FAIR has many meanings, but in the digital world it is an acronym. It stands for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable – principles that make data truly useful. FAIR principles are often applied to scientific research data, but they apply equally to healthcare, government agencies, and legal and judicial systems. When your organization images its paper documents, the resulting data is FAIR.
- Findable – Locating specific data in paper documents is a slow manual process. Finding it in a digital document is as fast as the speed of electricity.
- Accessible – Paper documents take time to pull from files, time to copy, time to distribute. They’re easy to damage and easy to lose. But once a paper document is imaged, it is safe and secure; access is managed and tracked; and distribution takes just moments.
- Interoperable – Unstructured data is the greatest obstacle to interoperability, and paper is the ultimate unstructured data (affecting Findability and Accessibility as well). In contrast, the structured data of imaged documents is usable by different systems in different organizations. For example, doctors’ offices, hospitals, and pharmacies can send and utilize patient data across systems.
- Reusable – When data is “trapped” on paper, it’s time-consuming to find and extract it for re-using in combination with other data. But the data in imaged documents can be extracted instantaneously and re-used with other data sets to gain new insights and increase the data’s ROI.
When paper documents are converted to digital data, the usefulness of the data is multiplied. Make data FAIR, and make it an even more valuable asset.
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“Time is money.” Benjamin Franklin said it, and he was not wrong. It’s a basic principle of capitalism. Disaster awaits business managers who don’t bear in mind the value of time.
Writing in Inc.com, Jessica Stillman reports on a mind trick recommended by Harvard Business School professor Arthur C. Brooks, who examined individuals’ time-wasting habits. Some people, for example, may want to reduce the quantity of leisure hours they devote to social media and streaming entertainment, but they find it hard to make the change. Brooks suggests assigning a dollar value to the hours spent bingeing: “If you consume the average amount of social media in America (about 142 minutes per day) and earn the average hourly wage (about $29.92), you are effectively ‘spending’ about $71 worth of time per day on this activity.” A study at the University of Toronto found that when people thought of their free time in dollar terms, they began to reduce the number of hours they spent noodling around online.
That’s not to say that all idle time is wasted time. Numerous studies have shown the value of the daydreaming, spacing out, and aimless mental wanderings that result in creative “aha” moments.
But when it comes to business, time and money go hand in hand. Tools which reduce the duration of a task, without compromising quality, have been continuously developed throughout history – for example, handwritten communications became typed communications, then faxed communications, then emailed, texted, uplinked, downloaded, and stored in the cloud. All these time-saving tools have, for the most part, allowed us to do more in less time. And that yields a financial benefit.
One such tool is RFID. Inventory management, where RFID began, is a labor-intensive and error-prone task when done by hand. RFID increases inventory speed by a factor of 20. A University of Arkansas study found that an RFID inventory system could count 5,000 items per hour vs. a bar code system which counted 200 items per hour.
Moreover, much of that counting can be accomplished automatically. Doorway-mounted RFID readers track every tagged item that passes in or out, without human oversight. And the count is supremely accurate; no need to spend hours reviewing and correcting errors.
RFID minimizes the amount of human involvement in a vital business task, and it assures high quality data. It’s one of those tools that frees us humans to do what we do best: think and interact. What can you accomplish with that extra time? More important: How much will it cost your business to not do more in less time?
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“Return to work.” Many organizations are struggling to define what that will mean for physical space, for productivity, and for corporate culture in the post-pandemic world.
When office-based operations were forced to pivot to work-from-home (WFH) at the beginning of 2020, the hybrid workplace was in its infancy. It quickly became the preferred workstyle, balancing WFH and in-person office time. Offices were safer because there were fewer occupants at any given time, and social distancing was easy to maintain. WFH proved its value with increased productivity and employee satisfaction.
The hybrid office gives workers a welcome degree of flexibility they didn’t have in a traditional office setting. And yet it is an imperfect solution. Employees without assigned workspaces report feeling disconnected from the team and the organization. WFH requires technology and furnishings that may not be readily available in some workers’ homes. Less in-person time may have a negative effect on performance evaluations.
What are some of the options for space utilization and technology that will make the office workspace and the home workspace function smoothly together?
- High speed internet: Many employers are paying directly for their WFH workers’ high speed internet service. It goes without saying that productivity, whether in the office or at home, relies on fast internet speeds.
- Information accessibility: Especially in document-heavy industries, information in paper documents is less accessible than the data in digital documents. A database of searchable imaged documents provides WFH accessibility without the security risk of removing documents from the office. When workers are scheduled to be in the office, that same information is available without any time wasted searching through paper files.
- Productivity apps: From screen-break reminders, to instant-join shortcuts for virtual meetings, a host of new apps deliver productivity support for WFH and hybrid workplaces. There’s even an app that converts WFH “virtual commute time” into an opportunity for exercise or meditation, promoting employee wellness.
Physical space options:
- Smart lockers: Hybrid office workers arrive in the office with a lot of stuff, from laptops to lunches. Without assigned workspaces, they need secure personal storage. A smart locker gives them the storage they need, and it can be reserved remotely. An extra bonus: The customizable exteriors of lockers makes them an attractive design option.
- Mobile furnishings: Hybrid workers often need to collaborate with different groups on different days. With no fixed “address” in the office, collaboration or heads-down work becomes simple with modular mobile workstations which the user can wheel to the appropriate location. Some of these mobile workstations fit into home-office settings, too, for use by remote workers.
Flexible work spaces and flexible schedules are intrinsic to the hybrid workplace and a successful return to work. With such an array of technology options and office space options, hybrid offices can become the perfect solution for the post-pandemic world.
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NOS is honored to be a small part of the fight against deadly pandemics. Our client, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), was featured on CBS News “60 Minutes” in a report on rapid responses to pandemics. As part of their epidemiological research, DARPA has accumulated a vast collection of tissue samples and other specimens, some going back as far as the 1918 flu pandemic. All these invaluable specimens are stored securely in high-density shelving provided by NOS. As seen in the “60 Minutes” episode, researchers can easily locate one of thousands of samples in this space-saving storage system. The “60 Minutes” segment can be viewed here. We’re proud to do our part to help stop the pandemic, today and in the future.
2020 was an experiment in necessity – how to shape or reshape the workplace, whether vacant, partially occupied, or fully occupied. As we move into the post-pandemic world, what are the workplace changes that look like they’re here to stay?
As we now know, mandated work-from-home (WFH) turned out to be far more productive than expected. The results of a recent survey by Upwork echoed an earlier Stanford study that showed increased productivity and job satisfaction among WFH employees. At the height of WFH in 2020, nearly two-thirds of staffers were working remotely, but Upwork estimates that the number of WFH employees will settle in the 20- 25% range in coming years.
The benefits of productivity, employee satisfaction, and real estate savings are solidifying the value of the hybrid workplace. Although a few organizations were experimenting with hybrid-style offices before the pandemic, it has now become the standard for many businesses.
With the establishment of the hybrid office come challenges and opportunities.
A significant challenge in the hybrid workplace: information access. Employees still need access to office-located documents on the days they are working remotely. Removing paper documents from the office means the risk of damage or loss. But without access to the information in the documents, workers lose all their WFH productivity gains. Imaging overcomes the challenge of data access; imaged documents, and the data they contain, are accessed securely from anywhere.
The hybrid workplace offers an opportunity to re-fashion the function and design of the office. The soul-crushing mid-century-modern cubicle farm is out. The much-despised open office plan is also out, due to productivity and health concerns. In its place is, appropriately, a hybrid design that offers some separation and privacy but also includes large spaces for collaboration. Hoteling will still be part of the picture, but staffers will reserve workspaces based on activity rather than mere available space.
Interior structures such as smart lockers will furnish separation and traffic routing. At the same time, they will provide an essential storage function for staffers who split their time between the office and WFH. Other structures like the prototype sound reduction panels from the University of Washington and architecture firm NBBJ also offer privacy and a visually interesting design.
Scientist Jonathan Schattke said, “Necessity is the mother of invention, but its father is creativity.” The hybrid workplace may have come into its own out of necessity, but its form and function reflect creative solutions, supporting workers with appropriate technology. The new hybrid worklife is here to stay.
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Businesses everywhere are looking for ways to operate more sustainably. It’s not just good for the planet, it’s good for business. More and more these days, customers consider sustainability when making a purchasing decision.
But sustainability is more than a good marketing decision; it’s a money-saver too, especially in the manufacturing and supply-chain sectors. Less waste and lower energy use mean lower production costs. And RFID-informed processes excel at reducing waste and energy use.
The right amount in the right place at the right time– throughout the manufacturing and distribution chain, RFID tracks components and finished products, reducing waste in every sector of the supply chain.
- Manufacturers aren’t blind-sided by sudden shortages of essential parts.
- Retailers aren’t burdened with excess inventory, as they know what’s in the supply pipeline.
- Warehouse operations aren’t caught between manufacturers demanding more storage space and retailers accepting less product.
- Transportation providers don’t waste fuel and carbon credits on partial loads. The entire supply chain, start to finish, is streamlined to respond to demand.
Real-time information, 100% accurate – RFID tracking data is sent and received in real time, with completely accurate reports. Supply chain sectors are able to respond without delay, and the supply predictability supports energy conservation.
- Information lets manufacturers adjust their operations’ energy usage to match demand.
- Retailers update manufacturers immediately as inventory is sold, making demand predictable.
- Warehouse operations monitor inventory movement to predict future storage needs.
- Transportation providers anticipate inventory shipments, taking advantage of fuel values based on future needs in the short term.
An extra bonus: faster invoicing. With RFID tracking all product components and finished products throughout the supply chain, each sector is assured that delivery is complete. Invoice data is pulled from the RFID report and sellers can invoice immediately and accurately.
Even the RFID tags themselves are moving in the direction of sustainability. The earliest RFID tags contained plastic – not a choice favored by sustainability experts. Recently, however, some tag manufacturers have developed paper tags that are recyclable and compostable. Moreover, the tag manufacturing process itself benefits from RFID tracking, just like other manufacturing processes.
With RFID, everyone benefits – supply chain organizations, consumers, and Planet Earth.
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