset management, as well as patient and personnel location.
Now RFID systems are tracking medication from manufacturer to patient – something that’s especially important in the delivery of the coronavirus vaccine. RFID labels are applied at factory, tracked to the pharmacy, and ultimately to the individual patient receiving the medication.
With RFID so widespread in the healthcare sector, the question of ROI arose among decision makers. The Mayo Clinic, whose scientific methodology is unimpeachable, undertook a study of the return on investment of hospital RFID systems. Researchers examined search time, shrinkage rates, utilization rates, and RFID implementation costs in a 600-bed hospital.
And the results? The team calculated:
- Payback of initial installation costs – 2 months
- Three-year projected ROI – 327%
Those numbers would make any accountant smile. Of course, every operation is different, and as the saying goes, “your results may vary.” In other industries, RFID can be even more productive, linking to MIS and ERP systems to create an end-to-end BI (business information) system.
A projected ROI of 327% is quite attractive, and with a customized industry-specific RFID system, you may find your ROI is even better. However, unless you have in-depth RFID experience, it’s best to work with an expert. An experienced consultant will design and install a cost-effective RFID system ideally suited to your business. Break out your calculator and start watching your ROI grow.
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Integrating new digital technology in the workplace inevitably creates a change in corporate culture. You may be digitizing documents to build a searchable, secure e-document database. You might be adding an RFID system to link your ERP system to your MES (manufacturing execution system). But workplace change is not always welcome. How can you build a “digital-positive” culture where the tangible benefits override the resistance to change?
If you’re spearheading a digital integration, these tips can make the transition easier:
- Plan, plan, plan. It would be great to have a crystal ball to tell us what our future needs will be. The next best thing is a cutting-edge industry expert to guide your digital expansion. Work with a vendor-consultant to develop a plan suited to your organization’s specific operations.
- Promote the digital changeover to staff. A lack of buy-in can sabotage your plans. Sell the digital improvements internally, and get everyone excited about the benefits. Keep communicating throughout the integration, and report the results. Upper management may respond to financial benefits, staffers may be interested in making the work easier, but everyone loves productivity improvements.
- Provide training and reinforcement. Some people instinctually understand digital technology. Others don’t. An effective training program tells employees that they are valued, and saves the cost of replacing staffers who might otherwise struggle with digital tech. Further, it ensures that the technology will be used properly and will deliver its promised benefits.
- Establish boundaries for the “always-on” digital environment. The internet never sleeps. It’s easy to start expecting instant responses no matter the time of day. But workers require an “off” switch; insufficient down time results in reduced productivity and burnout. Create a “digital etiquette” policy to set boundaries on staff accessibility.
Digital technology is ubiquitous, and new digital applications spring up like mushrooms every day. No matter how much digital technology your business already utilizes, you will continue to expand your tech systems regularly. Consulting firm Deloitte recommends taking a proactive approach to each new integration of technology, re-interpreting your corporate culture for the new application. When you keep your corporate culture digital-positive, your business will stay productive, retain employees, and increase the customer base.
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With a coronavirus vaccine on the horizon, many businesses are developing return-to-work (RTW) strategies. Some organizations have adapted well to work-from-home and they are opting to continue 100% WFH, with its greatly reduced real estate costs. Some essential industries, however, never moved to WFH. Many others see hybrid offices as the best balance between WFH and a physical business presence.
The latter organizations are making changes to build their teams’ “covid confidence” – the employees’ assurance that their work environment is covid-safe. Some facilities are hiring environmental health directors to establish operational policies and systems that reduce health risks. Others are working with consultants to redesign foot traffic patterns and reduce touch surfaces like door knobs, light switches, and paper.
Physical changes to the workplace are only half of the covid-confidence picture, however. The other half is leadership. Employees must trust their leaders to have everyone’s best interest at heart.
Experts list three trust-building behaviors that good leaders exhibit.
- Establish positive relationships with team members. For covid confidence, leaders should routinely check in with their people about their concerns, and work to resolve conflicts.
- Demonstrate knowledge and good judgment. Leaders should be up to speed on covid-safe measures, and use this knowledge to make good decisions.
- Be consistent. Unpredictability is the enemy of trust. Teams trust leaders who do what they say they will do to create workplace safety.
The U.K. think tank Resolution Foundation recently found that 35% of employees were actively concerned about contracting covid-19 in their places of work, despite their employers’ significant covid-safe changes. This high level of concern points to a need for greater trust in leadership.
For a successful RTW transition, teams must have a high level of trust in their employers’ covid-safe workplace measures. Designers and consultants can provide the policies, systems, and structures to create safety. It’s up to business leaders to build return-to-work trust and covid confidence.
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Here’s yet another important reason for converting your paper documents to digital imaged documents: the global pandemic. Whether you have switched to a hybrid office, or your business is classified as essential, your staff is touching paper documents every day. Those documents can be a transmission point, not just for the coronavirus, but for a host of other infectious agents as well.
The National Institutes of Health, UCLA, and Princeton University tested the longevity of covid-19 on various surfaces. They found that, in general, the smoother the surface, the longer the virus could live. Cardboard, rough and uncoated, was less likely to transmit the virus. Other forms of paper – smooth, coated printer paper of the type used in many business operations – provide a somewhat friendlier surface for the virus. The science is far from conclusive, and research is ongoing, but any reduction in risk is beneficial to everyone.
Paper is a high-touch element in any business. A few examples:
- Order forms– touched by the sales rep, the customer, the sales manager, the order filler, the file clerk
- Patient forms– touched by the desk personnel, the patient, the nurse, the physician, the lab, the accounting clerk, the file clerk
- Sales brochures– touched by the marketing coordinator, the sales rep, the customer, and (in the case of displayed brochures) the general public
It’s easy to see how viruses and bacteria can get passed around on paper, despite having all the recommended contagion measures in place. But when a document is imaged, it’s removed from the touch chain, and from the chain of potential contagion.
And in addition to breaking the contagion chain, you get all the other benefits of imaging, too. Imaged documents are readily accessible via electronic devices, speeding the flow of information. They are secure from loss, accidental damage, and unauthorized access. And they take up a fraction of the space of paper documents, reducing your storage footprint and your real estate costs.
We have advocated touchless technology for quite a while, not just for health reasons but for cost efficiency and for connectedness to the IoT. Imaging your paper documents is part of the wave of touchless tech that does more than just improve your business operations. It’s a risk management tool, keeping your staff and your community safer during and after the pandemic.
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This is the final installment in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
We all thought we understood workplace stress. Then the pandemic came along and introduced us a whole new level of stress that we didn’t know existed. Now more than ever we have to build effective stress-management techniques. And it turns out it’s not as hard as you might imagine. One of the best strategies for stress reduction only requires two things. One: Stop multitasking. Two: Become mindful.
Stop multitasking. Everyone used to believe that the more multitasking you could do, the more productive you were. Multitasking gives us the feeling that we’re doing multiple tasks simultaneously. In fact, science has shown that our brains are giving only brief moments of attention to a single task in the multiple array of tasks, then refocusing on another single task in the array. It takes time for our brains to shift focus from one task to the next, then back again to the first task. These incremental losses of time add up. The result: We’re significantly less efficient even though we think we’re being super-productive.
Multitasking is not only unproductive, it’s incredibly stressful. The less efficient you are, the further you fall behind and the more stress you experience.
Start meditating. In the past decade, the practice of mindfulness, or meditation, has become mainstream. Management seminars and team-building retreats include mindfulness instruction. Major tech companies include meditation rooms in their offices. Businesses find that when managers practice mindfulness, they think more creatively, make better decisions, and accomplish more.
Mindfulness allows the brain to do what it does best: Focus. Whatever happened at the last meeting, whatever might happen in your next meeting, all becomes irrelevant. Only the current meeting is important, and nothing else. Right here, right now is what counts. The decisions and insights that come from a focused mind allow you to move forward confidently into tomorrow.
Taking time to engage in a meditative technique like deep breathing, for example, can spark a new idea or de-fuse a negative encounter. Wellness expert Dr. Troy Adams recommends these activities for workplace mindfulness:
- Pay attention to your surroundings – indoors/outdoors, warm/cold, quiet/noisy.
- Be present – experience each moment and look for the good within that moment.
- Accept yourself and treat yourself like you would a good friend.
- Focus on your breathing; even a minute of deep breathing is helpful.
People are the greatest resource of any business. Stress reduction through mindfulness will keep your people healthy and productive, and keep your organization at peak performance. Consider some of the ways you can encourage mindfulness in the workplace – Zoom meditation sessions? Quiet areas set aside in the office? Mindfulness retreats? If you meditate on how to support mindfulness, you’ll find the right solution.
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This is the eighth in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
Every airlines’ safety announcement includes these instructions: “In the event of a loss of air pressure, oxygen masks will be released overhead…Be sure to secure your own mask before assisting others.” Self-care can seem selfish. Shouldn’t we help others before thinking of our own needs?
The urge to look after others is very strong. If you’re a business leader, your job is to fulfill your team’s needs, troubleshoot on behalf of others, anticipate customers’ problems and provide solutions. Looking after yourself is often at the bottom of the priority list.
Especially in these highly stressful times, burnout is a danger among hard-working, hyper-responsible, achievement-focused leaders at all levels of business. Have you stopped to consider what would happen if you ran out of oxygen (in a business sense)? Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s necessary, not just for your own mental and physical health, but for the health of your organization.
Try these stress-reducing self-care techniques recommended by the Mayo Clinic:
- Get active– Physical exercise produces endorphins, the “happiness hormone.” Any exercise is good, but outdoor activities have the added benefit of contact with the natural world.
- Get still– The deep, controlled breathing of yoga and meditation calm the anxious thoughts that create stress.
- Get healthy – Good nutrition helps to keep stress hormones at bay. Avoid smoking and overconsumption of alcohol.
- Get connected – Socializing with friends and family breaks up the stressful thought patterns of introversion.
If you notice you’re having to force yourself to go to work, having trouble controlling your moods, feeling bone-weary every day, you may be experiencing the kind of stress that leads to burnout. Step back, give yourself a much-deserved break, and take care of your needs.
Many people rely on you. The most responsible thing you can do is to look after of yourself. Put on that oxygen mask. Then you’ll be able to assist everyone else.
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