More than 45 years ago, an RFID prototype was patented by U.S. engineer and inventor Mario Cardullo, and the new technology began changing the way businesses managed and secured their physical assets. Today RFID is widespread in organizations as diverse as hospitals and mining operations, film studios and retail stores. Now these RFID-enabled companies are asking, “Can my RFID system do more than manage inventory or security?”
Yes, it can. RFID can benefit almost every facet of your business, and if you already have RFID for inventory management, you can find options for applying it in other areas, including:
- Document management
- Tools and supplies management
- Furnishings and equipment management
- Patient record management
- Pharmaceutical dispensary management
- Equipment maintenance schedules
- Product out-of-date schedules
And many more.
Location capability is one of the popular add-ons which RFID users are bolting on to their existing systems. RFID technology excels at “what” (identification) and “how many” (counting). But it also shines as a “where” tool to report on the location of tagged items.
One retailer was successfully using RFID to identify and count their warehouse inventory. When they began offering buy-online pickup-in-store (BOPIS) in their storefront operations, their store associates could not locate in-store inventory quickly enough to meet customers’ pickup deadlines. Working with their RFID provider, the retailer identified a handheld RFID reader that scans shelves directionally, and quickly leads a store employee straight to the searched-for item.
Now the retailer meets its pickup deadlines easily, meeting its customers’ expectations every time. It’s a win for everyone.
Retail isn’t the only sector that benefits from RFID’s location capabilities. Knowing exactly where your employees are makes processes more efficient and improves worker safety. Knowing exactly where to find the right medication improves patient outcomes. Knowing exactly where components are in assembly lines keeps production on track. And those are just a few examples.
Do you already have RFID technology in your operations? Talk to an RFID consultant about ways to make your RFID system work even harder. Your ROI in RFID will increase even more.
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For some time, we’ve been talking about the extra office space which businesses find they have after digitizing their paper documents. Digitization reduces document storage needs dramatically, at a rate of 9 square feet for each filing cabinet eliminated. That can add up pretty quickly to some real space savings that goes straight to your bottom line.
But what if your business can’t just hand back the excess space? Maybe your lease isn’t ending for some time. Maybe your building’s interior configuration doesn’t allow for easy reassignment to another tenant. What will you do with the extra space that you’re already paying for?
And if you add hybrid-workplace space savings into the equation, you may find you have even more unused space. Digitization supports hybrid operations by making digital documents securely accessible to off-site staff. A sizeable number of hybrid offices are empty on Fridays or Mondays; everyone is working from home, with access to digital document files. Again, what happens to all that unused space?
Here’s a proposal: Offer it to a community nonprofit. Chronically underfunded local and regional nonprofits need meeting places for volunteer training and activities. Their boards need a conference room. Their clients need a safe place to meet with volunteers.
If you’re working on a hybrid schedule, it’s easy to know when your conference room is available to a nonprofit. Even if you’re full-time in-office, the space your filing cabinets used to occupy can be put to good use as a volunteer meeting area after business hours or on weekends.
It’s a win for everyone. The nonprofit’s volunteers have a safe and professional meeting place. Your staff is likely to follow your lead in supporting community organizations. Your brand is reinforced by public participation in community life. And your budget potentially gets a nice boost in the form of a tax deduction. It’s one of those rare opportunities with no downside for anyone.
And in case you’re worried about having outsiders in your workplace, remember that digitizing your documents adds a level of security that you can’t get with paper documents. It protects them from prying eyes, and from falling into the wrong hands.
So bring those nonprofits into your extra office space, and make the world a better place!
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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.
- 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.
- Fewer trips to the office equals fewer commuting miles per week.
- Smart buildings’ reduced energy use results in less emission-producing energy generation.
- 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.
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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.
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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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) recently surveyed a large sample of its life sciences member companies to find out about their return-to-work plans. As the study’s authors point out, life sciences is a significant employer; when choices are made about the workplace, they have far-reaching implications for the greater community.
Transportation, housing, and family life are all affected by workplace location, as we witnessed during the rushed transition to remote work in 2020. Now that offices are reopening for in-person work, most employees are resisting a return to the full-time in-office workstyle of the “Before” times.
MassBio’s survey found that an astonishing 97% of its life sciences members are implementing a hybrid model for the long term. This embrace of the hybrid workplace is a response to employee preference, yielding benefits in employee retention, productivity, and lower overhead. It’s a win for the community too, as commutes are reduced, housing needs stabilize, and a positive work/life balance is preserved.
But how are these businesses shaping their hybrid workplace models? According to MassBio, life sciences managers say the number of days working on-site will depend very much on the individual’s role. But a McKinsey study counsels managers to consider more than just the number of days per week on-site. Managers should also ask:
- How will meetings work best?
- How will you balance mentorship and experience between in-office workers and at-home workers?
- What are the in-person collaboration needs of a team working on the same project?
- How will you demonstrate the equal value of in-office and hybrid workers?
As pointed out by the McKinsey study, the hybrid model is evolving rapidly. It will take a number of years to mature, and it will be different for each organization.
But one thing that will remain the same for every life sciences business: the need for technology that supports the hybrid model. In every life sciences endeavor, the free flow of data is essential. Paper-based data is challenging to share; a database of digitized documents lets collaborators access information quickly and securely. Imaging, or digitization, eliminates the risk of paper documents being lost between office and home, or falling into the wrong hands.
As your enterprise makes the shift to a hybrid workplace, ask yourself the questions above, and add another question: Is your document technology ready for the change?
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