Speed is the name of the game when it comes to inventory and asset management, and RFID delivers the data faster than any other technology.
RFID is everywhere. Those plastic tags you’ve seen in retail stores; the small square metallic stickers on packaged goods; even your pet’s ID chip – those are all RFID tags. They store information about the item they’re attached to, and they deliver that information to an RFID reader’s screen.
Don’t bar codes manage information the same way? Not exactly. The key difference is in the way an RFID tag communicates with the reader. Bar code readers must “see” each bar code to collect the data. There has to be a clear sight line between the bar code and the reader. RFID readers, in contrast, don’t “see” the tag. They “hear” it, via radio waves sent by the tag. RF = radio frequency, ID = identification.
RFID readers can “hear” the signals from all the RFID tags in an area, all at the same time. Bar code readers, because they rely on “seeing,” can record only one bar code at a time. This video shows a bar code reader and an RFID reader in a head-to-head race.
Spoiler alert: The bar code reader is not going to be invited to the Kentucky Derby.
RFID technology has an application for every business sector.
Every business has a need for speed, because time is money. The less time it takes to collect information about assets, the more time you have to spend on your organization’s primary mission. RFID streamlines your workflow, improves inventory accountability, and monitors assets. Turbocharge your business with RFID.
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.
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:
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?
From finance to banking to healthcare to day care, industry regulatory compliance is part of the business of doing business. Part of compliance – a big part – is records management, and many of those records are in paper form. Paper has a long and noble history, but it is a very labor-intensive medium, especially when a compliance audit demands supporting documents for your operations. If your paper documents haven’t been converted into searchable e-documents by a document conversion expert, your mission-related productivity will suffer while your team rummages through files.
OCR adds searchability
Locating a specific piece of information, even if a document has been scanned and filed in an electronic archive, is an arduous and time-consuming task unless the document was scanned via OCR (optical character reader) software. A standard PDF conversion is not readily searchable; to make a PDF searchable, it must be re-scanned through OCR software. Often the OCR software must be custom-formatted to understand certain areas within the document (account numbers, signatures, etc.), a task requiring expertise that may not be part of an in-house administrator’s skill set.
Metadata categorizes and adds history
Auditors may also inquire about a document’s origins: when a document was created, who created it, who scanned it and when, what kind of document it is, and whether it has any related documents or transactions. Tracking down a document’s history is quite time-consuming if there is no metadata. Most documents created on a computer have at least some form of metadata tags (date, file type, and creator, at a minimum), but scanned documents have almost no metadata tags. Metadata tagging can be speeded up through automation, but like OCR scanning, expert customization is needed to make the automation effective and accurate.
Clearly, in any regulated business, it makes good sense to build a searchable, categorized document database that supports compliance. But it’s complicated. And a less-than-expertly created database is unreliable, and often unnecessarily expensive. Follow the advice of Inc. Magazine to find a skilled, experienced vendor to take your enterprise through the document conversion process:
Talk to a vendor’s former employees
Talk to a vendor’s customers who have provided testimonials
Look at employee reviews
Think like a journalist doing investigative research
With a well-designed and compliant digital document database in place, you can spend your time making your business productive and profitable.
We all got the memo about the value of big data. Digital consolidation makes an organization’s masses of information more useful, and more available, than having silos of electronic files and archived paper documents. Big data promises to let you find all the documents related to a legal case with one click on your keyboard, or compare patient outcomes with one query, or determine exactly why a product is selling well in Peoria – fast, easy answers that make our businesses more productive and more profitable.
The promise is proving to be true in many ways. However, the raw data often arrives via multiple channels ranging from paper documents to emails to websites. The quantity of data trying to enter the data capture funnel is threatening to overwhelm the people who have the task of inputting and harnessing the data.
Without input automation, data capture is very labor intensive. One example: The New York Times reports that physicians are spending more than 50% of their time entering data into electronic medical records (EMR’s). There’s no question that EMR’s are a vital part of healthcare management. Nevertheless, data entry is not the most productive use of doctors’ time.
John Mancini, president and CEO of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) recommends automating as much of the data input as possible, using intelligent technology that can handle data from any source, in any format. He lists the five steps to streamlining the movement of data from its origin through to the knowledge workers downstream.
Ingestion – be prepared for data arriving from many sources
Extraction – use multiple extraction techniques to get the greatest amount of data
Classification – identify the type of data and direct it toward the end users
Validation – check the data against standards and/or other validated data
Connection – make the data accessible to the systems and knowledge workers who need it to make the business run better
Document conversion is a big part of data capture. When data exists only on paper, it is isolated from the big-data system. It is invisible to end users who don’t know it exists. As an informational asset, it has very little value.
But once a document is ingested and converted into a digital format, intelligent data can be extracted from it. It suddenly gains value, as knowledge workers apply the data in making better business decisions. It becomes a true business asset.
A properly planned and executed document conversion project automates much of the ingestion process, eliminating the labor-intensive bottleneck that so often stymies organizations’ efforts to reap the benefits of big data. Bottlenecks are bad enough on city streets; why have them in your business?
Information is the foundation of the practice of law. The vast accumulated history of law transactions is what gives legal services its value. Applying all that information is what lawyers do. Managing the information falls on the shoulders of law librarians, often the unsung heroes of law practices.
That lack of recognition is beginning to change, however. Some firms feel their librarians’ work is so important that they have created a C-level position for it: Chief Knowledge Officer. And with enormous responsibility come equally large challenges. Beyond managing the current physical and electronic contents of a firm’s library, a CKO must consider the firm’s future information needs, forecasting how the firm’s strategic plan is going to shape the library’s contents.
This in turn influences the library’s spatial needs, and a CKO is fundamentally involved in analyzing space usage now and in the future. A library’s spatial needs presents unique challenges:
Organizing/Categorizing – Is the practice’s library organized into cases, codes, and comments, or is it organized by category, perhaps on different floors: family law, intellectual property law, trusts? Organization dictates the quantity and arrangement of shelving and filing, and a mobile high-density shelving system will maximize capacity and reduce the storage footprint.
Archiving– Librarians have a strong hoarding tendency, and law librarians are no exception. Case documents need a home for years to come, and may need to be accessed again in the future. How large, and how quickly, an archive will grow over time determines the amount of storage that will be needed down the road. An expandable storage system gives librarians the flexibility to respond to both anticipated and unexpected archiving needs.
Tracking – Paper documents have a way of migrating from desk to desk, and disappearing under stacks of other paper documents. When there are potentially hundreds of documents comprising a single case, it’s vital to know the whereabouts of each document. CKO’s can take a page from the retail and warehouse world, where automated inventory systems use RFID to enumerate and track assets. Specialized paper with embedded RFID fibers, and RFID tags for books and files, enable librarians to know how many documents they have, and where they are at any time.
Scanning – Despite the demand for hard copies in the legal profession, e-documents are a burgeoning part of the CKO’s responsibility. A Hybrid Tracking/Content Management system allows library staff to create digital content from scanning projects, on an ad hoc or even an as-needed basis. For very active filing systems, back file scanning conversions let firms quickly and cost-effectively scan significant amounts of paper files. A Hybrid Tracking/Content Management solution then allows the introduction of scanned files directly back to the system that managed them in physical form. And with e-documents come physical media storage needs – drives and tapes must be stored and tracked just like paper. As with paper documents, a mobile shelving system allows for expanded storage capacity within a restricted footprint.
CKO’s and their staff have a lot of information to sift through, organize and manage. Just in 2015 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), over 350,000 cases were filed in U.S. Federal courts alone. When it’s time to consider a space plan, CKO’s don’t have the bandwidth to add storage products to their research tasks. They can hand off that work to a qualified storage consultant who will make recommendations suited to the law firm’s one-of-a-kind space utilization needs.