Keeping Track Of Inventory Can Be A Nightmare! Think Again.

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I came across an article recently which highlighted a problem which most companies face, but are reluctant to address it until it balloons out of proportion. Its “Keeping Track of Inventory”.

Most of the companies in the cut throat environment spend all their energies into building their products, marketing them; and as the company starts growing in size literally, everyone is happy. As the company grows, it starts to buy equipment, expand, occupy more floor space, moving the old but still usable items into storage. Sometimes the company plans for the future expansions, and buys the necessary equipment in advance and stores them.

When the economy favors, the most of the companies go into overdrive and hire people in big numbers. Accordingly the company has to invest in the equipment these people would be using. Alternatively such companies upgrade their equipments and unlike small startups which sells/exchanges the old equipments; the big companies store them as a backup for emergencies.

When a company has no idea how much is lying unused in its storage facilities, especially IT companies, it’s a nightmare waiting to happen. Some companies have no idea how much equipment is on its office premises.

There is a popular story doing the rounds in the IT circle highlighting the inventory management woes. CFO & CIO of a major company were inspecting their warehouse. One of them pointed to a dusty old box and asked the other about its contents. They found a $2 million server that had been gathering dust for over a year.

Imagine the last time someone in your office borrowed something from you – a report, a file, even a ruler. Did you get it back in a timely manner? If the item was inconsequential, you probably weren’t too concerned. But if the item was vital to your work, you felt differently. Now, imagine you rely on a piece of shared equipment to do your work, and people are constantly using it and forgetting to return it.

If old equipments are given away or otherwise disposed, but not taken off the books, companies must continue to pay property taxes on them to the government. A case in point is that of a company in U.S. that paid millions of dollars in taxes on 20,000 computers it no longer possessed.

I have just one simple answer to this solution – RFID. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders.

A typical RFID system has three components, tags, reader and RF unit. The RF reader sends out RF waves that are received by the RF tag within the reader’s range. The tag in turn, sends information back to the reader, also in the form of RF waves. Then the RF reader transfers this information to RF unit.

Imagine, one wants to keep track of all the office equipment. All one has to do is place RFID Tags on these equipment and optimizing the tag placement for accurate reads. When an inventory check has to be done all one has to do is to walk around the office with a RFID Reader (PDT) in hand. The tags receive incoming radio frequency signals emitted by a portable data terminal (PDT) with RFID tag reader. The incoming radio signals energize the tag, causing the tag to transmit its identification data back to the PDT.

All RFID tags within range respond when interrogated by the reader, no matter where they are located. The assets in each room are recorded by location using a supported PDT. Asset status is recorded as missing, invalid, or valid so you know what is missing, misplaced, and present.

The benefits of RFID go beyond tracking capabilities. RFID tags provide more sophisticated data protection, where data stored on barcodes provide no protection from being copied. RFID tags provide greater accuracy in sustaining data. The tags store information in a long-lasting microchip, instead of barcode labels which may deteriorate over time and sometimes must be reapplied. RFID tags provide better data security because RFID tags cannot be cloned as easily as barcode labels.

RFID reduce the time you spend taking physical inventory by up to 75%. Efficiently locate and identify assets in an entire room because line-of-sight scanning is not required. You’ll eliminate sore knees and backs from bending and searching.

With the complete details of the assets in hand a company will be able to quickly attend to the requests raised. Resources management comes with inventory tracking functionality.

Other Applications Of RFID:

Inventory Monitoring And Asset Visibility – Smart Shelves:

In a replenishment-based system, whenever the total inventory at a warehouse or distribution center drops below a certain level, the RFID enabled system could place an automatic order. RFID-tagged products will allow stores to track the location and count of inventories in real time. This will better monitor demand for certain products and place orders to prevent an out-of-stock situation. The high levels of inventory monitoring obtained using RFID can particularly benefit FMCG industries.

On the retailing side, RFID technology at the point-of-sale (PoS) can be used to monitor demand trends or to build a probabilistic pattern of demand. This application could be useful for apparel industry or products exhibiting high levels of dynamism in trends.

Reduced Bullwhip Effect:

Exaggeration of demand in upward direction in a supply chain network is termed as Bullwhip effect. Due to tracking limitations of conventional systems it may not be possible to get accurate information on actual sales of items; that will amplify the magnitude of the bullwhip effect. If RFID systems are used for information collection, accurate and real time information on product sale can be captured and used for decision making. This will definitely help to reduce overall bullwhip effect. Reducing bullwhip effect would benefit industries where instances of supply-demand imbalances have high costs attached to it.

Lead-Time Reduction:

Conventional systems limit tracking of items while being transported. RFID Systems gives a total visibility of product movement in the supply chain. This may help to make early decisions about inventory control in case there is any interruption in the supply. It partially or completely eliminates time and effort required for counting while loading/unloading the items. This results into reduction of total lead-time for arrival of an order. Pharmaceutical industry, perishable product industry could use RFID systems for reducing lead-times that will help to increase total useful shelf life of items.

RFID For Inventory Control Improves Sort/Pick Rate:

In a warehouse, sorting/picking activity is more time consuming and subjected to errors. For example, for issuing of items from a store, a person has to find out whether the item is available in store or not by physically moving to the location. Items issued should be kept in a particular position (bar-code upward) in a pallet for scanning/billing purposes. RFID systems ease the sorting and picking operations, as it captures real-time, accurate information about product availability in host computer database without physical movement. RFID tags are read via radio frequencies therefore it is not mandatory to place the items in a particular position to read it. This could be helpful for effective warehouse management.

Reduced Inventory Shrinkage:

As items are continuously monitored, Inventory shrinkages including thefts, misplacement of items can be avoided using RFID technology.

Perishable Inventory Control:

A perishable product has limited useful life and if it is not handled properly while transporting, it may get spoiled and its useful life reduces. If this reduced life information of items is not updated, then it may be possible that an outdated item gets delivered to a customer. In such a case, there may be an additional cost of replacement of item and also loss of goodwill of customer. Such spoilage could be reduced simultaneously with automating inventory management, by using RFID technology for product identification, while it moves through the supply chain. RFID system can track the items in real time without product movement, scanning or human involvement. Using active RFID tags it can be possible to update information on it dynamically.

Issuing Policies

RFID systems give exact count and location of items. This will help to follow a certain issuing policies for items as per the requirements. E.g.: First-in-first-out (FIFO) policy for items such as, vegetables, bread; or last-in-first-out (LIFO) for blood banks.

Thus, we see the advantages in employing RFID for effective Inventory Management.

Source: IntelliTrack, DecisionCraft


Yahoo Messenger Beta For Mac – Try It Now

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Yahoo has released a new beta of its Mac messenger application allowing users to make free PC-to-PC calls. Users will also be able to leave voice messages and send SMS messages using their Mac.

It has the voice chat function and with this new version one can do PC-to-PC calls like iChat or Skype for free. If you want to make calls to mobile or land lines, you can sign-up for a Phone Out account. Phone In accounts are also available if you want people to be able to call you from any phone.

Yahoo Messenger for Mac also includes Tabbed IM windows, Chat rooms, Message archiving, Webcam support, Conferences and File Transfers.

With this new version, you can make free PC-to-PC calls or sign up for a Phone Out account to make calls from your Mac to regular or mobile phones worldwide for as low as 1¢ a minute.

The new Mac user will find all the features that were promised at the Macworld 2007 show.

Also includes:

* Stealth settings
* Conferencing
* “New IM” indicator in the OS X dock
* Tabbed conversations
* Message archiving
* Stay connected from your mobile phone
* Automatic updates

Check this video of the new Yahoo! Messenger for Mac that demonstrates the new features.

Test it now…and send your valuable feedback to Yahoo! here.

Sure hope you guys will enjoy it! 🙂

Motorola To Split Into Two Business Units In 2009

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The split would be into Mobile Devices and Broadband & Mobility Solutions businesses

According to the Associated Press Motorola Inc. has announced plans to separate its struggling handset business from other operations, forming two separate publicly traded companies.

The split into a mobile devices business and a broadband and mobility services business is to take place in 2009 and will take the form of a tax-free distribution.

Motorola said the handset business will operate separately from another company that will encompass its home and networks business, which sells TV set-top boxes and modems, and its enterprise mobility solutions, which sells computing and communications equipment to businesses.

Chief Executive Greg Brown said, “Our priorities have not changed with today’s announcement. We remain committed to improving the performance of our Mobile Devices business by delivering compelling products that meet the needs of customers and consumers around the world.” He added, “Our decision to separate our Mobile Devices and Broadband & Mobility Solutions businesses follows a review process undertaken by our management team and board of directors, together with independent advisors,”

The company had announced on January 31 that it was studying a possible breakup in an effort “to recapture global market leadership” in the mobile phone market and enhance shareholder value.

The Chicago-based cell phone maker has been under pressure from billionaire investor Carl Icahn for changes meant to revitalize its cell-phone business. The cell phone unit has seen its sales and stock price plummet with the company unable to produce second act to the once-popular Razr phone.

Hope that this move would bring good fortune to Motorola…..Only time will tell…

Icahn Is Behind Motorola Again……

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And this time he is suing them to access documents that detail the strategy for turning around the mobile-phone arm of Motorola.

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Icahn filed a lawsuit today in Delaware Chancery Court in Wilmington to get the information from Motorola. The company denied an earlier request for the documents, said Icahn, who has nominated four directors and lobbied for a spinoff of the handset unit.

According to The Financial Times, the documents he is seeking include board and committee minutes and documents related to the service and selection of Motorola’s senior officers, and the prospects or strategy of Motorola’s mobile devices business.

Icahn, 72, said today in an interview, “These guys are the poster boy for what’s wrong with corporate America. They’ve lost $37 billion in market value in the last year and a half, and they still refuse to put a representative of shareholders on the board.”

Motorola denied Icahn’s request because he sought an “unusually expansive range of documents” and didn’t give a credible reason for suspecting the company is being mismanaged, according to a March 20 letter from lawyer Donald J. Wolfe Jr. of Potter Anderson & Corroon. The letter was filed as an exhibit in Icahn’s lawsuit today.

A spokeswoman for Motorola said Icahn turned down its offer because he didn’t want to agree to “customary confidentiality agreement,” regarding the information.

Its high time that Icahn spends some time and energy on his other investments than go behind Motorola.

Want To Use Images For Your Articles Without Paying A Cent?

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One of the most promising new services has been released recently…..

Check out PicApp……

This company based in San Francisco offers stock photos (photos taken by professionals) from large photo banks which includes Getty Images and Corbis for free.

PicApp gives out images for FREE to its members. All you need to do is get yourself registered for free of-course.

Once you log yourself in, you can search through the images by giving a keyword. As for my experience with this, it is still a bit difficult to get the right image in the first shot. Once you find your image, there are different options like embed, mail and also to save the image (in the lightboxes section) for further reference.

If you select the embed option, you would be given a code, which can be pasted onto your webpage to publish the image. That’s it. Below is an example of an image from PicApp.

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PicApp’s mascot is “Scootie” (located on the top left of the image on top), who also helps you to navigate through PicApp.

Well the business idea behind this service is that, PicApp displays some contextual ads in the flash file of the image. The money made by this advertising will be shared with the photo agencies.

One crazy idea: if PicApp can accommodate images from individuals and make them earn some money in return for the use of their images – would be an awesome drive to get in more people and images!

Cell Phones & Cutting Edge Technology Makes for a Heady Mix ! ! ! !

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I did come across an article on unwired talking about Apple applying for a patent for a “Dual Sided Trackpad”. Made me do a double take. I had to chk this one out.

I have heard about Dual sided phones like the one from Sprint. But dual sided trackpad??

As you can see from the patent file pics, the transparent trackpad can act as a normal multi-functional touch screen which emulates all the functionality of the iPhone when the phone the device is closed.

When the phone is flipped open the trackpad can act as a keypad showing the standard T9 keypad layout, or the user can draw the number he/she wants to dial, and host of other features.

Well who does not want to make hay when the sun shines? Apple will surely not miss a chance to make this technology available to its other products and there is already a possibility that Apple might incorporate this feature into its Apple Tablet. Well way to go guys.

The pace at which technology is moving is breathtaking. Apple filed a patent for the iPhone on March 03, 2006 while the “Dual sided trackpad” patent was filed on September 06, 2006.

For more detailed information one can check out the full article on unwired

Source: unwired

Motorola Round-Up

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Motorola Shedding Employees To Stem Losses

Richard Thurston of The Register reports that Motorola is poised to axe half the staff at its design facility in Birmingham, as Moto tries to turn around its beleaguered mobile devices division. All the 121 staff at the facility were told Tuesday they are at risk of redundancy. Motorola is proposing to make half of them redundant and said it may close the site.

Therefore, all employees will initially be placed at ‘risk of redundancy’ whilst alternative opportunities including redeployment, relocation, flexible working/home working or the opportunity of a ‘service site’ arrangement are investigated as part of the consultation process.

The company said it would consult employees on the proposed redundancies over the next 90 days. The cuts would likely follow soon after.

The Birmingham facility is a Design Centre, so most of the job losses will be among technical staff.

A company spokesperson said cagily that Motorola would not be invoking job losses at the company’s other UK sites.

Motorola has this year already laid off 155 people at Cambridgeshire-based TTPCom, a business which it acquired two years ago.

Tinkering Goes On At Motorola……When Will It Stop?

Today on March 19th Motorola has shuffled three finance executives in its latest shake-up. Marc Rothman former controller, is now the new head of finance for the mobile devices unit taking over from Jim MacLaughlin who has left the company. Jim MacLaughlin was a 29-year veteran at Motorola. Motorola promoted Laurie Meissner and Kyle Spainhour from within the finance department to take over Rothman’s previous responsibilities.

Watch this space for more updates….

Source: Chicago Tribune

The Exodus From Motorola Continues Unabated

As Teresa von Fuchs said “The revolving door keeps turning at Motorola” as the flailing handset maker announced two more senior executive changes on March 17.

Larry R. Raymond has replaced Steve Strobel as treasurer and that Stephen Nolan will oversee mobile devices in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), taking over the responsibilities from Mike Fenger.

However, a pattern has emerged regarding the appointments. Paul Liska as I had mentioned in an earlier post is a private-equity executive who was previously with Sears Roebuck as CFO. Raymond is also a private-equity executive who was also associated with Sears Roebuck. The million dollar question begs to be answered: Is it going to stop the rut?

Only time will tell. In the meantime private-equity executives have taken control of high profile positions at Motorola.

A Recap on High Profile Exits At Moto

WSJ believes that the leadership changes are part of an overall plan to swiftly transform the senior executive team at Moto.

The first three months of 2008 have marked major management changes at Moto. In addition to the CFO change and today’s changes, Ed Zander announced his resignation late last year and Greg Brown took over as CEO in January. Zander’s exit announcement was quickly followed by news that Padmasree Warrior, a top tech mind at Moto who is largely credited for the company’s Razr success, had left for Cisco.

An Old Nemesis…….Plotting Motorola’s Downfall?

As I had posted earlier, Carl Icahn who has increased his stake in Motorola to 6% is now campaigning ferverently to place 4 of his nominees on the 12 member board of Motorola.

Icahn was snubbed in his earlier attempt to get on to the board by Zander. Now Motorola supposedly at its weakest, is trying to fend of Icahn who is in turn favoring break up of Motorola.

However, industry’s analysts point out that no matter what Motorola does to fend him off, the conditions favor Icahn. But still, Icahn has to win over some of the major stakeholders like Thrivent Asset Management LLC in Minneapolis, which controls 1 million shares; in order to have his way.

Will this soap opera come to an end on May 5, when the voting takes place?

Time only will tell……..

Motorola Getting Itself Mired In Political Controversy

In one of the earlier posts I had talked about Motorola getting embroiled in a political controversy in Malaysia.

Motorola on 19th March denied reports it was involved in a kickback scheme in exchange for a large government contract in Malaysia. The company and key government officials are strongly disputing the accusations, which have been brought by political opponents who have seized the opportunistic moment as the elections are on the threshold.

Motorola tried to defend its pullout from Malaysia saying that it was a strategic business response as the company was under heavy pressure to relocate its operations, possibly to China thereby cutting costs.

Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson denied the allegations.

“Our commitment to transparency and strict code of conduct define the way we act and do business,” Erickson said. “As a responsible corporate citizen, Motorola abides by the laws and regulations of each country in which we operate. This includes competing fairly and openly to provide the best possible solutions for our customers who seek world class communications systems.”

Malaysia since 1972 has been a major site for Motorola’s operations employing around 4,000 people.

Motorola Malaysia communications and public affairs manager Tham Mei Ling has reportedly said that Motorola was “fully committed” to Malaysia.

What twists and turns this controversy is going to take….only time will tell.

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