RFID is all about the data – how many, what, where, and who. As a data collection system, RFID is hard to beat. It’s fast, it’s accurate, and it interfaces easily with other automated business-information systems. But like any other business system, RFID’s return on investment is a burning issue for managers. When you analyze the data, is RFID a good business decision?
One industry has already done the science and calculated the math for us: Healthcare.
The healthcare industry has incorporated RFID into many aspects of its operations. RFID was first adopted as an inventory management system for medications. As its value was recognized, it was expanded into asset management, as well as patient and personnel location.
Now RFID systems are tracking medication from manufacturer to patient – something that’s especially important in the delivery of the coronavirus vaccine. RFID labels are applied at factory, tracked to the pharmacy, and ultimately to the individual patient receiving the medication.
With RFID so widespread in the healthcare sector, the question of ROI arose among decision makers. The Mayo Clinic, whose scientific methodology is unimpeachable, undertook a study of the return on investment of hospital RFID systems. Researchers examined search time, shrinkage rates, utilization rates, and RFID implementation costs in a 600-bed hospital.
And the results? The team calculated:
- Payback of initial installation costs – 2 months
- Three-year projected ROI – 327%
Those numbers would make any accountant smile. Of course, every operation is different, and as the saying goes, “your results may vary.” In other industries, RFID can be even more productive, linking to MIS and ERP systems to create an end-to-end BI (business information) system.
A projected ROI of 327% is quite attractive, and with a customized industry-specific RFID system, you may find your ROI is even better. However, unless you have in-depth RFID experience, it’s best to work with an expert. An experienced consultant will design and install a cost-effective RFID system ideally suited to your business. Break out your calculator and start watching your ROI grow.
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One million dollars. Now that we have your attention, here’s how you get that kind of money: Section 179 of the IRS tax code. Sec. 179 allows you to deduct the cost of business equipment – up to $1 million – that you purchased or leased in 2020, and put into service in the same year. Rather than depreciating that equipment over several years, you can deduct the full value of the equipment in Year 1.
The COVID pandemic has changed how many of us do business. Have you had additional equipment expenditures to accommodate those changes? If you bought equipment to support WFH workers, or purchased touchless lockers, or RFID social-distancing equipment, or social-distancing office furnishings, those COVID-related expenditures qualify for the Sec. 179 deduction. It’s one bright spot in this year’s economic upheaval.
Almost any tangible business-related product qualifies for the deduction:
- Data hardware (essential for imaged-document storage and access)
- Equipment purchased for business use
- Office furnishings and fixtures, including high density mobile storage and lockers
- Office equipment
- Computers and off-the-shelf software
- 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
Keep in mind that leases as well as purchases qualify under Sec. 179. Even though you may be spreading payments out over several years, you can deduct the full value in the first year.
There’s only one hitch: You only have until Dec. 31, 2020, to put into service any equipment you want to deduct in tax year 2020. If you’re considering any equipment purchases, check with your vendors to see if they have a quick-ship program that will let you meet this deadline. And of course, make sure to check with your accountant to confirm that your purchases will qualify for Sec. 179.
We could all use a little financial relief this year. Sec. 179 may be just what your business needs.
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Whether your management style is hands-on or hands-off, touchless technology brings some definite advantages to your enterprise. U.S. businesses are undergoing major changes, looking for ways to operate safely while preserving profitability. Workplace size and design are shifting rapidly as part of the “new normal” of doing business, making this an ideal time to incorporate some touchless tech into the new work setting.
How does touchless tech benefit your operations?
Safety: Everything we touch is a potential petri dish. Many office buildings have automated doors and lighting in common areas, but it’s up to tenants to add touchless tech to leased spaces. Internal doors, lockers, thermostats, blinds, conferencing equipment, and many other elements can now be controlled with wireless devices or voice technology. In a touchless workplace, contagious bacteria and viruses never get a chance to infect your staff and slow down your operations. Healthy employees are productive employees.
Security: Hoteling offices and distributed hub-and-spokes offices don’t offer much security for items like backpacks, personal electronics, or uniforms. Touchless lockers bring a new level of security to the workplace. A smartphone app or an RFID badge gives the user touchless access to stored items. Systems managers can remotely change the electronic access codes for touchless lockers, eliminating the need to track down duplicate keys or cut new copies. Shared touchless lockers maintain access records so it’s simple to identify users. With touchless lockers, businesses save the cost of replacing pilfered personal items and stored company equipment.
Design: Social distancing requirements are reshaping the new-normal workplace. Distancing structures and touchless systems controls are now important design features. Structural components like touchless lockers maintain social distancing and traffic patterns while adding a pleasing aesthetic element. Tenant-installed touchless WiFi IoT systems control everything from blinds to environmental temperature, personalized for each staffer’s preference. In combination with building automation systems (BAS), these control systems reduce energy usage and energy costs.
The pandemic has imposed changes on the way we do business today. Hands-off touchless technology – some of it well-established, some of it cutting edge – helps organizations adapt to the new normal and reduces costs at the same time. That’s a benefit anyone would want to get their hands on.
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This is the final installment in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
We all thought we understood workplace stress. Then the pandemic came along and introduced us a whole new level of stress that we didn’t know existed. Now more than ever we have to build effective stress-management techniques. And it turns out it’s not as hard as you might imagine. One of the best strategies for stress reduction only requires two things. One: Stop multitasking. Two: Become mindful.
Stop multitasking. Everyone used to believe that the more multitasking you could do, the more productive you were. Multitasking gives us the feeling that we’re doing multiple tasks simultaneously. In fact, science has shown that our brains are giving only brief moments of attention to a single task in the multiple array of tasks, then refocusing on another single task in the array. It takes time for our brains to shift focus from one task to the next, then back again to the first task. These incremental losses of time add up. The result: We’re significantly less efficient even though we think we’re being super-productive.
Multitasking is not only unproductive, it’s incredibly stressful. The less efficient you are, the further you fall behind and the more stress you experience.
Start meditating. In the past decade, the practice of mindfulness, or meditation, has become mainstream. Management seminars and team-building retreats include mindfulness instruction. Major tech companies include meditation rooms in their offices. Businesses find that when managers practice mindfulness, they think more creatively, make better decisions, and accomplish more.
Mindfulness allows the brain to do what it does best: Focus. Whatever happened at the last meeting, whatever might happen in your next meeting, all becomes irrelevant. Only the current meeting is important, and nothing else. Right here, right now is what counts. The decisions and insights that come from a focused mind allow you to move forward confidently into tomorrow.
Taking time to engage in a meditative technique like deep breathing, for example, can spark a new idea or de-fuse a negative encounter. Wellness expert Dr. Troy Adams recommends these activities for workplace mindfulness:
- Pay attention to your surroundings – indoors/outdoors, warm/cold, quiet/noisy.
- Be present – experience each moment and look for the good within that moment.
- Accept yourself and treat yourself like you would a good friend.
- Focus on your breathing; even a minute of deep breathing is helpful.
People are the greatest resource of any business. Stress reduction through mindfulness will keep your people healthy and productive, and keep your organization at peak performance. Consider some of the ways you can encourage mindfulness in the workplace – Zoom meditation sessions? Quiet areas set aside in the office? Mindfulness retreats? If you meditate on how to support mindfulness, you’ll find the right solution.
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Digital asset management is a phrase that gets tossed around in business conversations, but what is it, really? And how do businesses derive value from it?
As the name implies, an organization’s “digital assets” exist in the digital realm, and have intrinsic value to a business. Digital assets can be as simple as a spreadsheet of customers’ contact information, or as complex as a searchable library of a feature film’s visual effects, script, schedule, musical score, and legal documents. Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems store, organize, retrieve, and share an organization’s digital property.
DAM delivers value in two ways: security and productivity. Bethany Landing, VP of Client Operations for DAM services company 5thKind, discusses both aspects in an interview for this article.
Regarding security, Landing says, “5thKind serves film and television clients. No one in a film studio wants to have scripts or film clips leaked to the press or the public ahead of time. If the audience already knows what happens at the end of, let’s say, “Black Panther,” why would they buy a ticket? The potential loss of income is enormous.” Likewise, in other types of businesses, there can be significant financial consequences if confidential agreements or patient records or financial documents find their way into the wrong hands.
Landing mentions the work-from-home (WFH) trend as a potential security risk that DAM helps to mitigate. “Every film clip and digital document is watermarked, and access is controlled and monitored. Film executives can review clips and documents from anywhere, on any device,” she says.
Any business with paper documents that are ordinarily stored safely in an office runs a risk when those papers are removed to a WFH setting. Converting paper documents to digital format keeps the information secure yet accessible.
As for productivity, DAM speeds up information search and retrieval many times faster than manual searches through paper documents or other physical elements. One of 5thKind’s clients estimates saving $1.5 million per film, thanks to the speed of digital search. Fast digital searches allowed producers and editors to find and re-use various animated backgrounds and visual effects, without spending hundreds of hours (and many thousands of dollars) on manual searches.
Other industry sectors, too, find DAM to be a productivity winner. The American Records Management Association estimates that office staffers spend 7.4% of their time looking for documents. That’s nearly 3 hours of each employee’s 40-hour work week. If your business has paper documents, you’re paying for a lot of unproductive hours. What does it cost your company to lose 3 hours of productivity multiplied across an entire staff, week after week?
When you add up those lost hours across an entire organization, one thing is clear: It’s definitely time to go digital. And that means document imaging – transforming your paper documents into a secure, searchable database of digital assets. Talk to an imaging expert and get all the latest digital benefits for your business.
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This is the sixth in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
The fundamentals – interpersonal connections, the natural world, a spiritual-values focus – are easy to lose sight of in the middle of an economic crisis. When things seem to be falling apart, it’s a good time to get back to basics and make sure your foundation is solid, ready to support a new structure.
On a personal level, a few minutes a day for a phone call to a friend or a face-to-face with a family member keeps everyone feeling connected. A walk through a park or a hike in the woods puts us in touch with the natural world. And setting aside time for meditation or worship renews our spiritual selves. A strong personal foundation makes it possible to be a strong business leader.
In the business realm, the same fundamentals of humanity and spirit are basic to a successful enterprise. John Mariotti, President and CEO of The Enterprise Group, recommends keeping these nine business fundamentals top-of-mind:
- “The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.” (Theodore Levitt) It seems self-evident, yet many businesses end up focused on process instead of customer relationships.
- Provide high-quality and reliable products or services. As Mariotti points out, customers value reliability. Quality and reliability are the underpinning of your brand.
- Keep the customers you have by selling them the products or services that made you successful. Keep your core business solid, especially when presented with new opportunities (and the risks that come with them).
- Charge a fair price. Too high, and you lose customers; too low and you lose your business.
- Always consider what is important to your customers. Listen. What are their pain points, and what can you offer as a solution?
- Know your costs and charge enough to make a profit.“Lose money on every sale, make it up in volume” is not a viable business model.
- Manage your cash flow. Monitor your projected cash flow to stay ahead of any finance issues.
- Keep your eye on the competition, and focus on what made you successful. Your value proposition and your distinctive brand will make you stand out.
- Hire the right people. Team up with people whose skills and attitude complement the values of your business. Protect the team and the brand by swiftly removing any “bad apples.”
We would add a tenth item to this list: Cultivate relationships with vendors who share your customer-centric orientation. Your business relies on customers, but it also relies on vendors to provide services or goods that you don’t make in-house. Seek out vendors who treat you the way you treat your customers.
When you keep your eye on the fundamentals that support all of your endeavors, both personal and business, you will weather the storm.
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