Five key elements
In this section we are talking about specific technologies: bar codes and
RFID, for identification of items, locations or individuals; and hand held mobile
computers, used to direct activities or collect information.
In any project to introduce or update information systems using these technologies, there are five key elements which determine success of the project.
The five elements are:
- system design,
- labels or tags, and
- ongoing support.
This page talks about the last item, ongoing support.
What, exactly, do we mean by support?
For most projects, we work with clients who understand their core functions well. But these clients may not have a deep understanding of our technologies, the barcodes, RFID and mobile hand held computers that may be key elements of the project.
We understand these technologies well, but, in turn, cannot have the deep understanding of our clients operations.
So in the ideal project, we work together as partners.
We work through the design phase, ensuring that the proposed standard operating procedures are re-alistic, and that they achieve all the required goals.
We make sure that the software is configured correctly, and work with client IT personnel to ensure that software is properly installed. We provide training at several levels, for users of the mobile elements, for those working with the desktop elements, and those producing the reports. We train installation and technical support personnel. We show how the system adminsitrator can grant and set access levels. And we advise on data back up and security issues.
We work with the clients to select the best hardware, and are able to offer a subjective view of the comparative merits from different manufacturers. For systems using RF, we advise on the location of Access Points, and confirm adequate coverage.
We help our clients select labels or RFID tags appropriate to their application. We can print barcoded labels, and advise on which tags give the best trade off in performance, comparing size, cost, and read range, amongst other parameters.
We work with our clients through the initial system setup - establishing a base-line data set. Where data already exists, we can verify that data, and import it to the new system.
We can provide on-going verification, to confirm that the system is being used correctly, and can (and often do) provide off site data storage. We can arrange routine verification visits.
We can provide re-training to deal with staff turn-over. We can help re-install when new hardware is purchased.
And if things should ever go wrong, we can help there too. Data recovery is a common issue, through failure of client supplied hardware. Should bugs challenge your system, we can track them down and put your system back in service.
From time to time we provide new functionality. When we are aware of our clients needs and operating procedures, we can assist in upgrading to the latest software, so that these new functions can be available too.
So by support, we mean all of the above.
Support during the design phase
This phase begins with a discover process. We will have given you a detailed technical proposal, and in this phase we review that at a greater level of detail. We will probably want to meet your operational personnel, the front line "doers" that will be using the system every day. We meet with management to ensure that we understand the objectives and external compliance requirements. From that our original proposal will be expanded, and offered back to you for approval.
Support for software installation
Support for this element includes installation, and training for each level. We will work with your network administration personnel to ensure correct installation and setup. And we will provide training to each group of users as appropriate.
We can also provide personnel to help you set up the system and go through the first cycles of activity and reporting.
As one client pointed out "the first is the wirst", meaning that the first cycle of operation, which often includes setting up different elements (people, places and things) is the worst in terms of effort in for results out. And this when users are not familiar with the system. So we can provide hands-on assistance in working through this.
Support for hardware set up
When we provide a system it is set up and ready to go. Memory cards installed. Batteries conditioned and calibrated. Barcode readers setup with the correct symbologies accepted and rejected, and with the appropriate prefixes, and postfixes.
We show you how to maintain the hardware, and for the hand held units, we will show you the soft and hard resets, and also the secret button combinations, and when to use them. And we also show you the common traps, such as "no, it is not dead, someone turned the screen off".
Support for label and tag selection
Often not recognised, many expensive systems have been brought down by cheap and inferior labels.
We know of one system (not ours) where the users revisited a remote location, and used a broom to sweep up all the labels. The adhesive had dried out with the heat of the equipment.
We can advise on label design, label materials, and even content. Do you know why "000001" is not a good number for a barcoded label?
We also maintain a registry for our label clients, so that a user can order "five thousand more of the small ones", and not have to worry about the sequence. We test all labels before shipping.
PDS - Post Delivery Support
One of the most important elements of any project. We will be there for you, when the system breaks down, when the hardware fails, when the computers and servers are upgraded, when your requirements change, when your staff change, when the data is suddenly lost. Or when, because your system is so effective, your mandate is extended across the country or around the world (yes it happens). And we will be there when the auditor comes to visit, and compliments you on the precision and accuracy of you records.
Our aim is to give you a boring system. You turn it on, it works. No fuss. No excitement.
Providing you with close support, before, during and after the project implementation, is a key part of achieving that aim.
Our intention is to leave you to focus on your key areas of expertise, your core competencies. Our job is to look after the bar code system, so that you don't have to.
For further information contact Keith Jackson or Doreen Wallace, or send an e-mail to info@SageData.com.
We look forward to hearing from you.