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Are Your Business Assets Past Their Sell-By Date?

Are Your Business Assets Past Their Sell-By Date?

Food producers are careful to include a conservative sell-by date on the products they sell. Everyone benefits; consumers aren’t disappointed or harmed by spoiled foods, and producers ensure their products live up to their brand.

The sell-by date isn’t confined to groceries, however. Every business has assets that eventually hit a critical date. Locating those assets and taking action by those dates can be labor-intensive and costly.

Labor-intensive and costly, that is, unless your business uses RFID for asset management. RFID technology is much more than a fancy inventory identification system. RFID chips can be programmed to contain all kinds of data about an object: when it was made, when it was put into service, when it needs maintenance, what kind of service it needs, when it should be replaced, and much more.

When queried, RFID software can generate a report about upcoming critical dates, sorted by asset type, or location, or required action. Imagine the amount of time and money saved by automatically tracking an asset’s location and critical dates.

This benefit applies in dozens of industry sectors. A few examples:

  • Food service – suppliers add RFID tags to boxes of perishables, so distributors and restaurants stay on top of freshness deadlines. Chipotle Restaurants is testing this technique in their Chicago restaurants’ supply chain.
  • Pharmaceuticals – RFID tags prevent the use of expired drugs. Pennsylvania’s Reading Hospital is tracking Covid vaccine expiration dates and times with RFID technology, to prevent waste of the vital and costly medication.
  • Business electronic devices – RFID tags attached to laptops, mobile phones, tablets, and copiers are routinely queried by the IT department to determine when they are due for maintenance. An additional query signals each device’s location, on site or off. The U.S. Army is using RFID to track the whereabouts of their office electronic devices and provide routine updates and maintenance.

Almost every business asset has a “sell-by” date of some kind. Furnishings eventually have to be replaced. Outdated computers have to be disposed of. Obsolete law books, old patient files, tax returns from the time of the dinosaurs – whatever they are, they have to go sooner or later. Know where they are, and know when their time is up, with RFID.

 

Photo © Iriana Shiyan / AdobeStock

How Hybrid Offices Contribute to Your ESG Goals

How Hybrid Offices Contribute to Your ESG Goals

ESG – Environmental, Social, and Governance – stands for the three components of a business’s sustainability performance. Three out of four consumers change their purchase preferences based on ESG factors, according to a CapGemini report. How well does ESG integrate into the new hybrid workplace?

There’s good news: Hybrid offices are a natural choice for boosting your organization’s ESG.

Energy usage

  • Zoned space utilization systems automatically group hot desks and office reservations into energy-saving zones
  • Smart building systems reduce lighting and HVAC consumption during unoccupied hours

Fun fact: One degree change in indoor temperature means thousands fewer kilowatt hours, and thousands of dollars in savings over the course of one year.

 

Reduced emissions

  • Fewer trips to the office equals fewer commuting miles per week.
  • Smart buildings’ reduced energy use results in less emission-producing energy generation.

Reduced waste

  • More meals at home means less lunch take-out waste
  • Offices produce less paper waste if document conversion (digitization) is in place.

This last topic, digitization, deserves additional discussion. Almost all businesses generate paper documents. Those records are important to business operations, and they should be retained as long as necessary.

But paper documents tend to beget more paper – distribution copies, unnecessary printouts, backup copies, etc. The cost to manufacture, transport, and print of all that paper adds up. And an estimated 45% of that paper ends up in the trash at the end of each work day.

Moreover, all that paper takes up an inordinate amount of room, an average of 9 square feet per file cabinet. Hybrid offices typically need less office space than traditional full-time offices, but they still need storage space.

After converting paper documents to digital ones, much of the document storage area can be put to better use. For example, management consultants recommend creating lounge spaces for those invaluable “water cooler moments.” By reducing your storage space, you support hybrid-office creativity and culture without additional real estate costs.

And of course a database of digitized documents allows hybrid staffers to access necessary documents wherever they are working – in the office, at home, or in a co-working space.

Digitization is the perfect complement to your other ESG efforts.  Create a “virtual filing room” and boost your sustainability rating.

 

Photo © Iriana Shiyan / AdobeStock

Return-to-the-Office: Appreciating the Invisible Hand of Operations

Return-to-the-Office: Appreciating the Invisible Hand of Operations

Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is defined as the unseen forces that propel an economy and benefit the larger community. Smith’s invisible hand was self-interested, but there’s a more altruistic invisible hand at work in the business world: The unnoticed heroes of operations.

Just like Adam Smith’s invisible hand, most of us were barely aware of operational systems and the people who manage them. “If you don’t notice us, we’re doing our job properly,” said the manager of a luxury hotel chain. And it’s true – we only notice when something doesn’t work.

In the pandemic before-times, we had many unconscious expectations. We expected the lights and the HVAC to be on. There would be coffee in the break room. Our workspaces would have furniture. Key cards for doors and lockers would function. We’d have ready access to the data we need for our team to work efficiently and effectively.

We rarely thought about how all that operational support came to be. But the pivot to remote work, and now the return-to-the-office wave, has made us far more aware of the functioning of operations behind the scenes. Unsung heroes stepped up with resources to support remote work, and they continue to support it for hybrid offices:

  • Electronic devices and systems
  • Communications and scheduling apps
  • Databases of digitized documents
  • Facilities “smart building” maintenance systems

As we return to the office, full-time or hybrid, let’s take a moment to thank the facilities managers, the practice managers, the IT/IS managers, the HR managers, the office managers who sweated to keep the wheels turning while the rest of us took zoom meetings in our sweats. Hats off to the heroes.

Photo © ASDF / AdobeStock

Return-To-The-Office Etiquette: Can’t Do These Things Any More

Return-To-The-Office Etiquette: Can’t Do These Things Any More

Some of the rules of office etiquette might have been relaxed while we were all working remotely. Now that we’re returning to the office, we’re discovering that we can no longer do some things in the workplace the way we had done in virtual meetings:

  1. Nosy, overbearing, judge-y colleagues can no longer be banished with a click of the Leave Meeting button.
  2. There is no pleasant background screen to cover up the IRL piles of outdated directories, empty candy wrappers, and collection of used coffee cups in someone’s workspace.
  3. There is no Mute button to silence the co-worker who breaks into your workflow with a monologue about his breakfast cereal.
  4. Pajama bottoms do not meet the “business casual” standard at most workplaces.

There are upsides, however. Hundreds of subtle face-to-face social cues were missing from virtual meetings, things like the duration of gaze or the quiet sigh that told us how people really felt. It was hard to tell if your superior was giving you an encouraging smile or laughing at your idea. Now that we’re starting to spend in-person time with colleagues, all that missing information is coming into play to help us communicate and collaborate better.

However, very few people want to return to full-time in-office work. Sorting out the rules of the hybrid workplace requires a good deal of creativity, patience, and empathy – a new kind of etiquette. Melissa Afton of Potential Project recommends that leaders talk AND listen to employees, often and at length, about the return-to-work plan – a kind of managerial etiquette. Two-way communication and flexibility allow everyone to arrive at clarity, so everyone feels good about returning to the office.

Just as important is ensuring that everyone has the tools needed to function politely (and productively) in the hybrid office:

  • An organization-wide scheduling tool isn’t just for productivity; it supports good etiquette by informing people, in a timely manner, about events at which their presence is requested.
  • Document digitization gives information access to all team members whether they’re in-office or at home. A digital document database avoids the problem of one team member taking paper documents home, when the entire team needs to work on them – a huge breach of hybrid-office etiquette. No one wants to come in to the office for a meeting, only to find that essential paperwork isn’t available.

It is said that etiquette exists to make others comfortable. Working with other people, whether they are nosy, messy, or questionably dressed, requires a willingness to do our best to create enough comfort for work to happen. Good communication and the right tools will go a long way to establishing the new hybrid-workplace etiquette.

Photo © Pixel-Shot / AdobeStock

Practicing Lean? How RFID Fits Into a Good Process

Practicing Lean? How RFID Fits Into a Good Process

Whether you’re managing life sciences research, product manufacturing, or a professional-services practice, process is at the heart of any successful business operation.

Waste and inefficiency inevitably lead to a downward spiral in profits, as proponents of Lean and Six Sigma have said for years. Some experts cite studies showing:

  • Teams spend almost 30% of their time on finding data and doing menial tasks rather than conducting analysis.
  • 64% of a sales rep’s counted hours are spent doing things that don’t contribute to the company’s bottom line.
  • 50% of companies also spend between $5 to $25 on manually processed invoices.

Improving processes is one of the keys to enhanced earnings. Writing in Industry Week, Jason Piatt outlines 6 criteria that go into a “good” process – one that improves operations, productivity, and throughput. Not surprisingly, RFID fits into each of these six criteria:

  1. A good process should be simple, to avoid opportunities for error. RFID tags and doorway or handheld RFID readers provide easy and error-free tracking and inventories.
  2. A good process should be robust, ready to handle unexpected environmental or emergency situations. RFID tags withstand extreme temperatures and can assist in emergency locational tracking of products and personnel.
  3. A good process should be documented to maintain accuracy and information integrity. RFID systems output periodic reports providing confirmation of other system’s documentation, such as ERP and MISys.
  4. A good process should be controlled so activities are repetitive and identical. RFID systems can be polled on a set schedule, conducted the same way every time, so areas of improvement can be identified.
  5. A good process should be communicated among all parties up and down the line. RFID’s data can easily be shared among other systems and reported to stakeholders, adding transparency and accountability to the process.
  6. A good process is error-proofed, with safeguards for novice-user mistakes. Because an RFID system is simple to use, it protects against the errors typically found in manual inventories and tracking.

Process is not merely a step-by-step series of activities. It is a deliberately designed sequence leading to delivery. A good process is flexible and test-able. It builds on test results to yield continuous improvements. Incorporate RFID into your operational process and move toward a good process.

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Time Sensitive? Put the Pressure on Tech, Not Staff

Time Sensitive? Put the Pressure on Tech, Not Staff

The strange thing about our twenty-first century digital life: All our technology was supposed to give us more time – more leisure time, more family time, more creative time. Instead we’re exhausted, feeling pressured to deliver everything instantaneously.

We might call this the Amazon effect – the expectation of instant delivery. “Waiting is weakness,” says author Juliet Funt, reporting on the prevailing attitude in the workplace. In a discussion of what she calls “hallucinated urgency,” the never-ending need for speed causes us to race from one emergency to the next, constantly interrupted, never focusing deeply, and never doing our best work. It’s a feedback loop that guarantees burnout and failure.

Unless you work in an emergency room, this sense of constant urgency is an illusion, according to Funt. Technology can in fact give you more time if you use it to support the three assets everyone brings to the workplace: time, energy, and priorities. Some people swear by Google Calendar to keep daily “rinse and repeat” tasks from taking up mental space. Those who know the dangers of multi-tasking (reduced productivity and quality of work) use Zapier Chrome Extension to collect inbound information for later review.

Whatever organizational software you choose, experts recommend apps that minimize interruptions and contextual shifts. And managers should take a hard look at what tasks are truly urgent. An in-app completion-time/date will help everyone prioritize, as well as making your expectations more specific than “ASAP.”

However, there are times when information is needed urgently. Tech will deliver here, too. A prime technology for fast information delivery is digitization: converting paper documents to digital format. If your documents are digitized and someone has a time-sensitive need for information, staff can execute requests with electronic speed, without diverting much energy or rearranging priorities. Digitized documents are:

  • Searchable on keywords
  • Space-saving, reducing physical filing space
  • Secure, unlike paper which is susceptible to loss or damage
  • Accessible to remote staffers as well as in-house personnel

Recent studies show that productivity is higher in WFH and hybrid office settings, compared to traditional offices. However, some managers worry that productivity increases are the result of employees working extra hours. Like hallucinated urgency, overwork is a recipe for burnout. With proper training on organizational apps, supported by a database of digitized documents, you can use tech to manage time, set boundaries, and promote a healthy work/life balance. Make tech work for you, rather than letting it be the boss of you.

Photo © alphaspirit / AdobeStock