Workplace amenities used to be associated with tech start-ups – meals, game rooms, and bring-your-dog-to-work were some of the popular perks that kept tech workers in the office. Why go home when everything you want is there? Today’s newer office buildings are taking a page from the tech world, offering an array of amenities like gyms, concierge services, and lounges.
It’s all part of tenants’ commitment to hybrid offices, a staffing retain-and-return game plan for many companies. Survey after survey shows the same results: Employees do not want to go back to full-time in-office operations. And employers are discovering that the hybrid workstyle has benefits that they don’t want to give up, including greater productivity, lower real estate costs, and happy employees.
Employees are willing to trade space for the hybrid workstyle. More than half of law firm employees recently surveyed said they would trade assigned seating/offices for greater flexibility. That’s good news for employers, who can reduce their office footprint when they don’t have to find space for all their staff each and every day.
The amenities offered by first-class office buildings aren’t free, of course, and a prudent practice manager or facilities manager will try to balance that extra cost by reducing the amount of space in a new lease. The same law firm survey showed the average square feet per attorney has decreased from 760 s.f. to 625 s.f., and other industry sectors are making similar reductions.
But reducing personnel space can only go so far. For many professional practices, paper documents take up an outsize proportion of the office footprint. High density storage systems help reduce the space needed for document storage. Digitization goes even further.
Just one filing cabinet takes up 9 square feet, at an average real estate cost of $540 per year (and that’s before factoring in the higher price of amenity-rich buildings). Document conversion eliminates the need for that space, and the cost associated with it.
Digitization lets you have your cake (or gym or lounge) and eat it too. When employers can offer appealing amenities to encourage staff to return to the office, without increasing their real estate costs, it’s a win for everyone.
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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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A 600-bed hospital managed by the Mayo Clinic was among the first to calculate and publish the results of an ROI analysis of RFID in a healthcare setting. The final number was impressive: 327% ROI over the first three years, with break-even at less than a year.
But maybe your organization isn’t in the healthcare business. You manage a professional services company, a manufacturing business, a museum, or a retail store. How do you calculate RFID’s ROI when your operations are quite different from a hospital’s operations?
ROI calculations, at their most fundamental, start with questions.
- What items are vital to your operations? Answer very specifically (e.g. “33 laptop computers with 16 gb of storage,” rather than “computers”). These items can be operational elements, or manufactured products, or a combination.
- Visibility: How many times per day/week/month does an item go missing? How often are you short on supplies?
- Intrinsic value: What does the loss of an item cost – not just the hard cost, but the cost of intangible added value? Artwork or data are examples.
- Management costs: What is the cost of periodic inventories or audits to maintain operations?
- Ancillary costs: How much income is lost due to down time when an item is missing or lost, or supplies run low? Are there costs associated with regulatory fines for lost items? How do inaccurate inventories in one department impact other departments’ finances?
With these numbers in hand, calculate two cost scenarios. One scenario is for existing conditions. The other includes the potential improvement to visibility provided by RFID. Most RFID users see visibility (loss) improvements of 60% or better.
But to truly calculate ROI, we have to project the potential savings over an extended period, usually 3 to 5 years. The Net Present Value (NPV) formula gives the most realistic ROI projections for RFID. The NPV formula shows whether the benefits outweigh the costs.
If you manage finances for your organization, you’re familiar with NPV. If you work in a less math-intensive department, you might find an NPV calculator useful. Either way, the answer will give you a strong indication of the wisdom of an investment in RFID. We’re quite confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome!
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No one wants their place of business to look like an episode of the television show “Hoarders.” However, the practice of managing records can reinforce tendencies to hold on to any and all documents. “You never know; we might need them some day.” By their very nature, many professions look to past events in order to determine relationships in the present and the future. Precedent is everything. And precedent relies on records, many of them on paper.
Lately, firms have been accelerating their transformation from paper-based to digital practices – electronic files, digital workflows, and online applications. They are working hard to reduce the amount of paper in their offices. But mass quantities of physical documents are still stored offsite.
And those archived paper records create unnecessary costs, in terms of time and storage space.
- How much time is required to search for documents in off-site storage?
- How much time is required to visually review and research the information in those documents?
- What percentage of overhead is spent on off-site storage?
When those stored documents are digitized, they become instantly searchable – no more digging through boxes and poring over multiple pages. And instead of taking up many bulky boxes, five million digitized pages fit on one small external hard drive.
This is not to say that every document should be imaged. Properly managed, the document conversion process includes a thorough document assessment. Certain documents should be retained as paper. Some should be scanned, then shredded. Still others don’t have enough value to warrant the cost of digitizing.
An assessment of stored documents lets records managers determine which documents should be digitized and which should be destroyed. Even digitized documents may be destroyed once their digital versions have been confirmed and backed up. The goal is to store paper versions of only those few documents that must be kept in their original medium.
It’s tempting to just hang on to every piece of paper that comes through the office, but a business full of hoarders is a really inefficient operation. Records managers that pride themselves on efficiency will find additional efficiencies when they digitize many of their stored documents.
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Businesses pay high prices for marketing data. Mailing lists, for example, cost anywhere from $3 to more than $1000 per thousand. List provider Click2Mail starts their pricing for a consumer list at $33.66 CPM (cost per thousand). If you want a tightly targeted list, and you want to use it more than once, the price only goes up.
Yet many organizations have a ready-made source of marketing data in their client files – if they have imaged their documents.
A couple of examples:
1. Marketing data for external sales: A large law firm provided services in multiple specialties, including intellectual property (IP), family law, and estate law. The firm’s IP clients were becoming wealthy thanks to the efforts of their attorneys. Other clients had successfully adopted children through the work of their family law attorneys. Both groups of clients needed estate services to organize their wills and trusts for the benefit of their dependents.
But the estate lawyers didn’t know these clients needed their services. Busy attorneys don’t have time to extract marketing intel from client files.
Then the law firm imaged their client files, creating a searchable, sortable database. The firm’s marketing manager can now query the client database for existing clients that fit the profile for estate services. The firm can serve their clients better and generate additional revenues – a win for everyone.
2. Marketing data for internal sales: A major corporation established a business travel and commuting office for its employees. This office was tasked with assisting employees in making reservations, finding the best travel value for the dollar, and distributing reimbursement for certain commuting modes. Management’s expectation was that the travel office should deliver a quick ROI in order to justify its existence.
Prior to imaging the accounting department’s travel reimbursement forms, the travel office had to examine the individual paper forms to determine employees’ travel and commuting habits – an error-prone and time-consuming process. Now the travel office pulls internal marketing lists from the imaged reimbursement forms, with electronic speed. They can target specific groups of employees to alert them to travel savings that dovetail with customer locations, and they can keep commuters up to date on opportunities like new bus routes and carpools.
is the business principle that every employee encounters chances to sell their company’s products or services. It’s a low-cost way of bringing in more business. Your client data can sell too, if it’s not locked up on paper. A database of imaged documents will provide actionable marketing intel, without the high price of outsourced marketing data.
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RFID began as an inventory management tool, but now it interfaces with every part of an organization. Today there’s an RFID application that will make your operations more efficient, more productive, and more profitable, no matter what your business is.
RFID’s digital records replaced pen-and-paper recordkeeping. As Jeff Schmitz writes in Forbes, RFID began by tracking the location and number of tangible items in a company’s inventory. Its speedy information delivery gave businesses a greater degree of agility in managing the flow of goods.
Then operations managers began to realize that RFID could transform from an inventory monitor to an enterprise-wide information system. An RFID-based “enterprise intelligence” system provides real-time or near-real-time updates on:
- Levels of supplies
- Work in progress
- Staff location
- Equipment condition
In addition to inventory reports, of course.
RFID is even integrated into automated manufacturing, connecting manufacturing execution systems (MES) to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and the production floor.
But RFID doesn’t stop with manufacturing and warehousing. Service industries too are benefiting from the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of an RFID intelligence system. Just a few of the service sectors making use of RFID:
- Transportation, Logistics and Postal Services– Have you received a notification of a package delivery or updates on a shipment? These service companies use an RFID-to-customer-order interface to keep recipients informed.
- Law Firms and Libraries– RFID doorway readers monitor the movements of paper documents embedded or tagged with RFID. One-of-a-kind documents are no longer at risk of being lost or misplaced.
- Healthcare– Medical equipment, medications, and staff can be located without delay,
- IT– Equipment in system control rooms and server vaults is tracked to eliminate loss or theft. Company-owned electronic devices (tablets, laptops) assigned to staff are tracked throughout company facilities, and as they leave and return to the building.
The bottom line: Practically every type of business has a need for RFID in many parts of its operations. But as Schmitz points out, “There is no such thing as a standard implementation strategy for RFID, and there is no single ‘best’ RFID solution for all organizations — or even for a particular industry.” An experienced RFID integrator can develop a custom solution for your unique business, and you can begin accruing the benefits of expanded digitalization.
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