Zero Tolerance for Errors – Is it Possible?

“Zero tolerance for errors.” “No room for mistakes.” While phrases like these may sound like the rally cries of a bunch of perfectionists – we’ve actually had them as requirements in solutions from some of our clients. True story.

But is this even remotely achievable? Ask a recovering perfectionist, and they might tell you that it isn’t. However, getting as close to that Zero Error goal was the reality we needed to address those clients and the items they needed to track.

There are a variety of reasons for 100% accountability in these critical components. Some were one of a kind. Some were extremely expensive. Some were difficult to replace. Others required extreme security. And still others, should they go missing, would have a serious process impact if they weren’t available when needed. Regardless of the reason, our mission was to assist in maintaining verifiable visibility and rapid escalation should a situation arise.

 

The Tools

Automation projects, like most projects, are heavily influenced by speed, expense and quality when determining the final solution capability. The challenge in our client situations was how to accomplish a “zero tolerance for errors” outcome and still maintain a reasonable budget, a fixed timeline to deploy and a minimal level of resource disruption when implemented.

We were able to accomplish these goals by leveraging mobile technology and a mixture of capture approaches (bar codes, RFID, visual). And we maintained minimal touch points for efficient labor utilization.

With mobile technology, we were able to automate tracking activities within their existing environments (regardless of network, wireless, portal structure status). Without big infrastructure changes – we were able to minimize time and expense to launch.

A mobile approach allowed us to capture the information about the item being tracked – while it was in our physical presence (part of the verification). If the environment allowed and provided wireless communications (some did not for security purposes), we could offer real-time status communications. This allowed the quickest and most cost effective deployment option – and the ability to reconfigure its deployment without major effort should their environment change.

 

The Combination

“If one is good, more is better!” You may not think of that phrase immediately when you’re considering a new software solution. But if you are going for Zero Errors, that saying may just come to mind when you are thinking of ways that you can work to mitigate risks in processes.

When approaching these requests, we definitely live by the “more is better” philosophy when it comes to data capture. By leveraging different options – bar code, RFID, human feedback – we are armed with a variety of ways to find, capture and verify item status, insure accuracy and eliminate errors. Using just one or two of the capture methods is a start – but it is more time consuming and less reliable. The ideal approach is to leverage RFID to find the item, barcodes to record discrete contact and visual confirmation for accuracy and condition status.

It may seem like there is a lot of redundancy in this approach – but each layer takes the information a little further – and minimizes the risk of error a little more. This level of combined capture enabled us to provide a very high level of certification that the item in question was the right item and update records accordingly. This combination also ensured that when we didn’t have the right item – we were confident of that assessment – and we could quickly initiate and escalate a recovery effort.

 

The Transition of Data to Information

Data is only useful when it is accessible and trusted for use. Part of mitigating data risk is minimizing the handling and manual input. This became another critical factor for our Zero Error clients – and was included in the automation of the mobile solutions we delivered.

Information captured by the mobile device was streamlined to rely primarily on scans. Where human input was needed, it was made as simple as possible through drop down selections, buttons or list options. Free-form inputs were kept to a minimum. The goal was to make maximum use of their time in front of a selected item.

Once captured, we were able to electronically update ERPs and core business systems – and provide a log of activity by user, by item and by event for both activities and changes in item records. These historical records provided the needed background information for issue escalation and for future planning. We never know when that complete life-cycle-management of a solution is needed – just what it feels like when it’s not there.

Our mobilePLUS item inventory solution was designed and built around many of the requirements that came out of those client projects. It combines the use of flexible mobile technology devices, electronic communications, effective data capture process options and other value added services for an efficient audit event. All of the data gathered produces information for easy and immediate query capability and retrieval. Our goal in building mobilePLUS was to package all of these capabilities into a configurable solution that could be rapidly deployed with ease and little operational disruption.

Zero tolerance for errors is still a tough challenge, but one that we like to take on. If you have a need for a high quality mobile inventory and data capture capability, we should talk.

 

_______________

Wes Haubein is the President of HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile asset inventory management and warehouse solutions. He writes regularly about management, solution integration and technology.

Doing the Right Thing

I recently had an experience that brought me great joy – and a reminder about character and making the right choices. The story begins with my vacation travels that included a trip to Seattle and a visit to Pikes Place Market. We had an interruption this year on our…

Thoughts from a PM on the Lidl SAP Project

I saw an interesting post in my LinkedIn feed this morning. It was about the author’s thoughts on Lidl and their decision to abandon their SAP project after spending 500M Euros and 7 years. This isn’t the first time a big initiative has been undertaken and abandoned – and…

What’s Your Motivation for Change?

I came across a man sitting on a porch with a dog at his feet. The dog didn’t seem too happy as he was moaning quietly. Me: “What’s wrong with your dog? Man: “He’s sitting on a nail.” Me: “Why doesn’t he move?” Man: “I guess it doesn’t hurt…

Piñatas, Marco Polo & Capture the Flag – Games or Models for Finding Data?

Everywhere I look there seems to be different ideas for ways to entertain kids this summer. While there are some really creative ideas out there (thank you, Pinterest), I think some of the classics are the best ones. As adults, we don’t participate in games nearly as much as…

Windows versus Android – Which is the Better Approach?

Last week, I talked about our decision to leverage Windows 10 as our initial tablet operating system offering. We made this decision after internal research across Windows 10, Android and iOS options – and the impact to our clients and partners. Each of these operating systems (O/S) is somewhat…

Casually Connected – Is This the Best Way?

When you hear the term “casually connected”, you might think it’s a reference to social relationships. Obviously (hopefully) we’re not talking about the relationship with your spouse or significant other. When we say Casual Connection around our offices, we’re talking about the relationship between your mobile device and your…

Father’s Day, Mother’s Day – or Project Manager Day!

We often joke around here that sometimes the role of Project Manager feels like the role of Parent. Obviously there are some differences like the length of the commitment (a lifetime vs. a temporary effort), the foundation of the relationship (love rather than money) and the overall benefits (I’m…

Leveraging AIT – It all Begins with the Label

When I first got involved with Automatic Identification Technology (AIT) in 1989 as a District Manager for Intermec Technologies, my Media Specialist at the time drilled in the importance of the label (thanks Clark!) and its role on how it all works. It didn’t take long for me to…

Memorial Day: More Than a Long Weekend and Start of Summer

Last weekend, as I was observing the flags at half-mast, I began reflecting on Memorial Day and what represents to our country and to my personal history. When I asked my 19 year-old daughter why the flags were at half mast, all I got back was a puzzled look….