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RFID: Keep Your Reusable Containers Coming Back for More

RFID: Keep Your Reusable Containers Coming Back for More

Whether your enterprise uses bins, pallets, racks, crates, drums, or shipping containers, you know there are sound economic reasons for investing in reusable containers. Reusable containers are far more economical than disposable ones over their useful lifetime. They are tangible assets, just like manufacturing equipment or raw materials. Unfortunately, the reusable containers of many businesses go missing in the supply chain, at quite a cost.

By definition, tangible assets of all kinds are reusable, with a usable-life calculation that includes depreciation, future replacement cost, maintenance and safety costs, and salvage value. When an asset goes missing, you’re losing money beyond the initial cost. You’re also losing the value of the full depreciation as well as paying for the cost of replacement. Your finances may have been based on replacement costs over a number of months or years, and suddenly you’re paying out significant sums to replace assets prematurely.

Losing reusable containers before they have reached the end of their useful life has a direct negative impact on your business’s finances. The Automotive Industry Action Group ( estimated the cost of replacing missing reusable containers at $750 million annually, in U.S. auto manufacturing alone. Plastic pallet theft costs businesses approximately $500 million a year.

It pays to keep track of your reusable containers.

But manually tracking reusable containers can cost your operations even more money. Manual tracking – paper logs, checking out and checking back in, tracking missing items through all possible locations – is labor-intensive and error-prone.

RFID is the technology solution that more and more enterprises are using to manage their reusable containers. Once considered economically viable only for large operations, today’s RFID systems are cost-effective for the majority of small businesses. The cost of RFID tags has dropped, but additionally, researchers have found that inexpensive single-use tags can in fact be reused multiple times, just like the reusable containers they’re affixed to. A pilot study showed that RFID-tagged reusable agricultural containers could repeatedly travel from orchard to retailer and back again, over 1,000 miles, without tag or data loss.

Moreover, each tag’s unique identifier can be associated with information about the container’s contents. Beyond tracking the reusable container itself, the contents can be identified and tracked – beneficial data for quality assurance, compliance, and customer satisfaction, automatically delivered in the RFID system’s reports.

RFID will make sure your business doesn’t “pay the freight” for the cost of missing reusable containers. An RFID consultant can help you build a customized solution to keep track of these valuable business assets.


Photo © Svitlana / AdobeStock

RFID-Assisted Sustainability for Today and Tomorrow

RFID-Assisted Sustainability for Today and Tomorrow

Today’s green initiatives of Re-use, Repurpose, Recycle were introduced in the first Earth Day fifty-one years ago. Since then, the concept of sustainability has become part of business decisions large and small, ranging from break room beverage containers to energy sources for operations. Today we’ve become better at finding sustainable solutions, but there’s still room for tomorrow’s improvement.

One way to boost sustainability is with RFID. At the core of RFID is its ability to identify items and track their point-to-point movements. Moreover, that identity and movement data is available in real time, and it’s highly reliable.

Here are two RFID-assisted sustainability solutions, one for today, and one for tomorrow:

  • Today – In 2019, researchers learned U.S. hospitals were throwing away as much as $5 billion in outdated medical supplies. No hospital wanted to run out of anything critical, but unreliable manual inventories were leading to over-ordering and waste. Today, many hospital suppliers are now adding RFID tags to their perishable products. Doorway RFID readers update the hospital’s inventory when a fresh shipment arrives from the manufacturer. As items leave the storeroom or pharmacy, the inventory is immediately updated. Timely re-orders mean there are never shortages, and there is no waste of expired supplies. Excess inventory and excess storage space become things of the past.
    • If your business manufactures, packages, or uses perishable inventory, RFID will help you reduce waste and expense. Good for the earth, good for your bottom line.
  • Tomorrow – A report from Science Advances shows that only 9% of plastics worldwide are recycled currently. Even when consumers are motivated to recycle plastic packaging, they are confused about the types of plastics that can and can’t be recycled. A new generation of RFID tags currently under development will be flexible, sturdy, and low-cost enough to be incorporated into plastic packaging of consumer goods. A phone app will let consumers scan the plastic packaging to identify its recycling status. Taken a step further, consumers can be rewarded for recycling and deposit-and-return schemes. And municipal facilities can scan the RFID tags to further sort and recycle plastics that would otherwise be destined for landfills.
    • If your business needs to sort, re-use, or differentiate your disposables, RFID makes it faster, easier, and more accurate. Labor and material costs are reduced. Again, good for the earth, good for your bottom line.

The circular economy is a vital goal that will require innovative thinking at every step. Imaginative uses of mature, proven technology like RFID are a big part of achieving that goal.


Photo © mangostock / AdobeStock

The Surprising Link Between Storage and Staffing

The Surprising Link Between Storage and Staffing

It’s never easy being an HR recruiter. Whether the job market is tight or wide open, the competition for top talent is ever-present. One of the proven strategies for attracting the very best recruits is a visible, well-integrated corporate value system.

Prospective employees want to see their own values reflected in the workplace, especially when it comes to corporate social responsibility. From millennials to Gen Z, recruits view sustainability as an expression of corporate social responsibility. They’re not going to be satisfied with a token paper-and-plastic recycling bin. They want to see sustainability infused throughout the company’s operations.

Your business storage systems may not be the first things that spring to mind when you’re looking for ways to increase sustainability. Nevertheless, there are storage solutions that give your enterprise a definite sustainability advantage. These include:

  1. Electronic records – When you reduce the quantity of paper business records stored in file cabinets, you reduce your storage footprint. Less storage space means less overall space and lower utility consumption. Further, converted documents become digitally accessible to everyone who needs to work with them, eliminating multiple redundant copies and thereby reducing paper consumption.
  2. Modular casework Unlike traditional casework, the “building block” modules of high-quality casework can be reconfigured as operational needs change.Yesterday’s credenza is today’s wall cabinet. It’s recycling at its finest.
  3. High density shelving – These space-saving cabinets slide along floor-mounted tracks, eliminating aisles between shelving units and reducing your storage footprint by as much as 50%. In tandem with an electronic records conversion program, your paper document storage will take up far less space than previously, and you’ll reduce your overall space utilization.

There’s a bonus to these sustainability-friendly storage solutions: lower operating costs, including real estate costs, office supplies and utility expenses, and build-out costs.

When you choose storage systems like these, you’re telling recruits that your business takes sustainability seriously. Your corporate values increase employee loyalty and retention, which in turn improve productivity and profits. Further, customers prefer to do business with socially-responsible companies.

When you can both do good and do well, it’s a win for everyone, including your HR department. Sustainability is a really good look for your brand, and your storage systems are part of the picture.


Photo © ty/AdobeStock

In or Out: The Unexpected Telecommute Pivot

In or Out: The Unexpected Telecommute Pivot

Just when you’re getting your business on the telecommuting bandwagon, the pioneers of telework seem to be jumping off. IBM, for example, began supporting telecommuting in the 1970’s, but now it’s shifting toward more collocation. Yahoo famously encouraged its employees to work from home, only to rescind all telecommuting in 2015. Bank of America, among others, is cutting down on telework in favor of collocation.

According to a report in All Tech Considered, HR analysts cite two primary factors pushing employees back into the office: the wisdom of expertise, and the speed of technology. Experienced workers are a valuable resource for new-hires, and millennials say they want to watch their older peers in action. Younger workers report feeling disconnected and unmotivated when they can’t learn from seasoned co-workers.

Technology figures into the collocation equation as customers expect ever-faster responses to work orders and problems. Marketers are getting campaign results in real time, and product developers receive feedback in hours, not weeks. Whenever there’s an issue, it can often be more quickly addressed by a collocated team rather than a distributed group that may be separated by many time zones. “Watercooler moments” of serendipitous conversation can lead to breakthroughs, and visible face time is valuable when a promotion is in play.

Yet there are still good reasons to telecommute. Employees like the lifestyle balance, employers can secure the best global talent without relocation, and studies show a mix of telework and collocation is actually healthier than a daily commute. There’s also the consideration of overhead: Office space is expensive, and if you don’t have to house all your employees all the time, you’re saving money.

Telecommuting isn’t going away, and the current swing toward collocation can be seen as a movement toward balance. There are good arguments on both sides, and like most questions, one-size-fits-all is not the answer.

The primary key to balancing telework and collocation is flexibility. For offices, that means being ready to change personnel capacity easily and quickly. As teams come and go, adaptive furnishings that set up in minutes and store compactly allow office spaces to expand or contract their seating capacity on an ad-hoc basis. High-density mobile shelving and vertical storage carousels carve out additional space for workstations without enlarging the existing footprint.

There’s another vital element to the telework-collocation balancing act: Communication. For a flexible office to function well over time, all the productivity stakeholders must communicate their changing needs. Team leaders, HR, and facilities management are all part of balancing telework and collocation. Make sure the communication channels are functioning well, and your business can enjoy the advantages of both telecommuting and collocation, in a flexible environment.


Photo © kuosumo/

Change to Thrive: A Lesson from Your Mall

Change to Thrive: A Lesson from Your Mall

At the Christmas season, it may be hard to believe that malls are becoming scarcer, but it’s a trend that has been going on for the better part of a decade. A combination of overbuilding, online shopping, and demographic shifts has led to the demise of nearly 1/3 of America’s malls.

But there’s a silver (or green) lining in the retail cloud. Rather than let these massive malls stand empty, owners are following the green re-purposing movement and transforming old malls into new housing, new offices, and new types of retail. Retailers are downsizing their storefronts as they change from their traditional ways of doing business, opening up space in the malls that can be reconfigured into new forms: healthcare facilities, off-campus university learning centers, government offices, libraries, and housing ranging from low-income apartments to chic upscale condos.

Transformation is part of today’s design vocabulary. Warehouses become lofts, malls become community centers, and even the furnishings in offices, like the popular Swiftspace workstations, are reconfigured into whatever form suits the needs of the user at that particular time. Designing and planning for transformation adds longevity to an investment in almost anything: buildings, furnishings, even people. How is your business incorporating transformation into its long-range plan?


Photo © Minerva Studio/

You May Think You’re a Facilities Manager, But…

You May Think You’re a Facilities Manager, But…

No matter what your job description is, you’re in sales. Sure, you studied construction management or engineering, but if you’re a facilities manager, sooner or later you’ll find yourself selling a proposal to the people who sign off on your budget.

Some sales are easier than others. An impressive new building or a news-worthy green initiative gives your bosses a chance to shine in the public eye. It’s tougher to get funding for less visible, tangible projects. Writing in Facilities Maintenance Decisions, Dan Hounsell suggests creating a “marketing plan” for your low-profile projects. He offers 4 starting points for creating such a plan, using the example of one of the least glamorous aspects of FM: deferred maintenance.

Hounsell recommends emphasizing (1) long-term cost savings; (2) sustainability; (3) job creation/retention; and (4) responsible management. Cost savings in particular can be a deciding factor, and a well-presented case for “spend a little now, save a lot later” can produce a quick approval.

These selling points are effective for any proposed expenditures that lack a “glam factor,” such as better spare parts management, or (dare we say) new storage systems. Give this marketing plan a try on your next budget request, and let us know the results!


Photo © beeboys – Fotolia