The benefits of digital asset management (DAM), including RFID, are a hot topic these days. RFID applications are available for any sort of business. But owners and managers of organizations in the service sectors, from finance and law to healthcare and education, may think RFID is just an inventory tool for the retail and logistics sectors.
If you think your enterprise couldn’t benefit from RFID, think again.
- 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 keep tabs on the location of these peripatetic 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 document listing the assigned value of each item currently in the facility, making financial reporting quicker and simpler. What is 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 RFID-managed 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 an office. 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. You’ll instantly collect data on all the capital assets the room contains; no need to look through cabinets and underneath furniture to read bar code IDs. RFID is a timesaver, and like its other benefits, that translates into money.
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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The IRS is acting like Oprah, and small businesses across the U.S. are benefiting. Thanks to Section 179, the IRS is handing out a $1,000,000 deduction to every small business that puts qualifying equipment and/or software into use before the end of the year. Rather than depreciating equipment over the course of several years, Section 179 allows businesses to deduct the full price of equipment in Year 1, up to $1,000,000. That’s an enormous tax benefit.
And it gets better: Even if you finance the equipment rather than paying for it up front, you still qualify for the deduction. Leases as well as purchases are included in this rule. You don’t have to hand over a pile of cash in order to reap the Sec. 179 benefit.
Almost any tangible business-related product qualifies for the deduction, including:
- Equipment purchased for business use
- Computers and off-the-shelf software
- Data hardware (essential for imaged-document storage and access)
- Office furnishings and fixtures, including high density mobile storage and lockers
- Office equipment
- Certain business vehicles, including fork lifts and 9-passenger vans
- Property attached to your building that is not part of the building structure (casework and industrial shelving, for example)
- Tangible personal property used in the business, or equipment with a partial business use
- Some improvements to existing business-only buildings, including security systems, HVAC, and roofing
There’s one small but essential thing to remember: The new equipment must be placed into service by December 31.
With only a few weeks left in the year, that deadline may seem like an insurmountable scheduling problem. Luckily, many business-equipment vendors offer quick-ship programs for their clients who want to take advantage of the Sec. 179 deduction. If you’re planning an equipment acquisition in the first quarter of next year, why not buy it now, put it into use before the end of this year, and get the money the IRS put under your seat?
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Coworking space is a hot topic in commercial real estate. Companies like WeWork and Regus continue to lease more and more office space for the temporary use of their subscribing members. Even the GSA is looking at coworking space as a way to meet some of its space needs. However, coworking spaces can create process challenges for distributed teams and their managers. Imaging is the solution.
Statistics compiled by real estate service company JLL show the proliferation of coworking space, particularly in the past two years. The benefits of coworking office space are well-documented: few or no build-out costs, no long-term lease, tax benefits, and simplified telework. From a facilities management standpoint, coworking office space is an ideal solution to the need for temporary space.
For the occupants, too, the quality of coworking space has improved considerably since the early days when complaints about privacy and noise were common. Many coworking space providers are now reconfiguring their spaces to offer privacy pods and noise abatement.
One problem most coworking spaces can’t solve is document storage and information accessibility. Coworking offices are in the business of offering working space, not paper-document storage space. Document-dependent organizations struggle with their work processes if their teams are distributed in several widespread co-working spaces, without access to the paper documents they need.
Fortunately, there’s a solution for that: Imaging. Converting paper documents to digital documents makes those documents shareable. Distributed teams can have full access to all the information they need. Further, the converted documents are even easier to use than paper documents, since the conversion process makes them searchable – a key word or phrase can be delivered with electronic speed.
Converted documents offer a level of security and safety that paper documents can’t match, especially in a coworking environment where outsiders might have unauthorized access to confidential papers. With a database of imaged documents, managers can ensure information integrity by setting access permissions and tracking document usage.
Judging from the results of JLL’s study, coworking is going to be a significant part of many organizations’ real estate choices. If your enterprise is considering adding coworking spaces to your real estate mix, now is the time to put an imaging plan into action and add speed, security, and information accessibility to the other benefits of coworking.
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Congratulations to the honorees of Fast Company’s 2019 Innovation by Design Awards for retail environments. These companies are recognized for their forward-thinking designs that serve markets better and offer more productivity and profitability to their owners. From our perspective as space utilization and information management experts, two businesses in Fast Company’s 2019 class stand out for ingenious uses of commercial space and data technology:
The co-working company Spacious is built on an inventive model that takes freelancers out of their overcrowded daytime “Starbucks office” and places them in restaurants that are closed during the day, open only for dinner. These restaurants are climate-controlled, and the lights are on for the day prep crew, but the dining areas are completely empty until late afternoon; in essense, the restaurants are paying for underutilized space. Restaurants team up with Spacious to provide co-working space in the unused dining rooms, and the Spacious on-site team provides power points, wifi hookups, and user assistance. With memberships set at an affordable $95 per month, which Spacious splits with the restaurants, it’s a win for everyone.
This is the kind of maximized space utilization that NOS encourages with our document conversion services and high-density storage systems. Big thumbs-up to Spacious!
Walmart has been a pioneer in retail technology for many years. An early adopter of supply-chain RFID, Walmart recently installed a pilot program of retail AI in the form of an Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL) in one of its highest-demand locations. Sensors and cameras send information to a room-size data center, which in turn generates alerts to maintain the in-store inventory. Availability of products, freshness of produce, even the number of empty grocery carts in the parking lot, all is monitored by the IRL rather than by store associates. Staff are freed up to focus on face-to-face interactions with customers. Productivity goes up, and the cost of outdated inventory and lost sales goes down.
We strongly advocate the use of asset management technology. RFID and bar coding are proven information management systems with a positive impact on profits. Well done, Walmart!
Good design isn’t just an aesthetically-pleasing façade; it contributes to the success of a business, and enriches the community in which that business operates. Our highest compliments to these enterprises for their outstanding designs!
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Every facilities management professional has a vast number of physical assets under his or her purview, from furniture and art, to tools and materials. Maintaining an inventory of all these assets is a labor-intensive, error-prone task if each individual item has to be physically located and manually counted. Bar coding has long been used as way to speed up inventories, and RFID technology is becoming ever more common as an FM asset management tool. Which technology is the right one for your facility?
John Rimer, writing in FacilitiesNet.com, outlines 7 steps to choosing the best technology for facilities management, including asset management systems. His recommendations:
- Identify the stakeholders– senior management, human resources, finance, and end users – and determine the impact the asset management technology will have on their work. Ideally, everyone will benefit from the new technology.
- Examine the workflow for your facility’s asset management, and look for problem areas. Are there duplications of effort? Inaccuracies? Incomplete communications? Safety issues? Then define your target workflow, one that asset management technology can help to achieve.
- Develop system requirements that fit the target workflow needs. If your assets are primarily large and easy to access, like furniture or file folders, a bar code system could be the solution. If your organization has many assets in warehouses, or a large quantity of small items, a combination of handheld and doorway-mounted RFID readers may be the right fit.
- Research potential providers by talking to colleagues, attending industry conferences, and talking to third-party experts. Set specifications for your ideal vendor – areas of expertise, years in business, product lines, etc. – and create a short list of vendors who fit your requirements.
- Solicit proposals from the vendors on your short list, including your goals for the technology, and a detailed scope of work. Remember: the lowest bid isn’t always the best bid, and a bargain price may be masking a lack of functionality or robustness.
- Interview top candidates and give them a “script” of several tasks which their technology should be able to solve. Then observe a demo of their solution for these tasks, looking particularly for ease of use, flexibility, and intuitiveness.
- Negotiate the contract with the successful candidate, and work with them to develop an implementation plan.
Keep in mind that the system you choose, whether it’s RFID or bar code or a combination of both, should be able to grow with your organization into the future.
Your FM operation is unique. The ideal asset management technology vendor will be willing to consult with you to determine the best system for your workflow needs and the stakeholders’ goals, prior to any sale. Choose a vendor who can customize the technology to fit your unique needs, one who will stand by you, and stand behind their products, for the long term.
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You’ve worked hard to make your offices attractive to millennials – open sight lines, “water cooler” collaborative centers, glass-box conference rooms, and hot-desking. Now Gen Z is about to move into the business world in large numbers. Will the wide-open constant-collaboration millennial style help to recruit and retain the top Gen Z employees?
Gen Z-ers are accustomed to living online – learning, socializing, shopping, communicating with parents. They are team players, but their teams rarely have face-to-face conversations. In BizNow.com, HOK’s Director of Workplace Practice Kay Sargent states that these new workers are overloaded with information. To function at their best, their work environment should be visually uncluttered and should be structured for working individually as well as collaboratively.
The shift toward balancing collaborative spaces with individual workspaces has already begun in some offices where staff were frustrated with the distractions of their open office plans. That’s good news for Gen Z, but bad news for business owners and facilities managers. Open office plans require less square footage per employee compared to traditional office designs, and increasing the number of individual workspaces also increases real estate costs. That’s not a welcome prospect.
However, there are several steps office and facilities managers can take now to prepare their workplace designs for the coming influx of Gen Z workers, and simultaneously keep their real estate costs stable.
- Use modular casework to increase spatial flexibility. These “building blocks” of high-quality cabinetry can be re-configured and re-used when open spaces are changed to enclosed spaces, lowering build-out costs while increasing sustainability ratings – something Gen Z appreciates.
- Add high-density mobile shelving systems for files, media, and inventory. These space-saving storage systems reduce storage area by 50%, creating the extra room needed for individual workspaces without expanding the existing footprint.
- Plan and execute a comprehensive document conversion program. Although we live in a digital age, paper documents still seem to accumulate in the workplace and take up valuable (and expensive) space. Creating digital versions of documents preserves the information and makes it accessible to tech-savvy Gen Z staff while freeing up useful work space.
Age diversity is standard now in the 21stcentury, with Baby Boomers to Gen Z-ers each bringing their unique perspectives to the workplace. Organizations stand to gain greatly from the combination of wise experience and youthful new ways of thinking, and the cost savings of efficient storage systems make it possible and practical to accommodate everyone.
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