Posted by: johnthelibertine | July 28, 2008

Using RFID tags for performance improvement

Technology feature

– 28th July 2008

Quite often The Sauce is criticized for totally focusing on 3D Virtually Simulated Synthetic Game-like Worlds and for ignoring other innovative uses of technology in education, training and places where people work for a living. Usually to these people we say “Bog off, don’t you know who we are?” but we were feeling all inclusive today and decided to cover something else…RFID.

RFID & Performance Improvement

RFID & Performance Improvement

Radio-Friendly Interrogation or ‘RFID’ is, according to pickypedia.org; “an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using thingys called RFID tags or transponders. An RFID tag is an thingy that can be applied to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification using radio waves.”

This might sound like a technology that would be used by the likes of the CIA for spying on bad people – which, of course, it is – however it also has more mundane uses.

Several companies have realized that being able to attach a transponder thingy to someone allows the corporation to track that person. The problem, though was that if you attach a RFID thingy to everybody working for a company that employs lots of people (for example 10,000 people) then it won’t be too long before you have a oh-my-god huge amount of data sitting in you Macroshaft Sequel database. So the question was; “how do we make use of this, like, totally massive mountain of data?”

Time&motion, a company based in New Zealand which is near Australia and where people sound like Australians, had the answer.

The firm had invested nearly US$1,100 and 2 weeks developing BigBro, an enterprise software application which is able to tell line managers exactly where their team have been all day. It also allows middle managers to see where their line managers have been all day; their senior managers to see where their middle managers have been all day; and, the upper echelons of a business to see where the senior managers have been all day. The more hierarchical the organization, the longer this sentence gets.

“We have a nearly-patented alcorhythm running under the bonnet of this beauty that data-machines the vast sea of RFID tag data and is able to spot interesting patterns and trends that are possibly useful,” Taylor Gilbreth, the firm’s Chief of Explaining Stuff told us in an Australian accent on SkyPee this morning.

The potential applications of RFID tags and BigBro are numerous, says Gilbreth, as the following very scientific case study demonstrates.

Case study: Scientifically improving the efficiency of Futon designing in Nova Scotia.

Problem: Swedish furniture behemoth IKEYAR had a problem in it’s North American futon design facility in Nova Scotia. Each new futon design involves a team of forty three expert futon designers and the company creates, on average, over a hundred new futon design each year. It is “a process that is highly iterative and collaborative”, explains Gilbreth. “Team members rely on knowing where each other are most of the time.”

Unfortunately, during a recent renovation of the facility, the firm decided to replace each worker’s ageing low-level reliable American-manufactured wooden work benches with it’s own stylish JÄAMSUNDASVÓÄK powder-coated steel/painted finish Elk skin and polypropylene multifunction shelving/desk unit. “Lovely bit of furniture that it is, these units are 1.8 meters high and, consequently, break the line of sight between each member of the team meaning that individuals couldn’t see if their colleagues were their or not. As a result the average product design time increased by nearly 50%.

The solution: Install an RFID thingy on each team member and install time&motions’s nearly-patented BigBro Lite software on each of the team’s PDAs. Now whenever a team member needs to know if a colleague is at their shelving/desk unit all they need to do is fire up BigBro Lite, select the person that they want to find from a drop-down selection box, click on ‘FIND’ and, in less than five minutes, they can instantly see if the person was there or not five minutes ago.

Time&motion have yet to make up a believable ROI number yet but Gilbreth assured us that it was going to be a very very impressive integer indeed.

“It is clearly a nascent technology right now but we are confident that companies across the rich part of the world will very soon wake up to the performance improvement potential of Radio-Friendly Interrogation” Gilbreth assured us.

The Sauce has raided it’s PayPal account to order a few RFID tags and downloaded a cracked copy of BigBro to do some independent user testing of it’s own. Look out for an in-depth analysis at some point in the future, possibly.

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