We recently had the opportunity to work with a large federal agency on an assessment of leveraging RFID in their IT asset inventory work. One of the primary goals for the project was to validate that RFID would provide them with substantial savings in labor that could be reallocated for other critical tasks
Most people we talk to believe that RFID will cut operation costs and efforts to track and manage asset investments while producing better and more timely information. This understanding is accurate when the solution is done right.
The Grey Area
The challenge is what many see as a “grey area” on the approach to get to that place where RFID delivers the benefit desired. Our recent proof of concept effort offers a good example of what that “grey area” typically looks like.
Before we could meet the goal of statistical validation of RFID, we had to create the environment for it to work. To do this, we needed to address two key elements: Data Preparation and Tagging.
Many organizations have asset records in more than one system. This agency was no different. For the proof of concept (POC), we received data from two primary business systems.
Next, we needed to create common criteria for the data sources to combine them into a universal record. Once combined, we could then begin the process of “cleaning” the data.
The data we received was two years old – and the records had some holes. So we leveraged our initial inventory effort to fill in the gaps in missing data, correct inaccuracies, and create data records for unrecorded items.
Since this was an RFID POC, we needed to ensure each asset had an RFID tag. We used two different physical tags in this effort to ensure the right type of tag was applied to each asset to make things work.
Rather than making a separate tagging effort, we included this step with our initial inventory job so we could accomplish both cleaning the data and tagging the asset simultaneously.
This initial inventory process leveraged mobile devices, pre-printed/encoded tags, and the mobilePLUS application. Using this automated approach, we guided them through the effort and created accurate electronic asset records that could be leveraged for future jobs and reporting.
The First Inventory
That first inventory provided us with a means to get the data to a suitable standard to move forward – and to ensure the tags were in place to enable RFID to be leveraged moving forward, maintaining that data accuracy. These initial efforts aren’t without challenges. In fact, our team was dealing with four different types of assets as we worked the process. We had:
- Assets with an existing asset barcode label – and there was an existing asset record – All that was required when we counted these assets was to retag the item with a new RFID label and then add any additional data missing in the record.
- Assets with an existing asset barcode label – but no record of the asset – For these assets, we created an asset record and retagged the item with the new RFID label.
- Assets with no existing asset barcode label – but had an asset record – We were able to tag these items with an RFID label and update the record with that tag information and any missing data.
- Assets with no existing asset barcode label – or record in the system – For these, we created a new asset record and attached the new RFID label.
While the initial inventory effort, including the RFID migration tasks, took longer than a normal inventory activity, it still took much less time overall. It also provided more accurate and timely data than their previous method. Now that everything is in place, their future labor efforts will be significantly lessened while their data quality and reliability will be substantially increased.
Providing an RFID-based mobile inventory solution is a viable option for organizations to leverage today. But with any new process, there is an investment to get there. It’s not as difficult or costly as you may imagine, and the effort is worth it to harvest this benefit.
And you don’t have to navigate this on your own.
HL Group has assisted organizations for over two decades in leveraging mobile devices and AIT technology (barcodes, RFID, etc.) with Workday, PeopleSoft, DPAS, and other business systems. With these solutions, our clients enjoy increased visibility and better management of their assets and unique item inventories.
Contact us if you’d be interested in seeing how our solutions may benefit you. We’d be happy to discuss your particular asset challenges and goals.